[COUNTESS PERVERSE - (1973) - Full screen - Directed by Jess Franco] 1973 certainly was Franco's most prolific year, as he directed 11 films in 12 months, and rumor has it that there were 3 more that were never completed. Considering that his work could be spotty (some might say slapdash), remarkably, most of these films are among his finest 70's output. Whether this is one of them is somewhat debatable, but Mondo Macabro has lovingly delivered another tasty treat to those of us who look upon Franco as family; a slightly sleazy uncle you love to hang around, but don't want to leave the young ones alone with for too long. His influence on fragile minds could be dangerous, and therapy's rather expensive.
Franco's films from this era are mostly gothic nightmares that occur in broad daylight, a feat not easily accomplished, as an unbending rule in this genre is to have the ghoulish goings-on transpire at night, when shadows and darkness allow our minds to fill in the blanks as we individually see fit. Jess offers up evil deeds that can't be misconstrued as something else, which at times are both blessing and curse. But his bravado must be admired even when it fails, yet here it rarely does. The same goes for 'Sinner: Diary of a Nymphomaniac' from the same year, both gleaming examples of Jess working full throttle, delivering feverish flesh-feasts for the fetishistic fanbase he's cultivated through the decades. Unburdened by the narrative chains of traditional film, story scenes cut and change once an idea is entertained without bother for details and extraneous dialogue - they are the cinematic equivalents of a 'Creepy' or 'Eerie' magazine story from the same era, and about as deep, but that's not meant as criticism. Franco prefers to indulge his voyeurism on the more disquieting, deviant details such as the sex and violent elements that are the cornerstones of his work. The only times his camera dawdles at length is when he's lecherously leering at the soft curves of one of his undraped actresses, in this case Alice Arno, longtime life partner Lina Romay (RIP), Tania Busselier and Kali Hansa, at which time his camera hovers like a NASA lens at a historic lunar landing, absorbing every slope, corner, crevice and cranny of the heavenly bodies thrust at the screen. Jess is the ultimate cinematic voyeur (along with Tinto Brass) and his films appeal to those with voyeuristic tendencies, and what they always lack in plot development offer prurient interest and degenerate lust as compensation. Let's face it, if you've got to compromise, degenerate lust's not too shabby, is it?
Half the film is devoted to Sapphic sessions and sordid flesh festivities just shy of pornography, though I'm not sure 'shy' is the right choice of wording - Jess loves his girl-on-girl goulash immensely, and has for over four decades, and I'm relatively certain his fans don't object too much. Much as I'd like to, I can't really fault him for this - just when things get a bit dull, right before you're tempted to reach for the fast-forward button, there's another clambake for your edification and enlightenment. Then it's back to business and the grisly macabre, in this case it's cannibalism peppered with a dash of necrophilia, with a human hunt served as an appetizer. Somewhere between 'The Most Dangerous Game' coupled with 'Venus in Furs' (Franco's version, not Dellamano's) lies 'Countess Perverse', a welcome addition to the canon of Franco filth, and I mean that in the best way imaginable.
Franco stable mate Howard Vernon's back as his usual creepy self, the baron chef with unusual culinary skills and a smile that would make your skin crawl. It's just what the role calls for, though I don't think he has more than a few utterances in the entire film. Alice Arno is the Countess who enjoys the hunt and displays her killings proudly, giving a new meaning to the term 'trophy wife'. Lina Romay still has a bit of baby fat on her, which she'd shed by the time she filmed 'Female Vampire' with Jess later that same year, and Kali Hansa has an incredible female frame that Franco's lens loves to zoom in on - who am I to complain, other than she's killed off too early on? Robert Woods and Tania Busselier are the couple who provide prey for the hosts, and the dissection, cooking and consumption of human flesh is like something out of 'Dexter'. Delirious and disturbing, it's wildly depraved, and still retains a wickedly campy component. At least it did for me.
Mondo delivers us a fantastic film print taken from the camera negative, ripe with brilliant colors, deep contrast, and crisp audio, astonishing for a flick this old, almost too much so when I have to stare at Howard Vernon's ass as he boards Kali Hansa's supremely fine form. There's a great prog rock soundtrack that adds much to some scenes, a few fantastic seaside locations and interiors right out of an M.C. Escher print, exterior architecture that will take your breath away (also used in 'She Killed in Ecstacy'), and dialogue that's unintentionally hysterical.
My favorite line: Howard Vernon states to Alice Arno - "She's dim, but she's certainly juicy. I think we're going to have fun, my dear, yet another fine feast day", all the while the Countess fondles the titties of the dead chick they're in the process of dismembering (and I wonder why I scare people). 4 stars.