‘Vampyros Lesbos’ was my introduction to cult movie phenom, Jess Franco. As a youngster, I was fed a steady supply of odd cinema by SBS television’s Des Mangan. Each week he would introduce a film from the odd side of the tracks to Australian movie geeks and we lapped them up. In a ‘rationalisation’, SBS, in all their wisdom, decided to oust Mangan from their station and we cinema fiends were left in the dark. Before the internet, Mangan was something of a elder guide for me. He was my first introduction to so many films and filmmakers that would go on to mean a great deal to me.
I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest Franco is a filmmaker that means a great deal to me, but ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ was enormously important. It was my first taste of salacious Italian exploitation and one I’ll never forget. I remember recording it onto VHS and making a habit of watching it. It provoked an equal measure of laughter, whimsy and arousal within me. A tantalising, if slightly confusing, stew. Who can forget Countess Nadine Oskudar’s bizarre ‘only-in-a-60’s-movie’ nightclub, where she lured young men into her sexual trap? In Franco’s unsubtle hands, ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ was an over-the-top example of borderless cinema. It’s a film that couldn’t have been made in any other time or by any other director. It is what it is, and if you’re willing to forgo logic, intelligence and (to an extent) standards, there is plenty to enjoy.
Perhaps the bulk of my praise for this film should be directed at the combined talents of Manfred Hübler & Siegfried Schwab, who recorded some remarkable music to accompany Franco’s vision. My purpose in writing about such a popular cult film is simply to draw attention to their sex funk grooves. Hübler & Schwab were able to take Franco’s sleazy sensibilities and record music that not only embodied it, but bolstered it. It ranks alongside the best sleaze music from the decade and works admirably as a standalone piece of music. The following track, ‘The Lions & The Cucumber’ is indicative of my hyperbole:
And for good measure, here’s some more of their brilliant handiwork: