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Monday, January 7, 2013

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) Horror Revenge

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) -Unlike my last review this one does not have a great opening. An attractive woman comes down some stone steps to look at a beautiful ocean. Her voice over leads into a recap that will bring her to this place. She is Mrs Johnson (Soledad Miranda) a woman at a turning point in her life, about to do something she can not come back from. How did she arrive at this point? She and her husband Dr. Johnson (Fred Williams) were a happy couple, in love and moving through life in love's dream. He a successful doctor working on improving the species through hormone therapy and she, well his very attractive lover. He recently presented his life's work to the board of doctors who will fully instate him making his life perfect.
 Unfortunately the panel did not see his work as groundbreaking; in fact his work, which included experimentation on nearly grown fetuses, is seen as criminal. Dr Johnson is barred from performing medicine permanently. It is a devastating blow, while he tried to defend himself the panel's commentary on what is moral and acceptable in medical experimentation is clear and he returns home a broken man. Staring off into space and mumbling he ends up in a horrible depression eventually taking his own life. We come back to Mrs. Johnson standing on the shore of her private island and swearing revenge on the panel of doctors who she believes took her husband and their perfect life from her.
Beautifully filmed in Calpe, Alicante, and Valencia Spain the print I saw was in good shape and the locales when in frame were nice. Cinematographer Manuel Merino capture the location well and there are some nice angle captures in this film.  German with English subtitles the film has some passages where it seemed the emotion was trying to be captured but then other times the dialog read was a bit stilted. The music a weird mix of groovy beats from the seventies and more serious tones is noticeable from the very beginning of the film.
  Soledad Miranda was excellent as the grieving widow seeking revenge. Very attractive she manages to show her grief and anger behind her eyes. It is not a reach for us to believe that each doctor she seduces and kills would want to be with her. There is a fair amount of partial nudity in this film as with most every movie made by director and prolific Euro-Sleaze auteur Jesus Fanco. Miranda who was on the cusp of a long career as Franco's "it" girl sadly died a couple years after this film in a car crash in Portugal. It is said she was on her way to sign a long term contract with Franco.
  The character of Mrs. Johnson is indeed over the edge of crazy. When she finds her husband dead she does not call the police, no instead she lays his body in the bed and grieves. In fact all through the film no one knows that he is dead except her. She returns to spend time with him after her kills and each time she does it seems a bit sadder. You would think that maybe she is not bat-shit but after the first kill when she violently stabs her knife into the man's penis cutting it off (we learn later from the useless cop) we see the wild in those beautiful eyes. The character is a strange one to start with, a woman who does not appear to work. In a couple with no friends. Who live out on an island where there are no neighbors.That I suppose would drive anyone insane.  SPOILER! The ending where she has the least convincing drive off a cliff I have ever seen, she does so with the body of her man in the seat next to her. A side comment on that drive, it is a hill that runs down to the beach and sure it is not an easy ride down but to think it actually causes her death is silly. END SPOILER
  I think about this film are that I thought is was well put together. Refreshingly cogent for a Franco film it does not go off on any strange tangents as some of his work does. Sure there are things that are a bit strange but maybe interesting also. Prof. Walker (Howard Vernon) likes his sex rough and to be called names while it is happening, which ends up being a great scene for Mrs. Johnson as she can fulfill his needs while really meaning some of the things she is saying. A more common Franco cliche is that the woman doctor Crawford (Ewa Stromberg) is a lesbian, there is a really pretty framing of the two bodies as she makes love with Mrs. Johnson. A stranger less believable sequence where she is following Doctor Houston (Paul Muller) and he a tall man seems genuinely scared of her. This is not so believable when you see the slight Miranda.
 There is quite a bit of social commentary in the film, the primary being the doctors being against Mr Johnson's research and the use of human fetuses in doing testing. It is heavy handed but appropriate for the setup of the film. Then there was this great bit spouted by Dr. Walker about the youth at the time. Paraphrasing he that today's youth (1971 mind you.) can not be fit into a schema, because they will not take orders and execute them without question. They claim to be searching for a better world with protest against war, demonstrations and riots, and drug use. They distort their reality and thus do not fit into the reality of structure they will have to fit in at some point in their lives.
 Overall this is not a bad film, constructed well enough with week but passable characters. The plot is a simple revenge story that is executed with varying amounts of cohesion. It is not the most compelling or memorable film I have seen but it is not a failure either. I think it gets a recommendation but I think some people will find it a bit slow. So if you are an excitement seeker you may want to avoid this one.
Rating (5.0) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others

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