Countess Perverse (1974)

Director: Jess Franco

Or, Franco does The Most Dangerous Game. Now Franco’s films, as we’ve seen, often appeared in multiple versions for different markets, but this one seems to have had an unusually difficult birth. He made it for producer Robert de Nesle, who was apparently aghast at what Franco had given him, thinking the cannibalism theme was pretty out of line; he was no doubt even more aghast when he couldn’t sell the thing to any distributors, so he had Franco shoot new scenes. Still no joy. Finally when the French government passed laws allowing hardcore to be shown in France, he ordered hardcore inserts be added and at last it came out… However, Mondo Macabro went back to the source and their DVD offers Franco’s first version of the film without the silly framing scenes and extra sex de Nesle demanded; this is a good thing, because frankly even though it only clocks in at 76 minutes this fucking thing is already so padded the thought of it being even longer (the released version was apparently 87 minutes) fills me with more horror than anything in the film itself. I was actually kind of disappointed that something featuring plentiful naked Lina Romay and Alice Arno (not to be sniffed at either) and cannibalism—the Zaroffs like to eat their human prey and also feed it to their intended next target without telling them what it is—didn’t seem to really exploit its own ghoulishness as much as it could’ve done; or maybe the budget just didn’t go quite far enough for the epic bad taste the film should’ve evinced. As such, apart from the two perfectly fine naked women, the main drawcard is the DVD’s quite astounding visual quality; Franco seems to have taken a bit more care than usual with his camerawork and the DVD restoration is stunning (one of the interviews in the extras has unrestored clips so you can see how good it is), I don’t think I’ve seen a Franco film you could call “beautiful” as such until now… and that location, too, the Xanadu house by Ricardo Bofill; this wasn’t Franco’s first use of it but holy hell, what a sight he makes of it here. Not even he could bugger that up, surely…

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