Countess Irina Karlstein (Lina Romay, taking over the role of Franco’s muse and sex object after the death of Soledad Miranda; as she was more sexually adventurous than that doomed starlet and with the fall of the other Franco, General Francisco, who led Spain, Jess’s movie’s from here on out get progressively more filled with kink, as if they weren’t overloaded with it before) is a silent woman whose sexual needs are much like the desire that vampires have for blood. If she can’t make love, she’ll die, but luckily she’s gorgeous and if that doesn’t work, she can also hypnotize people, then gain their lifeforce via oral copulation.
And then she displays the best fuck and run skill of all. She turns into a bat and flies away.
How will the forces of morality deal with her and the numerous smiling corpses that have been showing up? By having a scientist named Dr. Roberts (Franco himself) take on the case and consult with, of course, Dr. Orloff (Jean-Pierre Bouyxou), bringing this movie into the Franco Cinematic Universe, albeit one in which a psychic artist and writer named Baron Rathony thinks that they can be forever happy with a female vamp who has no concern about her victims.
Franco made three different versions of this movie: La comtesse noire (The Black Countess), a straight vampire movie; the more erotic La Comtesse aux seins nus (The Bare Breasted Countess) and the hardcore Les avaleuses (The Swallowers). But no matter what, Franco saw this as erotica and not smut, comparing his work to that of In the Realm of the Senses.
At one point, Dr. Orloff wonders, “Whether the pleasure isn’t worth life itself,” and man, I think it totally is, even if you have to fall for a woman bathing in blood to get there. Most amazingly, Romay’s husband at the time, Ramon Ardid, co-edited this with Franco, who was most assuredly making love to his wife with a camera the entire time.
Also known as so many names — and running times and cuts — like Yacula, Jacula, Bare-Breasted Vampire, The Bare Breasted Countess, Naked Vampire and Erotikill, this is prime Franco, filled with fog and dreams and long gazes across the body of a woman who would obsess him for decades, who he probably felt the same vampiric thirst for the entire time they were filming.
In the article “Goodbye, Bare Breasted Countess” on Birth. Movies. Death., Lars Nilsen spoke of the love that Franco and Romay had, one that they said started with the making of this movie.
“At the screening of The Bare Breasted Countess Jess and Lina revealed that it was the film shoot where they fell in love. Lina also told the audience that when she made love with someone else in one of Jess’ films she didn’t mind because in her mind she was with Jess. The audience sighed. She also said “35 years ago Jess took me to the moon and I’m still there.” More well-deserved sighs (and tears).”
The article ends with this, which breaks my heart, reaffirms that love exists and makes my face wet and hot with tears.
“Lina wheeled Jess into the theater and they stood just inside the door of the theater watching the end of the movie. The whole audience could see them there as they looked up at the naked 19 year old Lina, a stunning vision of loveliness, playing the Countess Karlstein, rolling around in her death/orgasm agonies in a bathtub full of blood while her pursuer, played by Jess himself, looks on, falling in love her. It would be an emotional moment for the audience regardless, as they knew that Jess and Lina were falling in love at the time, but the sight of the two silhouetted in the light from the hallway as their love played out on screen was pure movie magic. It was the most appropriate manifestation of this movie love that was old and new all at once.”
So in case you wonder, why did I waste an entire month watching so many Jess Franco movies?
It was never a waste.
You can watch this on KinoCult.
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