Sunday, March 17, 2013

Countess Perverse (Jess Franco, 1974)

I've been known for going on these long tangents about a certain fleshy appendage, especially when they appear in the cinematic works of Jess Franco. If the exaggerated language that is typically used to describe these stem-like entities has caused many a reader to question my sanity, than so be it; I'd rather be insane than live in a world without Jess Franco-approved legginess. When I first approached Countess Perverse, with my usual usual mix of arrogance and stupidity, I knew exactly what to expect: Gorgeous European woman cavorting about in a slightly surreal paradise as Howard Vernon stands creepily in the background. And, yes, it delivers all that and more. However, I had no idea what a profound impact the slits that adorn the dress worn by Alice Arno would have on my fragile psyche. Now, I've seen a lot of slits over the years (large slits, small slits), but never have I seen a slit like this. The moment I first saw it, I thought there might be something wrong with my television; in that, there's no way that slit can be real. When I realized that there was nothing technically wrong with my television, I started to panic. How can a slit like that actually exist? I asked myself as I lay curled up in a ball underneath my coffee table (a.k.a. a piece of glass supported by two milk crates) mumbling a disturbing mishmash of slit-based gibberish and profanity-laden nonsense. After taking a brisk walk to clear my head, I returned to the scene of the slit. In other words, I re-watched the scene where Alica Arno first appears in the now infamous slit-heavy garment. As I watched Alice's massive slit flap erotically in the wind, I knew almost immediately that the slit in question would take up the bulk of my time whenever I got around to typing words about this particular film.   
If I didn't broach the slit subject right out of the gate, I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror. And now that I have, I believe I can continue in a calm, rational, non-slit obsessed manner. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm still going to give the slit its due in the coming paragraphs. It's just that I wanted to get some slit out of my system before moving on to less slity ground.
What's great about Countess Perverse, besides the slit on Alice Arno's slit-tastic dress (hey, behave yourself), is the fact that Talia Busselier (Isla, the Wicked Warden) wears pants in the opening scene. Are you serious? Pants?!? That's exactly what I thought. Pants plus Jess Franco is an equation I never want to see scribbled on the nylon-infused blackboard that is my sick and twisted subconscious. You didn't let me finish. What's great about it is that Talia Busselier's tantalizing lower half is encased in pants (a bland pair of dark blue jeans), yet seconds later, she's wearing brown bikini bottoms. Maybe she changed when you weren't looking. Get out of here. She's clearly wearing pants when she runs down to the beach with Bob (Robert Woods), her male companion, to collect the naked body of a woman who has just washed ashore (an everyday occurrence in the gauzy world of Jess Franco). When she changed into a brown bikini is anyone's guess. Either way, I'm happy the pants fiasco is over and done with.
Carrying the naked body belonging to Kali (Kali Hansa), a woman who looks like the lovechild of Mary Woronov, Karen Black and a frisky Siamese cat, into their swanky bungalow on the Mediterranean, Moira (Tania Busselier) and Bob try to figure out where she came from. Suddenly, Kali starts rambling about this strange-looking house that sits atop a hill on a desolate island. After she's finished her bungalow-based rambling, a more coherent Kali begins to tell us why she went over to the island in the first place. Traveling by boat, Kali, who, on top of wanting to find her missing sister, is wearing a red floral shirt, is instantly troubled by the rocks that cover the island's shoreline. Even though she hasn't made much sense so far, I have to agree with her when it comes to those rocks, as they straight-up give me the willies. In order to hammer home this point, Jess Franco films the rocks from a number of different angles; okay, we get it, Jess, the rocks are willie-inducing monstrosities.
Greeted on shore by a man and a woman, Kali, who eventually changes into a blue dress with a red stripe across the top, finds herself the guest of Countess Ivanna Zaroff (Alice Arno) and Count Rabor Zaroff (Howard Vernon), two eccentric aristocrats with an unorthodox approach to fine dinning.
As they sat at the dinner table to eat something Rabor describes as "different and unique," I couldn't help but notice that both Alice Arno and Kali Hansa have sexy biceps.
Alluring arms aside, Alice proceeds to show Kali her hunting trophies. Are some of those heads supposed to be human? If they are, they don't look very convincing. Nonetheless, Ivanna and Rabor rape Kali. After employing some mild lesbian groping, Ivanna steps aside to to allow Rabor the opportunity to plunge his probably pockmarked penis balls deep into her forlorn vagina.
Later that night, Kali wakes up to find that she's been chained to the wall of their dungeon. Just as she begins to scream, Kali wakes up again. But this time, she's back on Moira and Bob's couch. Giving her a sedative to help her sleep, Bob asks Moira what she thinks they should do with her. Without missing a beat, Moira says, "Take her back to the island." You mean? Yep, Moira and Bob are in cahoots with the aristocratic cannibals. Well I never. They seemed like such a nice couple. Hey, man, times are tough. Some times you have to do things you wouldn't normally do to make ends meet. That's true, but luring young women to an island so that they can be eaten by a couple of aristocratic cannibals? That's low.
