A Virgin Among the Living Dead is a 1971 Spanish-French horror film that despite having the words ‘Living Dead’ in the title, isn’t really much of a zombie film at all. In fact, the original edit of the move didn’t actually feature any zombies, they were added as extra scenes and were directed by Jean Rollin, at the producer’s (Marius Lesoeur) request for the 1981 re-release.
It has also been released under the alternate titles ‘Christina, princesse de l’érotisme‘, ‘I desideri erotici di Christine‘, and ‘The Night of the Shooting Stars‘.
The title and the fact that it’s directed by Jess Franco tells you pretty much all you need to know about A Virgin Among the Living Dead, and your reaction to those two things is a pretty good guide to whether or not you’ll enjoy it.
Franco specialised in sexually charged, dreamily shot horror, high on nudity, low on plot and with a style all of its own. This film is very much of that type.
Beautiful young woman Christina travels to her family’s castle following the suicide of the father she never met, to hear the reading of the will alongside the rest of the family who also live there.
It becomes swiftly apparent that she has a very strange family, from grunting chicken killer Basilio (played by Franco himself) to sultry Carmence who seldom wears clothes and watches Christina sleep. Things get weirder the longer Christina stays, she dreams of her dead father, of blood drinking and strange rituals, of threats and warnings and of accidentally shattering the ‘big ebony phallus’. But are they dreams? The line between fantasy and reality becomes increasingly blurred as Christina is slowly sucked into the lives of her relatives, whom she finds at once depraved and yet intoxicating. Even the discovery that those relatives drew her father into a satanic cult does not drive Christina away.
Given the obvious weirdness of the situation and the dangerous strangeness of her family, you might wonder why Christina stays, and why she spends so much of her stay lounging around in the nude. More than anything else this is what the film is about; the seduction of Christina. There is, the film tells us, a fine line between repulsion and fascination. The things that we have been brought up to abhor are the ones that we find most intriguing, and indeed most irresistibly tempting. Of course there’s also something to be said for the commercial value of this much gratuitous nudity, but that’s another story.
The film is slow-moving (there is a longer version with additional scenes directed by Jean Rollin which moves even more slowly) and can come across as a sequence of increasingly odd set-pieces, pushing the limits of viewer tolerance, but there’s no denying the dreamlike atmosphere it creates.
Franco knew how to do a lot with a little ,and above all how to establish a mood of unease. The meandering camera and ghostly score work well to convey the ever present spectre of fantasy, further muddying the line between what’s real and what isn’t, as does the self-consciously stylised camerawork.
The most effective scenes are those between Christina and father, who appears to her with the noose with which he hung himself still around his neck. The moment at which he is drawn back into the underworld by the Queen of the Night is a quietly chilling one.
If you’re a Franco fan this is not his absolute best but it is essential viewing. If you don’t like his work this isn’t about to change your mind. And if you’ve never watched any of his films before this may not be the best place to start, but it’ll do.
Watch the trailer for ‘A Virgin Among the Living Dead’:
Watch the full movie:
|Buy the film at Amazon.com|
|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|
‘A Virgin Among the Living Dead‘ had a great soundtrack that was composed by the legendary Bruno Nicolai. The score is a great mix of doom-soaked and weird synths juxtaposed with upbeat melodic vocal tracks. Listen to an example below:
You can find out more about the soundtrack at Site of the Dead.
Written by: Robin Bailes