The official British Palme d’Or entry at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, Symptoms is a sophisticated modern gothic horror film exploring the themes of sexual repression and psychosis.
Larraz’s dark and stylish film tells of a young woman (Lorna Heilbron) who is invited by her girlfriend (Angela Pleasence) to stay at her remote English country mansion. Events take a disturbing turn when a menacing groundkeeper (Peter Vaughan) interrupts their time together, and a woman’s body is found in the mansion’s lake. Continue reading José Ramón Larraz – Symptoms (1974)
“The 1970’s was the decade of the gothic lesbian vampire film. The exploitation efforts of Jean Rollin (LIPS OF BLOOD), Jess Franco (VAMPYROS LESBOS), and Hammer (LUST FOR A VAMPIRE) were enormously popular at the time. These films successfully combined the fear of death and eroticism, which struck a cord with male audiences. Many of the films merely hinted at the overt sexuality, and most never fully explored the sexual aspects of the genre’s premise. That all changed in 1974, when upstart Spanish director Jose Ramon Larrez (or Joe as he is called stateside) raised the bar with the ultimate depiction of sex and horror, VAMPYRES. Larrez teamed with producer Brian Smedley-Astin to film their adult vampire epic in England. By the time VAMPYRES was released there, the censors cut out most of the offensive scenes, castrating the power of this artsy exploitation picture. Luckily when the film played the Drive-In circuit in America (as DAUGHTERS OF DRACULA), we got to see what the British audience didn’t–powerful sex trysts and disturbing death scenes. Thanks to Larrez’s scripting and directing skills, VAMPYRES rose to top of its genre. Today, VAMPYRES is a highly regarded classic in Euro horror-circles, and rightly so… Continue reading José Ramón Larraz – Vampyres (1974)
“A perverse little number from the erratic but always interesting José Larraz (Vampyres), this rarely seen, low budget blend of exploitation and art is best known to fans of Euro sleaze under its more colourful theatrical release title, Violation of the Bitch. For its first DVD release, Pagan translated the original Spanish title, La visita del vicio (or more literally, Vice’s Arrival), as The Coming of Sin. Under any time, it’s a twisted, often mystifying daydream filled with erotica and surrealism. Beautiful amateur painter Lorna (Patricia Granada) passes her sunny days dabbling with a paintbrush and burying herself in the family library. Life changes dramatically with the arrival of Triana (Lydia Zuaso), a dark-haired girl from a gypsy clan who comes to stay indefinitely and sparks a gradual, torrid relationship with Lorna. However, Triana’s dreams are haunted by images of a naked man (Rafael Machado) on horseback, a premonition which comes true one day while she strolls through the woods surrounding a nearby lake. The mysterious man, who never seems to wear much, attempts to rape Triana, who runs home and tells Lorna about the weird naked guy living with his horse out in the wild near their house. Lorna goes to investigate while Triana’s fantasies continue, including one which finds her naked inside a giant horse about to be… uh, straddled, apparently. Soon the mystery man directly intrudes on their lives, beginning an unholy triangle of lust which culminates in a dark reversal of fortune. Continue reading José Ramón Larraz – La Visita del vicio AKA The Coming of Sin (1977)
“This is the first film of the cult Spanish expatriate director Jose Larraz (which was lost until very recently). It is far more amateurish than his later (and better) films like “Symptoms”, “Vampyres”, and “The Coming of Sin”, but it has the same basic themes–omnivorous sexual perversity played out against a background of haunting natural beauty. A Swinging London era fashion (played by Vivian Neves, who was a, um, Swinging London Era fashion model)is lured to an isolated country estate by a creepy older woman to meet her even creepier photography-obsessed nephew. She doesn’t seem too perturbed to learn that a previous female model that went there has disappeared without a trace, nor does she find it strange that her first night there the aunt and nephew get her drunk and engage her in perverse game of strip poker. She almost has sex with the nephew (while his aunt secretly watches) but he isn’t able to, uh, rise to the occasion. The next day he takes her into town and pays a friend to rip her clothes off and nearly rape her while he takes pictures. This doesn’t seem to bother her either because soon she’s involved in another bisexual three-way sex/photography session with the aunt and nephew. There is also an allusion to the old Bluebeard story–the model has been forbidden to enter the nephew’s mysterious darkroom. Hmmmm. Guess what she does? Continue reading José Ramón Larraz – Whirlpool (1970)