Friday, August 19, 2011

Franco Friday #30: A Virgin Among the Living Dead

Franco Friday #30

It's getting more and more difficult for me to sit through a Franco film, even one as good as A Virgin Among the Living Dead. I like this movie a whole, whole lot but I am beyond the maximum lifetime intake of Jess Franco. Every step I take feels like I'm sinking. This whole psychosexual movie mess I've got myself into is like a crack addled whirling dervish on the back of a bull in China shop. I humbly bow before you, dear reader, secretly hoping hoping you'll bring down the axe.

(Save for the naked chick, none of this poster is even remotely accurate.)

A Virgin Among the Living Dead
AKA Christina Chez les Morts Vivants
Directed by Jess Franco
Christina von Blanc, Britt Nichols, Rosa Palomar, Anne Libert, Howard Vernon, Paul Muller, Jess Franco
79 minutes

Christina Benson (played by Christina von Blanc) travels to her family estate to hear the reading of her father's will. The moment Christina arrives, she senses that all is not right with her bizarre family. More and more she begins to suspect that these aren't just a bunch of greedy douchebagels but undead servants of "The Queen of the Night" (Anne Libert).

This film is odd even by Jess Franco standards. This is a super simple idea with painfully obvious metaphors laid out in confusing layers. The whole film relies completely on the ultra-freaky performances of its actors. A Virgin Among the Living Dead is told with beauty, the sexy bodies of its female leads, bizarre menace, and dark comedy. If you revel in the absurd and the painfully sad then this film is for you.

Bruno Nicolai, you magical son of a bitch! Hot fucking damn! Whenever Franco and Nicolai get together, the results are always astounding. This score starts off super weird with a tricked out synthesizer and bass guitar making some unsettling and yet funky sounds. Then the music gets jagged and even more dangerous in a fuzzed out and crazy way. And what would a Bruno Nicolai score be without those lovely vocal pieces? It just wouldn't!

Jess Franco pulls double duty on this picture by stepping in front of the camera to do some of his finest acting. Sure Basilio is an idiotic murderous mute freak manservant but Franco is actually rather lively in this role. He is just one of the kooks in this flick. One of my favorites, Anne Libert, plays "The Queen of the Night". Nuff said. Rosa Palomar and Howard Vernon play Christina's bonkers aunt and uncle and they do so with a fiendish delight that I want to bottle and deal out on the streets.

So Christina rejects the phallus, thus condemning herself to death? Really, Franco? That is like Sleazy Cinema Symbolism 101, duder. I think I'm going to call you Jeff from now on. Jeff Frakno. That is your new name. Yo, don't let any of the DVD covers or posters for this film fool you, this ain't no zombie fest. I'm sure all the Franco fanatics have already seen this one. It's pretty much classic Franco with some excellent moments that demonstrate the guy was ahead of his time back in the day. As usual, he is so sex-obsessed that he looks like a fucking buffoon even when he's getting everything else right. A Virgin Among the Living Dead is definitely worth a look.

I am the fog machine, you dick.

D's for never dirty, MC for mostly clean.

I am so rejecting your phallus right now.

Grave-robbing, it's a gateway drug.

Does this lip gloss make me look taller?

I'm here for the -URK!- Macumba Sexual screening.

I uh... lost my grip on the thermometer.

A virgin among the Tupperware hostess.


  1. The last 10 minutes of this film cause my eyes to well up every time. Might be the least expected emotional response to a Franco film, but there you have it.

    Keep at it, sir. The end is in sight.

  2. Richard,

    I believe Jean Rollin shot some extra 'zombie/undead' footage for the film's rerelease/repackaging in the wake of 'Dawn of the Dead'. This footage is included as an extra on the old Image DVD release of the film (if I recall) - so perhaps the poster art you referred to your introduction reflects that particular incarnation of the film. (There was also a version titled 'Christina: Princess of Eroticism' that inserted - no pun intended - some heavier sex scenes for the adult market.)

    I think 'Virgin' is one of Franco's best, and screams 'The Vibe' for me from beginning to end. But I understand that you'd be suffering from Francophobia at this point, Richard - so perhaps the film didn't appeal as much as it might otherwise (i.e. as part of a balanced cinematic diet, rather than as a latter title in a seemingly never-ending Franco bender).

    So, count me in as a fan! And I look forward to the final 3 titles (hopefully you'll go out in style!).

  3. I'm gonna miss captions like these on future Fridays...

    Great film, great write up!


  4. Re: The poster.

    I think that poster art was made for the early 1980s (?) version that had new scenes from Jean Rollin (? - I'm working from memory here, so perhaps I got things wrong) in an attempt to zombify the film. It's really terrible. I think those scenes are among the bonus material on the EuroShock DVD.


  5. @Jeffrey - I can see that. The ending is bleaker than bleak and quite emotionally charged as well as stunningly beautiful.

    @Davo - Thanks for the info, sir. I scoffed at even looking at those extra scenes though next time I get the DVD out, I'll check them out.

    @MLP - Thanks! Don't worry there will be future Franco Fridays. But they'll be pretty much totally random.

  6. I love this movie even though I hated it the first time I saw it on the old Wizard VHS. The DVD version is completely different and far, FAR better. It's not sleep-inducing for one thing. :)

  7. I heard that this one is suitable even for the non-Franco fan, what do you think?

  8. @Ryan - I can just imagine how this film was ruined by the extra footage.

    @Erin - I could see this being a good intro to the world of Franco. It's bizarre, it's funny, and it's beautiful.