She Killed in Ecstasy February 10, 2017
Jesús Franco is the sort of circumstantial genius only capable of making masterpieces by accident. Masterpieces not in the general sense of the term, of course, but masterpieces of the exploitation genre that manage to turn sleaze into winking fun and sloppy photography and mod set design into evocative visuality and swinging style. At his best, he’s a gutsy provocateur. At his worst, he’s a pervert disguised as an arthouse hack. An in-between doesn’t much exist for him — consider that only two of his one hundred sixty features (arguably 1971’s Vampyros Lesbos and 1973’s A Virgin Among the Living Dead), with many of them made with extremely low-budgets and with many of them standing as not much more than softcore pornography, have remained mostly highly regarded in serious film circles since their original releases.
When a limitedly talent director makes up to ten movies a year, anyway, the possibility of laughable frowziness is imminent. So it goes for 1971’s She Killed in Ecstasy, which was filmed only one month after the completion of Vampyros Lesbos and was the fifth of seven films Franco produced in 1970 and released in 1971. Using much of the same actors, much of the same soundtrack, and all the same stylistic techniques to have characterized the latter, She Killed in Ecstasy rings as a tired attempt to recreate the surprising effectiveness of its predecessor. Fit with an arousing premise but executed with the shoddiness of a typical Ted V. Mikels Z-movie, it’s stodgy and wooden and, at its weakest, helplessly boring.
Vampyros Lesbos worked so well because it used its slow-burning incomprehensibility as a weapon, replacing considerable substance with drippingly sensuous atmosphere that complemented its randier Dracula imitations. Conversely, She Killed in Ecstasy is a failure as a result of its doing the complete opposite. It concocts a complex storyline Franco’s too inept of a writer to convey convincingly — over-explanation and chintzy character development are prolific. And what’s supposed to be sexy (the movie is essentially a grander scale vehicle for the famed black widow femme fatale type) is labored, its anti-heroine beautiful but unable to generate heat when not by herself.
That anti-heroine, famously, is played by Soledad Miranda, the sinewy, ghostly pale sex symbol who seemed destined for stardom outside of her exploitation movie roots. (Right as her career seemed ready to explode, an effect of her working with Franco a staggering nine times, she was tragically killed in a car accident in 1970.) Memorably having been Vampyros Lesbos’ most valuable asset, she’s similarly She Killed in Ecstasy’s greatest tool, too.
Here, she stars as the wife of a doctor (Fred Williams) driven to suicide after he’s banned from practicing medicine. (His questionable practices on human embryos, it seems, is something that cannot sit well with most ethical medical committees.) Angry with the three men (and one woman) she believes to be responsible for his death, she sets out on a seduce and destroy minded quest to break even.
But, alas, all the seducing and destroying that makes way throughout the film is paltry to behold. With all roles blandly performed and with all sex scenes uncomfortably staged (no one looks like they’re having fun), nothing’s much redeemable about She Killed in Ecstasy, except maybe its provoking title and maybe the drinking game that could ensue from Franco’s tiresome use of the zoom feature on his cinematographer’s handful of cameras. Even Miranda, so wonderfully committed in Vampyros Lesbos, seems to be going through the motions. And when trash doesn’t seem to be pleasing itself, we shouldn’t have to have any fun with it either. D+