Tuesday, April 20, 2010

She Killed In Ecstasy [1970]

Upon my second viewing of She Killed in Ecstasy – I realized that my initial problems with the film aren’t as big of an issue – and the real enjoyment of the wild side of this film really comes out.

Dr. Johnson’s experiments to help the human race by genetically splicing fetuses with animal genes isn’t going well with the Doctor’s council and he’s banned and branded a criminal. Dr. Johnson goes into a deep psychological despair – and dies. Mrs. Johnson (played by Soledad Miranda) decides to take revenge on the council and seduce and kill each member.

What strikes me this viewing is how telling the opening monologue is as a reflection of Soledad’s life. I couldn’t help but think when she said ‘our time together was short’ and the conclusion – that it’s one of those eerie things an actor or actress says or does in their final performance just before their own death.

I thought Soledad’s performance was fantastic and intense – and so incredibly sexy. If she survived to do more films after this – I wouldn’t have been surprised if she got pulled away from Franco to do more mainstream productions based on the strength of this performance.

Franco is on his game with direction – keeping it equally psychedelic and playful. I always enjoy his single shots – his lack of fear of the zoom or the use of focus (or lack there of). It’s one of those great things that you are told you are not to do – but because Franco does it – he owns it as part of his style.

I still find the same flaws in the story – about how the doctors discover the note beside Mrs. Johnson’s first victim – and they don’t report it to the police – or even take heed and not be seduced by any strange woman. Without skipping a beat – Franco takes us from the scene where he’s explaining his theory (he plays a doctor on the council) – we see Soledad seducing the female doctor who was just listening to warning. I'm also not as impressed with the usage of the dynamite soundtrack - the theme just seems out of place with the strong horns during some of the scenes that feel like they need just a hint of music instead of the full blunt force.

You've also take into account this is legendary Jesus Franco who at this point had already made this exact film a couple times previously - but in She Killed in Ecstasy he's tweaking it a little. Unfortunately, he's lacking a serious budget in this version - and there's several elements that suffer - most notably Mrs. Johnson's final act. Given the history of Soledad though - I think a bumpy car ride instead of a massive crash is like good old Uncle Jess patting us on the head and telling us "she didn't suffer". (Yeah, I'm being pathetically poetic here - but whatever)

The pacing can feel off if you are not familiar with Franco’s style – he likes to have a lot more of the mental conflict be actually internal as opposed to being vocalized even if no one is there. Lingering shots of Dr. Johnson “suffering” and of Mrs. Johnson longing – can feel a bit out of place – but aren’t really.

I’m still going to give the film a 4 out of 5 though I enjoyed it more this time around – but not enough to call it “perfect” and give it the last bump. It’s certainly essential to my movie collection – and the Image “remastered” release is vibrant and beautiful upconverted on my Blu-Ray player – some of the close-ups – you feel like you could pause it and count the pores on Soledad’s face.

1 comment:

  1. "I wouldn’t have been surprised if she got pulled away from Franco to do more mainstream productions based on the strength of this performance."

    In fact just before she died she was about to sign a major contract.