Well, Moira and Bob don't seem to think so, as they have already got another hot, underage piece of fresh meat for the Zaroff's ready to go.
Since telephones are for trailer trash housewives and acne-scarred bed-wetters, they place their order for fresh young girl patty via heliograph.
Please let the hot, underage piece of fresh meat be played by Lina Romay. Please let the hot, underage piece of fresh meat be played by Lina Romay. Please let the...Yes! Lina Romay is on the screen. I repeat, Lina Romay is on the screen. Wearing a busy red shirt dress with a pair of white [almost] thigh-high boots, Lina Romay is Silvia Aguado, a naive young  woman who...Wait, Lina Romay is playing someone who is naive? That's strange, I don't think I have ever seen Lina play "naive" before. In fact, she usually plays strong, independent women who don't take no guff from anyone. This should be interesting.
If you think Tania Busselier is going to stand idly by and let Lina Romay steal her thunder, think again. I ain't kidding around, think again! Has another thought been thunk yet? Good. In an attempt to stay relevant, Tania Busselier allows herself to be filmed lounging on the deck in a manner that can best be described as "leggy." Sipping a tropical beverage through a straw, Tania, her legs resting on the deck's railing, seems to get a perverse thrill out of knowing that perverts the world over will be drinking in every nuanced nook and cream-filled cranny of her sun-baked gams in forty years time thanks to the miracle of home video.
In order to milk her stems for all they're worth, Jess Franco zooms in on Tania's feet, then proceeds to pan across her reclining legs in a slow, deliberate fashion.
After some yawn-inducing lesbian sex (yeah, that's right, yawn-inducing), Bob, Sylvia, and Moira head over to the island. Hardcore fans of Jess Franco will probably notice that Lina Romay is sitting exactly like Soledad Miranda does in Eugénie de Sade (hugging her legs while resting her head on her arms) during the boat ride over. At any rate, as expected, Sylvia, like Kali before her, starts to feel a tad uneasy when they come upon the rocks. Who would have thought that a bunch of rocks would turn out to be more interesting than lesbian sex? Weird, wild stuff.
Speaking of weird and wild, I think we're about to get our first glimpse of the infamous dress that may or may not contain the largest slit ever to appear in a motion picture. Here it comes. Boom! Now that's a slit. Slicing its way all the way up to her armpit, the slits on the dress worn by Alice Arno, as she watches Tania and Lina frolic naked in the sand (both, by the way, have similar bums), are, to put it bluntly, fucking insane. And just like Tania Busselier's reclining leg pan, Jess Franco makes sure we get to view her slit from every angle imaginable. 
Here's a close-up shot of the slit from an angle that practically screams slit.
The dress itself is white and is covered with green, blue and gold dots, but it's the massive, atypical slits that appear on either side that grab our attention. Of course, you can't wear panties with a dress like this. In other words, the contents of Alice Arno's crotch were at the mercy of the wind. And let's just say, the wind was not kind on that day, my friend.
Realizing that she is in a losing battle with the wind, Alice Arno decides to let her slit flag fly, and stands for a moment on the stairs that lead to the front door of her creepy ass home. You can tell that Alice Arno is totally at ease with the winds mockery of her slit-generous garment as she stands there in defiance of nature. It was almost as if she was saying, "Yes, the slits on my dress are ridiculously large, and, not to mention, impractical. And, yes, everyone can see the colour of my cunt. But you wanna know what? I don't care. I'm more fabulous than you. Deal with it."
If you should come across a review of Countess Perverse that doesn't mention the slits on Alice Arno's dress, question their sanity right away. Of course, I'm not saying they should devout three or four paragraphs just to slits. No, I'm just talking about a single mention. As in, "the luminous Alice Arno plays Ivanna Zaroff, a cannibalistic countess with an affinity for nude archery and dresses with overreaching slits."  
Fashion must be cyclical, because I could have sworn I saw the same black frilly robe Alice Arno gives Lina Romay to wear to bed in the window of my neighbourhood Gucci store the other day. At any rate, as is the custom in Europe, when Alice Arno gives you frilly sleepwear, you must thank her by licking her ass. What a continent!
I was shocked when the infamous extra high-slit dress makes its second appearance; I assumed that cannibalistic aristocrats rarely ever wore the same outfit more than once. But then again, they do live on an isolated island. Meaning, unlike my neighbourhood, there's no Prada, Zara, Escada, Max Mara, Chanel, Guess, or Louis Vuitton to shop at. Anyway, Lina Romay suddenly realizes that her blemish-free thighs are in serious danger of becoming a tender, succulent roast, and the film goes into naked hunt mode. Replacing her slit-bountiful dress with a belt and a determined sneer, Countess Zaroff chases Sylvia (who is completely naked) through the arid underbrush with a bow and arrow. Will anyone step in to help Lina Romay? Who's to say? All I know is, I want to go to Calpe, Spain (come from the creepy rocks, stay for the free-range cunnilingus), and, of course, get my hands on Alice Arno's slitful dress. Slit sliding away.


