José Ramón Larraz was a Spanish director of… well, it is difficult to really call them horror films, as many of them come across as thinly veiled attempts at lesbian pornography. Exploitation films? Erotic Suspense? Softcore porn with a horror bent? However you want to describe them, they’re now being released to a wider audience with the release of the box set Blood Hunger: The Films of José Larraz from Arrow Films. This is a three movie set comprised of Whirlpool, Vampyres and The Coming of Sin.
First is Whirlpool (1970), a charmingly low budget affair which tells the story of ageing fashionista Sara (Pia Andersson) and her “nephew” Theo (Karl Lanchbury) who fill their days in their remote cottage in the bleak English countryside by finding nubile and naive young models at photoshoots, luring them back to the house and having their wicked way with them in all sorts of different ways. It’s a very slow burn piece to be sure, and a degree of patience is needed.
Next up is Vampyres (1974) and the title tells you all you really need to know. This film takes exactly 27 seconds to get to the lesbian sex and just over one minute before someone gets shot to death, so if Whirlpool is a slow burner, this is like being tossed into a furnace. Fran (Marianna Morris) and Miriam (Anulka Dziubinkso) are the titular vampy(i)res and they like to pretend to be helpless hitchhikers, picking up men, taking them back to their mansion (which was also the home of a certain Transsexual Transylvanian and his creation Rocky) and then slitting them up in creative ways and drinking their blood, in an impressivly gory scene that’s still disturbing even today and at the time must have had the censors going through red ink like it was water. At a time when most female characters were still confined to being little more than shrieking damsels in distress it’s interesting to see the men relegated to this role, their corpses disposed of like garbage by the side of the road once the vampyres are done with them.
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The final film is The Coming of Sin (1978), titled here as Vice Makes a Visit – originally La Visita del Vicio in its native Spanish – and once again there are lesbian lovers: Triana (Lidia Zuazo/Lydia Stern) who is left in the care of artist Lorna (Patricia Granada/Patrice Grant) but this time one of them is stalked by nightmares of a naked man riding a horse, only to find that he is real, sporting the name “Chico” and apparently set on having her by any means necessary, even if that means rape. The tension builds until the final act of violence brings things to a close. Of the three this is probably the most interesting not only in terms of the story, but in atmosphere and presentation.
These movies are a curiosity, definitely something to be viewed as a product of their time, when the boundaries of filmmaking were being pushed, and the tight grasp of the censors challenged with varying results. At times these films come across as an exercise in “How much lesbian sex and really clumsy makeout scenes can we cram into this before the censors tell me to start cutting?” See the extended scene of a naked woman applying skin cream in Vice Makes a Visit for a perfect example of pointlessly titillating padding.
An interesting little set, but one for hardcore genre fans only.
Blood Hunger: The Films of José Larraz is now available as a Limited Edition Blu-ray boxset, which includes Whirlpool, Vampyres, and The Coming of Sin, as well as special features for each.