The Velvet Vampire (Stephanie Rothman / U.S., 1971):
(Cemetery Girls; The Devil Is a Woman; The Waking Hour)

Madame Le Fanu and the swingers, "les anges impuissants se damneraient pour moi!" Morbid statuary and a live blues performance by the leonine Johnny Shines adorn the art-gallery sequence, where inane come-ons and faddish babble ("Whoa, thatís sort of frightening..." "I get a lot of sensual energy from it!") give a brisk sketch of trendy Angelinos about to have their erotic mischief tested by the century-old bloodsucker. The meathead (Michael Blodgett) and the belle (Sherry Miles) stranded in the Mojave desert, rescued by the chic temptress (Celeste Yarnall) with the dune buggy and the Spanish Colonial manse. The place is equipped with objects díart in the lounge and a belovedís corpse in the nearby graveyard, plus a veiled portal to introduce a triangular voyeuristic element to the couplings and overlapping dreams. "Why fight the animal in you," the vulturette purrs to Blodgett, as Stephanie Rothmanís coolly distanced camera cuts to a serpent slithering towards the sunbathing Miles. (The affable punchline-frisson involves venom getting sucked out of a thigh.) A humid and elegant reworking of the vampire myth as an explicit challenge to the limits of the "liberated" couple, concurrent with Daughters of Darkness and The Blood Spattered Bride; the Sapphic angle is discreet but Magritte is at once recognized in the oneiric apparatus (brass bed, sand, mirror), the Antonioni of Red Desert figures markedly in the dťcor. The bus ride back to the city brushes up against Murnau ever so slightly, the simultaneously parodic and moving climax has one heroine vanquishing another with harebrained hippies and souvenir-stand crucifixes. "You evil hearted woman, youíre gonna go and blow my mind," Shines eulogizes. With Gene Shane, Jerry Daniels, Sandy Ward, and Robert Tessier.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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