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A Virgin Among the Living Dead
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/20/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/29/2013
I would venture to guess that most people don't put much thought into how they are going to watch a movie -- they simply watch it and absorb whatever the movie gives them. However, I learned long ago that this isn't always the case, especially with European horror movies from the 70s. You can't just watch these movies and expect them to make any narrative sense. The best way to view them is to pretend that you are watching a nightmare which someone else is having. At least then you can excuse all of the lapses in logic. This tactic came in quite handy while watching A Virgin Among the Living Dead.
Well, that's not exactly true. The main cut of the film which is featured on this Blu-ray Disc goes by the title Christina, Princess of Eroticism. A Virgin Among the Living Dead is an alternate version of the film which runs some 10 minutes longer and is also included on this Disc. It contains zombie footage which was shot some eight years later by Director Jean Rollin who was makingZombie Lake. Christina, Princess of Eroticism is the original cut of the movie, thus it's presented as the main feature, but the film is most likely better known under its alternate title, A Virgin Among the Living Dead.
Anyway, Christina, Princess of Eroticism begins with Christina (Christina von Blanc) arriving in a small town, having traveled from London. She has been summoned for the reading of her father's will. After spending some of the night in a hotel (?), she is taken to the family home, which the people in town claim is deserted. Once there, Christina meets some of her relatives, like Uncle Howard (Howard Vernon) and Carmence (Britt Nichols) and then some woman dies, but I was never sure who she was. Christina asks when the will will be read, and she's told that they are waiting on the lawyer. So, Christina does everyday things like going skinny dipping. But, not all is fun, as she also finds dead bats on her bed. Once the will has been read, Christina begins to have visions of her father (Paul Muller), who is being controlled by The Queen of the Night (Anne Libert). This makes Christina suspect that the stories which she was told about her father's death aren't true.
I may be way off here, but I would be willing to bet that prolific Writer/Director Jesus Franco actually had a coherent story in mind when he planned Christina, Princess of Eroticism. If one uses their imagination, they can see the plot here and almost connect the dots between various events. In fact, this is one of those movies which could be remade into something much more streamlined and cohesive and probably result in a pretty good supernatural thriller.
Of course, we must evaluate the movie at hand and it is all over the place. First of all, the movie suffers from the sort of issues which plague most movies from this era. The movie is littered with unmotivated zooms and one can't help but wonder how much money zoom lens repairmen who worked in Europe made in the 70s. There is a lot of dead air (no pun intended) as we are forced to watch people walk or drive somewhere. (This is my greatest pet peeve about European horror movies.) The editing is pretty loopy, as scenes seem to begin and end at random and some scenes are cut together for no apparent reason.
On top of all of that, we must try and figure out the story, but the film simply isn't willing to give us a lot of details. We learn a little about Christina's life and her relationship with her parents. We also learn that Christina's father died under mysterious circumstances. But, that's about it. The relatives Christina meets are inscrutable and all seem to be insane, but Christina doesn't seem to notice any of this. (There's a scene in which Carmence rolls around on the floor for a few minutes which adds absolutely nothing to the movie.) The aforementioned bats on the bed and a odd plastic (?) head which appears in Christina's room is never explained. Franco then really messes with us by giving the movie two endings, neither of which explain what really happened to Christina.
Perhaps I'm being too hard on Christina, Princess of Eroticism. Silly me, why should I expect a coherent story from a movie? In his defense, the scenes involving Christina's father are well shot and they really invoke that dream-like feel. The rest of the movie just looks like a bad movie. The movie contains just enough oddness to keep it from being completely boring, but it's never actually interesting. The alternate cut, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, is basically the same movie, except zombies attack in a few scenes. This really doesn't do anything to improve the movie -- it actually makes it more confusing.
Christina, Princess of Eroticism should really invest in pajamas on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino Lorber. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. According to the Blu-ray Disc box, the film was mastered from the original negative. I assume that this was the best copy that they could find, but it's still in rough shape. The image is littered with defects from the source materials, such as black dots and cuts on the film. There is also a slight amount of grain here. The daytime scenes look good, but the colors are a bit washed out. Some of the nighttime scenes border on being too dark. If you like that "Grindhouse" look, then you'll enjoy this, but some may be distracted by these issues. The Disc carries a LPCM 2.0 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects, but there is some hissing and popping here. The audio is well-balanced, as the music doesn't drown out the dialogue. The English subtitles are clear and easy to read.
The A Virgin Among the Living Dead Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY for Video Watchdog Editor Tim Lucas. (The word "expert" is thrown around a lot, but it certainly applies to Lucas.) "Alternate Erotic Footage" (5 minutes) stretches the definition of the word "erotic" and features what looks like a Renaissance Fair gone wrong. "Jess Franco Interview" (11 minutes) has the director (who looks very decrepit) discussing specifics about the film. "The Three Faces of Christina" (12 minutes) is a short documentary in which those familiar with Franco's work discuss A Virgin Among the Living Dead and how additional footage was added to the movie. "Homage to Jess" (8 minutes) is a short film in which people close to Franco discuss how he should be remembered. The extras are rounded out by a PHOTO GALLERY and a TRAILER for the film (along with bonus trailers).
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.