Directed By: Jess Franco
Starring: Alice Arno, Howard Vernon and Kali Hansa
Trivia: A hard-core version of this film was released in Italy under the title SEXY NATURE
Even those with a casual interest in trash cinema will have heard the name Jess Franco, one of the most prolific exploitation directors of all-time. By some accounts, Franco has helmed as many as 200 films, starting in the late 1950’s and stretching all the way to 2010, with the straight-to-video Paula Paula. Yet despite his impressive output, Franco’s films are best known for their overall shoddiness. Even by low budget standards, the average Jess Franco movie is a mess, sometimes an unintentionally hilarious one. A handful have risen above his usual quality, including 1969’s Venus in Furs, and a few I found entertaining in spite of themselves, like Eugenie…The Story of Her Journey into Perversion and Ilsa The Wicked Warden. Realizing there are still dozens upon dozens of Jess Franco works I’m unfamiliar with, I found myself wondering where his 1974 film, Countess Perverse, might fall. Would it be good? Bad? Somewhere in-between?
Countess Perverse is yet another take on The Most Dangerous Game. A woman (Kali Hansa) washes up on a beach, where her unconscious body is found by Bob (Robert Woods) and his wife, Moira (Tania Busselier). Once awake, the woman tells a horrifying tale of how she traveled to the island of the Count and Countess Zaroff (Howard Vernon and Alice Arno) to search for her twin sister, who went missing there some time ago. After being raped and tortured by the Zaroffs, the woman escaped, eventually swimming to the safety of Bob and Moira’s beach. What she doesn’t know is her two saviors actually work for the Count and Countess, securing young, attractive females for them. In fact, Bob and Moira have just managed to lure the lovely Silvia (Lina Romay) into their confidence, and are setting out shortly to turn her over to the Zaroffs.
Countess Perverse is far from a bad movie, but it’s certainly not perfect. On the plus side, it features beautiful locales (it was shot along the picturesque coast of Spain), and fans of trash cinema will be happy to hear there’s plenty of nudity, with a little bondage tossed in as well, and a rape that evolves into a lesbian love-fest. Unfortunately, there are scenes in Countess Perverse that feel as though they were linked together randomly, leading to entire sequences that make little sense. After arriving on the island to search for her sister, Kali Hansa’a character slowly makes her way up a long outdoor staircase to a mansion at the top of a hill, clearly nervous of what she might find waiting for at the end of it. Taking what seemed like an eternity to reach the top, she’s met by the Count and Countess, who lead her inside, descend yet another flight of stairs, and invite her to join them in the dining room for some wine and raw meat. But before you can say “what the hell?”, the action shifts to the trophy room, where the Countess points out all the lovely hunting trophies hanging on the wall, including the heads of a deer, a puma, and even a human being (“from Amazonia”)! This would’ve been enough to send me screaming into the night, but not Ms. Hensa, who in the very next scene is lying asleep on top of a bed, completely naked. She’s soon awakened by the Countess, leading to the aforementioned rape / lesbian encounter (bet she wishes she took that human head a little more seriously, eh?). The story in Countess Perverse is paper-thin (we’re talking tissue paper here), and appears to exist solely as a means to link together various sex scenes. On the plus side, the sex is well-shot, and fairly erotic, so if it’s pure exploitation you’re after, Countess Perverse won’t disappoint.
Perhaps the best way to describe Countess Perverse is to say it’s a typical Jess Franco film, and whether or not you can tolerate it depends on your familiarity with his work. If this is your first Franco experience, then I’d recommend giving Countess Perverse a miss, and starting elsewhere (along with the ones I mentioned above, I also enjoyed Vampiros Lesbos and 99 Women). But if you’ve already seen your fair share of the maestro’s output, then you at least have an idea of what to expect from this film.