• She Killed in Ecstasy



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: May 12, 2015
    Director: Jess (Jesús) Franco
    Cast: Soledad Miranda, Paul Muller, Jess Franco, Heidrun Kussin, Fred Williams, Howard Vernon, Horst Tappert, Ewa Stromberg
    Year: 1970/71
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    The Movie:

    Johnson is a doctor engaging in unspecified but illegal experiments on human embryos, apparently for the good of mankind. The medical establishment doesn’t take kindly to his doings and condemns him, stripping him of his ability to practice medicine. He withdraws into himself, and even his beautiful, loving wife can’t break through to him. Not long after, he kills himself by slashing his own wrists, leaving his wife to find his body. She vows revenge, and one by one she seduces and murders the men (and one woman) responsible for her husband’s death.

    In 1970, director Jess Franco shot three films back to back starring the talented Spanish actress Soledad Miranda: Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed in Ecstasy, and The Devil Came from Akasava. Though often considered part of the horror genre, the primary purpose of each film was to titillate its male viewers; hence, Miranda was cast in the lead, usually as a seductress. Of the three, The Devil Came from Akasava is the action-oriented outlier, with Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in Ecstasy being much closer kin. Franco’s direction is nowhere near as dreamlike as it is in the former film, a fact that has garnered She Killed in Ecstasy a great deal of negative press over the years, not all of it deserved. Now, don’t get us here at R!S!P! wrong; it’s far from a perfect film and truly doesn’t compare to Vampyros Lesbos. But that doesn’t make it a terrible film. On the plus side, it’s relatively short and moves at breakneck speed, and Franco’s use of the zoom lens isn’t out of control. Many shots are beautifully composed (consider, for example, the iconic image that can usually be found on promotional art related to the movie), and the intended titillation frequently works, thanks to Miranda’s overpowering beauty.

    Many critics have blasted the film’s performances as strictly one note. Upon closer examination, however, they’re really rather good, particularly the underrated Miranda, whose sole purpose is to draw the audience into the film with her; they are meant to identify with both her and her victims, a difficult feat for any director and star to achieve. Miranda elicits a fair amount of sympathy for her character, despite the nasty deeds she does in the name of love; or perhaps it's precisely because of her motivation that she remains so sympathetic even after committing a series of grisly murders.

    From the beginning of his career through 1968, Franco stuck to making approximately two films a year, but beginning in 1969, that changed. His annual output jumped in number, and as it did, quality dropped. The year 1970 was a watershed year for the director; it was then that he made his most famous trio of films, all of which starred Miranda. Today, Vampyros Lesbos is considered among his greatest achievements, but She Killed in Ecstasy, while admittedly a lesser picture, remains an interesting oddity worthy of viewing.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    She Killed in Ecstasy looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Severin has given the film an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition, at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. While the transfer on Severin’s Vampyros Lesbos looks good, She Killed in Ecstasy is considerably sharper, thanks to an increase in fine detail. Much of the film was shot on beautiful outdoor locations comprised of lush greenery and beautiful, sandy beaches. Every pebble and sprig of vegetation is distinctly visible here. Indoor sequences fare just as well, particularly in facial close-ups where the finest peach fuzz is made obvious. As with the companion film, grain for the most part looks perfectly organic, though there are a couple of occasions in which it becomes more pronounced than in the rest of the picture. There’s very little by way of print defects, though a few shots suffer from minor scratches and speckling. As with the grain, these are rare, with most of the film looking as if it were shot yesterday. There are times when colors look slightly faded, but more often than not they’re bright and gorgeous; skin tones generally look natural, while blood is far too bright per Franco’s usual direction. There is no issue with crush. The disc contains 10 chapter breaks.

    Severin has opted to place the film’s original soundtrack in lossless LPCM 2.0, but don’t be fooled: the track is actually mono encoded as 2.0, with identical right and left tracks. The sound is surprisingly good given the limitations. The German dialogue is clear, distinct, and well-balanced with the film’s terrific score. (Optional English subtitles are included.) There are a few instances of minor hiss, but these aren’t prevalent enough to interfere with the average viewer’s enjoyment of the film. At least one online review has noted a strange distortion around the 50-minute mark, but we here at Rock! Shock! Pop! noticed no such issue. The sound does grow noticeably louder at the 51:29 mark, however, though this is an extremely minor and short-lived issue.

    About the film’s score, it was written by Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab and was used by Franco for all three of his 1970 films starring Miranda. Included in this special edition release of She Killed in Ecstasy is the score on compact disc. It begins with “The Lion and the Cucumber,” used years later by Quentin Tarantino on the soundtrack of Jackie Brown. The score is delirious and groovy and well worth insertion in your car or computer’s CD player.

    “Jess Killed in Ecstasy” is a 17-minute interview with director Frano, who died in 2013. He discusses the film’s origin in a French play by Gabriel Marcel, as well as the Spanish locations. He admits what fans have known for years: that film isn’t as good as its companion piece; he’s also honest about his dislike of Fred Williams’s performance, which he blames for the film’s lack of artistic success. He may be right, at least in part, given that Williams is not the actor to pull off a part so demanding of nuance and sexual charisma. Whether he’s discussing Spanish censorship, the actors, producer Artur Brauner, Miranda’s death, or a number of other subjects related to the film, Franco is never less than forthright. And though his English is quite good, his accent is thick, making it difficult to understand what he’s saying. Thankfully, Severin has chosen to offer the featurette with optional English subtitles. (Note the Yoda in the background during the interview; to learn why it’s there, check out the extras on Severin’s BD release of Vampyros Lesbos.)

    “Sublime Soledad” is an interview with film historian Amy Brown, web master for www.soledadmiranda.com. It lasts approximately 20 minutes and focuses, as its title suggests, on actress Soledad Miranda. Not content with simply covering Miranda’s involvement with She Killed in Ecstasy, Brown traces the entire trajectory of the actress’s all-too-brief career. The featurette is excellent and informative, but be warned: By the time it’s over, you will have fallen in love with Miranda, and her tragic ending will leave you in tears. (Note: This extra can also be found on Severin’s BD release of Vampyros Lesbos.)

    “Stephen Thrower on She Killed in Ecstasy” is an interview with the author of Murderous Passions—The Delirious Cinema of Jess Franco and runs approximately 13 minutes. He discusses Franco’s method of shooting, the film itself, and the film’s similarities to The Diabolical Dr. Z, though most of his interview understandably focuses on Soledad Miranda. “Paul Muller on Jess Franco” is an interview with one of Franco’s most frequent collaborators. The interview lasts a little over six minutes and is in German with English subtitles. The first two minutes are dedicated to a personal anecdote involving Franco, while the remainder is a discussion about the director and his relationship to Muller. It may be short, but it’s informative in its own way and well worth watching. It certainly paints a portrait of Franco that more of his detractors need to see.

    Rounding out the extras is the film’s original German trailer, which runs 2:37.

    The Final Word:

    She Killed in Ecstasy is an interesting follow-up to one of Franco’s best films, but it never achieves the feverish success of that other picture. It remains an interesting oddity, however, one well worth a look. Severin’s Blu-ray release features a sterling transfer and a number of great extras. Fans of Spanish horror and erotic cinema in general and Franco in particular will want to add it to their collections.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!