Released by: Mondo Macabro
Released on: June 12, 2012.
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Howard Vernon, Alice Arno, Robert Woods, Lina Romay
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Jess Franco’s 1973 film La Comtesse Perverse begins when a man named Bob (Robert Woods) and his girlfriend, Moira (Tania Busselier) find a naked woman (Kali Hansa) washed up on the shore outside their home. They bring her inside and warm her up and she mumbles about a nearby island where she had gone to try to save her sister. Shortly after, they’re visited by a beautiful young woman named Silvia (Lina Romay), and things get a bit complicated. Bob has definitely got a thing for her, but so too does Moira.
After a bit of grown up playtime, they head out on a boat for a trip to a nearby island where they have dinner with Countess Ivanna Zaroff (Alice Arno) and Count Rabor Zaroff (Howard Vernon), a strange couple who live in an even stranger massive house. It soon becomes obvious just why Bob and Moira have brought Silvia to the Zaroff’s however – they need fresh meat!
Basically a hyper sexual version of The Most Dangerous Game, the film moves along at a good pace and features a lot of typical Franco touches. There are a few crotch zooms here, some occasionally out of focus shots, a strange sense of pacing and of course, lots of graphic sex – but the movie is quite well shot. The locations used for the film are excellent, with the strange red staircase inside the house, in which characters seem to be constantly walking up and down, taking on a very ominous tone. Some beautiful outdoors shots also help to give the movie a very exotic look and feel despite the fact that it appears to have been made with a fairly modest budget (there aren’t a lot of effects or anything here). It’s also shot with dizzying style, lots of zooms, odd angles, and great use of color.
Set to a very cool somewhat psychedelic rock score, the movie makes use of a lot of Franco regulars. Howard Vernon is sufficiently sinister in his role, almost playing a subservient type to Alice Arno’s more dominant female. Though we see more of Vernon here than most will probably want to in one scene, his odd facial features and expressive eyes make him a good choice for the part. His chemistry with Arno is also interesting, their relationship seems quite cold in a lot of ways but she talks about how he is perfect for her and how they share such important interests with one another – hunting and exquisite meals being at the top of her list. Kali Hansa is probably best known for Night Of The Sorcerers but worked with Franco on The Sinister Eyes Of Doctor Orloff and Sinner and she looks great here. She’s got a somewhat exotic look that’s quite appealing and while she isn’t given quite as much to do as Arno or Romay in terms of acting, her performance in the opening sequence as she screams on the couch about what she’s been through is fairly intense. Tania Busselier and Robert Woods are also quite good, and their relationship becomes quite interesting once Romay enters the picture, with both hoping to win her affection. As far as Romay’s performance goes, she’s good here. Always sexually daring, she shows no fear in the sex scenes but also gives chase to Arno’s titular countess during the film’s finale.
After Franco made the film, the producer basically took it out of his hands and added a bunch of hardcore inserts. This version from Mondo Macabro represents Franco’s ‘director’s cut’ and as such, it’s plenty sexy and fairly graphic but not the hardcore film that it was turned into.
Mondo Macabro presents Countess Perverse in a 1.33.1 fullframe transfer (the back of the packaging says anamorphic widescreen – it’s not) from the original negative and it looks excellent. Colors are bold and beautiful looking without seeming to have been boosted and detail is quite strong throughout. There are no issues with serious print damage (some specks here and there and a scratch or two but nothing outside of that) and the grain levels look nice and natural. Skin tones look lifelike, black levels are strong, texture is also quite good and contrast looks correct. There’s nothing to complain about here, the movie looks great. If you’ve only seen the film by way of the tape source LFVW bootleg (which was the most common way to see it until this release), well, this transfer absolutely mops the floor with it – though completists may want to hold onto that as it represents the hardcore version of the film.
The only audio option on the disc is a French language Dolby Digital 2.0 track with optional subtitles provided in English only. Dialogue is clean and clear and everything is properly balanced. There aren’t any issues with hiss or distortion and all in all the movie sounds just fine on DVD. It’s worth noting that this is the only licensed version of the film to carry English subtitles.
Robert Woods shows up here in an interview that runs for roughly fifteen minutes in which the actor talks about his film career. He discusses how he basically started working in westerns and then how he came to meet Franco, who he notes he originally had some disdain for given that he was known primarily as a director of sex films. He then goes on to talk about working with him on this film and on a few others. Woods is pretty open about the work he did, there aren’t any false pretenses here and he shares some interesting stories. Also on hand is author Stephen Thrower who shows up on camera to give us his take on how and where this movie fits in with some of Franco’s other films and who provides some decent background information on it.
Aside from the interviews, look for the Mondo Macabro Preview reel, a text profile of Jess Franco and some text biographies on the film’s five main stars. Menus and chapter stops are also included. It would have been nice to have the alternate hardcore footage included here just for the sake of completion, but it’s easy to understand why that didn’t happen.
The Final Word:
Strange, sexy and completely compelling, Jess Franco’s Countess Perverse finally receives a proper home video release from Mondo Macabro in its director’s preferred version. The extras are solid, the audio quality very good and the transfer outstanding, making this one a ‘must own’ disc for fans of the director’s unique body of work.