  1. Such a great, fun film and one of Franco's best looking (from the locations to the women, gotta love the fact that Ivanna hunts in the nude) to boot. That house is really something else, he really put it to great use. I also loved the gallows humor. The dinner scene is a blast:

    Ivanna: Do You like our favorite meat, Sylvia?
    Rador: Don’t ask the sweet girl to lie. This meat is rather tough. Not up to our usual standard. But next time… Oh, sorry - you won’t be here.
    Sylvia: Why? Am I upsetting you?
    Rador: On the contrary.
    Ivanna: Just that you will have left by the time we start cooking.
    Rador: Oh yes, that’s a fact. Already left indeed.

    The bewlildred look in Lina's face during that scene just seals the deal. Now I wanna watch it again!

  2. Ok, I need to watch this. But I still need to watch "Eugénie de Sade" first. I'm just worried it will be too much for me to take and cripple my fragile psyche.

  3. Is it just me, or does Lina Romay look a little like Anne Hathaway? They both have big...eyes

  4. @Tom Clark: I love the way Franco gets full use of his locations. Like I said, he manages to make a pile of rocks seem interesting.

    Sylvia totally doesn't know that she's about to eaten. :D

    @ido: You still haven't watched Eugénie de Sade?!? But then again, a fragile psyche is a terrible thing to waste. ;)

    @Jung GT: Yeah, I can see that. But I think Anne needs to eat more paella and let her vagina run free more often if she wants to emulate the greatness that was Lina Romay.

  5. @I've been busy doing research on succession disputes at the Kofukuji temple complex in fifteenth century Yamato province, Japan. Solidad Mirandad's leggy opus maximus would melt my mind right now.

    I should just watch it.

  6. Jumpin' Jesus Franco, I just discovered Netflix has a parcel of his films on tap for streaming! I'm watching Female Vampire right now; Alice Arno wears pants in this one and a very young Lina Romay doesn't wear much at all. Although in one distressingly short scene she does sport a pair of black thigh-high stockings. Plus she blows the furniture! My gods, I've never wanted to be a bed-post so much in my life ...

  7. "Distressingly" short? I don't like the sound of that.

    I hear Lina Romay does some extended bed writhing in black hold-up stockings (ones that are covered in runs) in a film called Doriana Grey, a.k.a. Die Marquise von Sade. That's the one I'm on the look out for.

  8. The slit... for the love of god, the slit.... Jess should have focused on it looonnger. Lina's white boots don't get enough attention. Dear god Jess Franco, how do you do this?

    I need to calm my fragile mind before I can comment on this one more. Oh, and rewatch it, oh course.

    "Female Vampire" is next. And I have "Doriana Grey." Lots of naked writhing, some oral sex (she's kind of a vampire who lives off of sexual juices instead of blood, or something like that, i think), and no plot to speak of for 90 minutes. You'll love it.

  9. Tell me about it, Lina's white boots are not given the respect they deserve.

    Looking forward to Doriana Grey.