• Vampire Ecstasy / Sin You Sinners



    Released by: Film Movement
    Released on: October 25th, 2016.
    Director: Joseph W. Sarno
    Cast: Nadia Henkowa, Marie Forså, Anke Syring, Ulrika Butz, Nico Wolferstetter
    Year: 1973/
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    The Movies:

    The first of what will hopefully be many Blu-ray releases commemorating the films of the late Joe Sarno pairs up his infamous Sapphic horror picture Vampire Ecstasy with an earlier black and white oddity entitled Sin You Sinners.

    Vampire Ecstasy:

    Better known in horror movie circles as Veil Of Blood, Joseph Sarno's 1973 vampire sex film Vampire Ecstasy (the film was also previously released as The Devil’s Plaything in the U.K. and saw a video release under that title by E.I. in these here United States a few years ago) remains an engaging slice of sex and blood cinema

    When the picture starts, we first learn of a sinister female vampire named Baroness Varga who was executed in the mountains of Germany where she was found guilty of drinking the blood of nubile young women. Before she breathed her last, however, she claimed that she'd come back and live again off of the blood of the local women folk. Pretty standard stuff so far, right? Yeah, Sarno’s not really doing anything new here, but he does what he does very well.

    Fast forward to the modern day (well, the modern day of 1973, at least), and two pretty young girls, Helga (Maria Forsa) and her friend, are heading up to the hill country to check out a creaky old castle. Helga’s deceased aunt has left it to them in her will. When they arrive, the find that a young man named Peter (Nico Wolferstetter) and his sister Julie (Anke Syring) have had some car trouble. They too are hoping to hole up in the old castle for the night until they can get things sorted out in the morning and be on their way.

    What the four young people soon learn is that the castle is not at all what it seems. It is soon made apparent to them that the housekeeper who they thought to be able to trust is in fact the high priestess of a cult dedicated to resurrecting the spirit of Baroness Varga. She and her servants hold all manner of arcane Satanic sex rituals that further their cause. As luck would have it, these unfortunates have shown up on a night that the cultists could very much use some fresh blood for their ceremonies – and Helga is looking pretty good to them right now! Good thing Peter is an expert in the occult and happens to be falling for her. With Peter on her side Helga just might stand a chance against the forces of darkness that are conspiring against her.

    Light on plot but high on gothic atmosphere and completely awesome bongo music, Vampire Ecstasy doesn't reinvent the wheel but it does manage to stir up some mood and a few of the steamier scenes are definitely hot stuff. The dubbing doesn't help the film or do it any favors but the same can be said about a lot of European horror movies of the same period – it's really no worse than average on this film. Fans of Jean Rollin or some of Jess Franco's material should appreciate the way that this movie unfolds (it is at times very reminiscent of Requiem For A Vampire and Vampyros Lesbos). There are a few similarities to their work in here, even when you subtract the copious amount of lesbian vampires crammed into the movie. Lots of style, not so much plot – but it moves at a decent, if dreamlike, pace and offers up some great visuals and cool ideas.

    The locations used in the film play a big part in making it work. The old castle setting is the perfect spot for a story like this to unfold and Sarno clearly takes advantage of it. Steve Silverman’s cinematography is quite good. He employs soft focus here and there but it works in the context of the story being told. Rolf-Hans Müller contributes a genuinely cool score that’s quite engaging at times. Shooting this on location in Europe was definitely the right call, the older architecture featured in the picture and the ‘old world’ tone that some of it strikes is completely in keeping with the storyline.

    As to the performances, Nico Wolferstetter and Anke Syring are fine and all but this is really Maria Forsa’s show. She’s got a seductive innocence about her that just suits the character really well. She’s really good in the lead and it’s no surprise that Sarno would use her again in Bibi and Butterflies in the two years after this film was made. Note that the film as presented on this Blu-ray runs 1:42:59 and would seem to be uncut.

    Sin You Sinners:

    The second film on the disc was made in 1963, ten years prior to Vampire Ecstasy. Shot in stark black and white, it’s quite a different picture but Sarno’s unique touch is still all over it. The running time of the film as presented on this disc is 1:07:26.

    The story revolves around an exotic dancer named Julie (Dian Lloyd). She and her mother, Bobbi (June Colbourne) – also a stripper – have a rather tense relationship. When Bobbi isn’t bumping and grinding to make ends me, she’s putting in time as a fortune teller to make some extra money on the side. She does this work out of the house, conducting séances and telling fortunes all while decked out in the kind of attire that would be perfectly suited for working the pole. Bobbi’s powers seem to stem from a Haitian amulet, though its origins are never really fully explained. Julie is in on the act, often writhing about feigning possession to help her mother further convince her clients of her abilities.

    When Julie and Bobbi’s relationship goes from tense to downright bad, jealousy flares up and Julie and Bobbi’s conniving boyfriend, Dave (Derek Murcott), steal the amulet from her mother. Things get even more bizarre from there. After all, Julie did warn Dave that all of her mother’s former flames have wound up dead.

    The earliest surviving entry from Sarno’s extensive filmography, Sin You Sinner’s isn’t going to rank near the top of his output (which is likely why it was piggybacked with the more popular and better known Vampire Ecstasy). It is, however, an interesting look at the early part of his career, flawed as it may be. To be fair, Sarno stepped on to direct at the last minute when the film’s original director, Anthony Farrar, left the project so he may not have been truly prepared. As such, this one is all over the place. The performances aren’t even close to professional but they have a certain intriguing cattiness to them that helps to make this all watchable.

