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A documentary series profiles directors of classic sleaze films like The Nude Vampire and Virgin Among the Living Dead

Wednesday, Feb 6 2002
Thanks to a flourishing underground video scene, the works of European sex 'n' sleaze auteurs of the '60s and '70s have become widely available. Films with titles like Virgin Among the Living Dead, Joe Caligula, and Natalie, Fugitive From Hell certainly sound enticing, but what about the men (all men, in this case) who made them? Eurotika!, the BBC's nine-part series of mini-documentaries on the phenomenon of Eurosleaze uses interviews and loads of clips -- featuring full frontal nudity, beheadings, zombies, eviscerations, etc. -- to offer some welcome context on this surprisingly enduring movement.

Jean Rollin, profiled in Vampires and Virgins, is the cut-rate Cocteau responsible for Shiver of the Vampires and The Nude Vampire. Yes, Rollin's specialty was the undead, specifically "twin lesbian vampires" wandering through cheesy, surreal tableaux. Rollin, like the other subjects here, comes off as a good-natured old fart. Equally cool is France's porn king, Jose Benazeraf, sketched in The Pope of Perversion. He's surely the only director ever to put Marxist rants into the mouths of lap dancers humping a pole. The Diabolical Mr. Franco eclipses his peers in one regard: While financing was problematic for most filmmakers, Jess Franco has managed to make more than 200 features since the 1960s. His films, like Succubus, have a creepy reality that transcends the tacky sets and bad dubbing.

Blood and Black Lace: A Short History of the Italian Horror Film puts Mario Bava in this company, which almost seems blasphemous given Bava's vastly superior visual talents. But since he did more or less create the giallo -- stylish mystery-horror films exported from Italy in the '60s -- he surely belongs here. Jose Larraz typifies the higher goals these dime-store directors aspired to. He describes mining his flicks with allusions to classical mythology and literature, but the viewer will be forgiven for missing these references in his films' sea of T&A. Bring the binoculars.

About The Author

Gary Morris


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