A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD
*** Out of 5
Release Date- November 15th, 1973
Running Time- 79-Minutes
Writer/Director- Jesùs Franco
Starring- Christine von Blanc, Britt Nickols, Rosa Palomar, Anne Libert, Howard Vernon
Released in 1973 Christina, Princess of Eroticism also goes under the more common title A Virgin Among the Living Dead. The film actually has three different versions and the Redemption Blu-ray release contains two of those cuts. After the film was made due to the growing popularity of erotic films another filmmaker was brought in to shoot scenes with full frontal nudity (both male and female) and add in some sex scenes. These scenes are on the Blu-ray releases as an extra feature. These scenes feel as of they were taken from another film since they don’t fit in at all. Than in the 80s with the growing popularity of zombie films, Jean Rollin was brought in to shoot a few scenes involving zombies and that footage was edited into the film and it was re-titled A Virgin Among the Living Dead and with the newly added scenes the film ran at about 90-minutes, 11-minutes or so longer than the Franco original version. Even Franco’s cut of the film is sometimes put out under the A Virgin Among the Living Dead title. When it comes to Jess Franco I’ll admit I’ve never really been a big fan of his work. More often than not I find his films shoddy in quality, which isn’t really a big deal since I’m a fan of filmmakers such as Ed Wood and Juan Piquer Simon, but my biggest issue with Jess Franco is the pacing of his films and that with the shoddy filmmaking is why I’m not a huge fan even if I do enjoy his work to some degree. But even in films I enjoyed I had issues with the pacing like Female Vampire, which can be quite sluggish in spots, but more or less made up for with the graphic nudity with Lina Romay. However Jess Franco at times has shown to be a fairly competent filmmaker. Bloody Moon, which Franco had no control over was a fairly decent slasher film and generally well made (at least in slasher film regards) and Franco actually was able to build a little suspense and while it’s not edge of your seat suspense it’s the very least decent, but even that film I had issues with the pacing, but I’d blame the screenplay more than anything Franco did as a director. A Virgin Among the Living Dead like Bloody Moon, shows Franco can be a competent filmmaker and while despite running at 79-minutes I did again have issues with the pace, but this would probably be my favorite Jesùs Franco or top 3.
I’m not entirely sure how to describe the plot without spoiling the film, but basically Christina (von Blanc) heads to a remote castle to stay with estranged members of her family for the reading of her fathers will. But once there satanic rituals other other strange happenings occur.
The screenplay by Jess Franco is probably better written than the good portion of his other films I doubt anyone will really cite the writing as the strength of the film, but when all is said and done the script is surprisingly decent. Characters are fairly interesting and while there isn’t a whole lot of plot what there is I found interesting. Like I said the script isn’t great, but fair enough and is possibly Franco’s most interesting and perhaps his best script as well.
As director Jess Franco delivers a film better than I expected out of him. As I mentioned earlier my biggest problem with his films even the ones I liked is the pacing. Despite running at 79-minutes I did find the pace a little sluggish in spots more so in the 2nd half. This isn’t a film with a lot of action and I can see where some viewers might be a little bored, but what kept me invested was Franco, sets up an odd and mysterious tone to the film with almost a bad dream kind of feel. With the really odd tone and making excellent use of his locations, Franco also sets up some eerie atmosphere as well. Lets make no mistake this isn’t exactly filmmaking at its very best, but it is a competent film and oddly enjoyable. In typical Franco fashion there is plenty of nudity on display and plenty of odd moments, but everything here is just handled better than the good portion of his filmography. Jess Franco’s films really intrigue me since at times he can make a truly lousy hack job that can be listed as one of the worst films, but than he can make a film like this, which has atmosphere and even some suspense and even when Franco is at his best I still wouldn’t label him anything else except a little above average, but he’s an interesting filmmaker with how he can make such a poor film and that make a fairly solid one.
Overall I actually enjoyed A Virgin Among the Living Dead far more than I expected. It has some nice eerie and mysterious atmosphere and while the pacing can be a little sluggish if you’re patient it’s worth it in the end as its a surprisingly decent film from Jess Franco. Jesùs Franco appears in a very odd role as Basillo credited under the name Jesus Manera.
As I mentioned A Virgin Among the Living Dead also goes under the titles Christina, Princess of Eroticism and even Zombie 4. I once wrote an article on the Zombie series though not every film was listed and in the case of this film Zombie 4 was of course to link it in with Romero’s Dawn of the Dead since it certain places in Europe it was titled Zombi and Fulci’s Zombi 2 was originally titled Zombie Flesh Eaters, but changed to Zombi 2 to make it seem like a sequel to Romero’s film and after that many upon many films would have the Zombi title such as Burial Ground and Living Dead At Manchester Morgue both re-titled Zombi 3 with several other films having an alternate title of Zombi 3 and none of these films were connected to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and none of the films titled Zombi were actually connected to each other except Fulci’s Zombi 3, which was a sequel to Zombi 2 though each of those two films stand on their own. A Virgin Among the Living Dead despite the title isn’t a zombie film (though the Jean Rollin scenes do add zombies to the film) and even though it also carries the Zombie 4 title it was originally released 5-years before Dawn of the Dead. The Zombie 4 title came about in the 80s due to the zombie craze.