    Even if this works more as a curiosity item for the seasoned Sarno aficionado than anything else, the plot is strange enough to keep your attention. The film’s short running time helps in this regard and even at this length it could probably have been trimmed a bit more. There is, however, some appreciable atmosphere in a few scenes, particularly when Bobbi is using her occult powers. The black and white photography has a certain something to it – it’s definitely not as polished as some of the movies he would make shortly after this one, but there are interesting angles and camera setups used throughout the picture. The plot plods along and occasionally indulges in incoherence (Sarno takes the blame for this aspect as the opening credits list him as the writer), but it’s hard to say no to a movie that revolves around mother/daughter strippers and the supernatural.

    The opening credits showcase Bobbi’s curvy charms as she wiggles around in front of a fancily dressed audience that looks only mildly amused by the proceedings. Bobbi is showing her age a bit. There’s a look of disdain on a woman’s face in the crowd, but is it jealousy or does she simply feel this is beneath her? Most of the interiors are shot in rather plainly set apartments, Sarno compensates here with some shadowy lighting but it can’t make what is clearly not a strip club seem anything more like an actual strip club. It’s implied here and there that Julie and Bobbi might actually be prostitutes, not just dancers, but given that this was made in 1963 it never quite goes there. The girls may strut about in bikinis but unlike most of Sarno’s films there isn’t any actual sex here.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Each film on this 50GB Blu-ray disc is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition with Vampire Ecstasy taking up over 24GBs of space and Sin You Sinners taking up just under 16GBs of space. Both features are framed at 1.78.1 widescreen.

    Vampire Ecstasy looks a little noisy in spots and might have some light noise reduction applied here and there but it’s grainy enough that maybe the image is just sort of soft. There isn’t much in the way of serious print damage here, the picture is quite clean. Colors are nicely reproduced and black levels look quite good. Some minor compression artifacts show up here at times, usually in the darker nighttime scenes, but it’s minor rather than massive macroblocking or anything like that. Skin tones look good, lifelike and natural without looking too pink or too orange.

    Sin You Sinners is in considerably rougher shape. A new copyright notice has been added under the title card (visible in the screen cap below). Print damage is frequent and obvious, lots of scratches and marks throughout the movie. There’s a disclaimer that plays before the movie notifying viewers that it’s element related, which is fair enough. Contrast looks alright given the condition of what was available for the transfer and detail isn’t bad. Framing at 1.78.1 looks reasonable enough, there are no serious issues where you look at the picture and feel that it’s cropped. Some mild compression artifacts pop up here and there, mostly in the darker scenes, but in motion it’s not particularly distracting.

    The audio for both films is presented in English language Dolby Digital Mono, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. There’s minor hiss here and there during the first feature and more than minor hiss noticeable during Sin You Sinners. Again, if this comes down to the available elements, it’s forgivable. Dialogue does remain easy enough to follow and for the most part the levels are properly balanced. A lossless option would have been preferable here, but that didn’t happen.

    Extras are carried over from past DVD releases. Vampire Ecstasy features an excellent commentary track from the film’s producer, Chris D. Nebe. While this is an excellent discussion, the sound quality does leave something to be desired, so be prepared to adjust the volume during playback if you want to her what Nebes has to say about the film – and you do! He remembers the project very clearly, covering how they came to get the castle to shoot in, as well as how Sarno went about casting the film. He talks about Maria Forsa in a fair bit of detail, covering her exploits both on and off the screen, and he also talks about his working relationship with Sarno himself.

    Also included is a featurette that contains some great interviews – one with Nebe and Sarno that runs seven minutes and one with Sarno himself that runs six minutes entitled Joe Sarno: A Touch Of Horror. While Nebes definitely has more to say in the documentary than Sarno does, the director still manages to provide us with a few amusing anecdotes about some of the locales who lived in the area as well as how the copulation scenes were shot in such a way as to achieve the utmost realism (note – like in a lot of Sarno’s films, they weren’t faked!). In Joe’s solo interview he talks about shooting on location in Europe, the castle that they shot much of the picture in, casting the film and his thoughts on the picture itself.

    English and German trailers for Vampire Ecstasy are included, as is a trailer for Sin You Sinners (this was clearly cut recently and isn’t an actual theatrical trailer) as are menus and chapter selection options. Inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase is an insert booklet containing credits for both films and an essay from Tim Lucas that essentially serves as a primer to Sarno’s world.

    The Final Word:

    Film Movement’s Blu-ray release of Vampire Ecstasy and Sin You Sinners isn’t going to blow you away with pristine audio and video quality but it offers pretty decent upgrades over previous editions of both films. Vampire Ecstasy remains a compelling slice of sex and blood tinged gothic horror while Sin You Sinners is just kind of nuts. Here’s hoping more volumes in this series will be coming soon!
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!






































































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark C.'s Avatar
      Mark C. -
      Great review.

      I just watched these and thought the release is very nice despite SIN YOU SINNERS being a pretty rough print at the start of the film, but I loved the B/W look of the film and gave it a nice grindhouse feel with the damaged print.

      I hope to see more obscure films from them in the future, anyone know what else they may be working on?
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