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Ghost Canyon

'Blood Hunger: The Films Of José Larraz'
(Karl Lanchbury, Vivian Neves, Pia Andersson, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: One of the most underrated and oft-neglected genre filmmakers of his generation, Spanish-born director José Ramón Larraz (Symptoms) finally receives his due with this collection of his work; the first of its kind, bringing together a fascinating cross-section of films from the first half of his lengthy cinematic career.

Blu-ray Verdict: In Larraz's debut feature, the hitherto ultra-rare 'Whirlpool' (1970), Vivian Neves stars as Tulia, a young model invited to a photographer's secluded country home for what purports to be a quiet weekend retreat - but soon transpires to be anything but.

The film itself is amazingly sleazy considering its both British (though registered in Denmark) and from the '60s, before films like 'Expose' and 'Frightmare' became the norm.

Indeed, the film has many similarities to other Larraz films of the period, such as being set in rural England during the fall and featuring a severely warped family relationship.

Funnily enough, the British censors cut lesbian sex scenes between Tulia and her aunt, a woodland rape, and a bedtime threesome out completely for its UK run.

Along with the creeping atmosphere in his directing, Larraz and Lomberg give their screenplay a strong swipe of crawling sleaze with both gradually taking their time to fully place Tulia in Sara and Theo's games.

Of course, come the finale this leads to the writers delivering an excellently ruthless ending, as Tulia starts to fear that she will never be able to get out of this deadly whirlpool.

Oh, and the score is by Stelvio Cipriani, who also did the score for Larraz's brilliant 'Deviation' - which itself was very similar to his score for Mario Bava's 'Twitch of The Death Nerve' (aka 'Bay of Blood.') 1974's 'Vampyres' - perhaps the best known and most widely-released of all José Larraz's films - sees a duo of blood hungry female vampires prowling the British countryside; from where they lure unsuspecting male motorists back to their imposing, dilapidated mansion for draining ... in more ways than one!

As I'm sure you are all well aware by now, 'Vampyres' is yet another erotic vampire exploitation film from the '70s (in truth, in much the same style as some Jess Franco films) and highly recommended for all fans of Eurotrash films!

The lesbian vampires are the sexy and gorgeous Anulka Dziubinska, who is the Playboy´s Playmate of the Month in May of 1973, and Marianne Morris, and they spend great part of the film naked!

The couple, John and Harriet are silly from the start ie: they choose to camp in a melancholic area with a cemetery close by! Add to that, once they get curious, Harriet starts annoying and then following the vampires and snooping around their house and you quickly see why the viewer is like They get what they deserve!

The film also contains some of the most incredibly erotic sex scenes in any horror film! Add a Gothic mansion, plenty of lush autumnal scenery, and poetic shots of the vamps running through a graveyard at dawn, and you get a thoroughly beautiful motion picture that you won't soon forget!

Meanwhile, in 1978's 'The Coming of Sin' (La Visita del Vicio, in its native Spanish), a young gypsy girl experiences a violent sexual awakening as her dreams of a naked young man on horseback become reality.

By now you'll understand and freely acknowledge that Larraz is one of those directors who succeeds in making a picture with virtually no money.

Indeed, by using some unorthodox images like a naked man on a horse, and by doing some smart editing, he manages to give this film a creepy feeling that shows you don't need millions to make a decent picture.

This does not mean this is a good movie. Although it had some strong scenes, including the infamous horse-with-woman-inside scene, it has a weak ending, a couple of standard middle-of-the-road sex scenes and the acting is (as always in Eurotrash cinema) rather amateurish.

That said, the story is stylishly told. Creative cameras show the countryside and the house and the high grasses surrounding it. The dream sequences, the wind moving the clothes on the clothes line, the river, the small animals hopping around are so beautifully captured also.

And to crown it all are some wonderful (perfectly punctuating the sex scenes) soundtrack moments brought forth by some magnificent, dulcet Spanish guitars. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Three films from José Ramón Larraz, all newly-restored in 2K from original film elements
Newly-produced, extensive bonus features and unseen archival content
English subtitles for all features
Newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
80-page perfect bound book featuring new writing by Jo Botting, Tim Greaves and Vanity Celis

WHIRLPOOL:
Original US Theatrical Cut
Brand new audio commentary by Tim Lucas
Obsessive Recurrence: The Early Films of José Larraz - author and critic Kim Newman reflects on the recurring themes and underlying obsessions linking together the early productions of José Larraz
A Curious Casting - actor Larry Dann on the strange story behind his casting in Whirlpool
Deviations of Whirlpool - featurette comparing the differences between the US Theatrical Cut and a previously circulated, alternate cut of the film
Extract from an archival interview with José Larraz
Image Gallery
Original US Theatrical Trailer

VAMPYRES:
Brand new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger
Brand new interviews with producer Brian Smedley-Aston, actors Marianne Morris, Anulka Dziubinska, Brian Deacon, Sally Faulkner, makeup artist Colin Arthur and composer James Kenelm Clarke
Reimagining Vampyres - a brand new interview with Larraz's friend and collaborator Victor Matellano, director of the 2015 Vampyres remake
Extract from an archival interview with José Larraz
Jose Larraz and Marianne Morris Q&A at 1997 Eurofest
Image Gallery
Trailers

THE COMING OF SIN:
Spanish and English language versions of the feature
Brand new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger
Variations of Vice: The Alternate Versions of The Coming of Sin
Exploitation expert Marc Morris on the strange and scandalous release history of José Larraz's most censored film
Remembering Larraz author and filmmaker Simon Birrell shares his fond and extensive memories of his long-time friend and collaborator José Larraz
His Last Request (2005, 27 mins) - short film by Simon Birrell made under the guidance of José Larraz and starring Spanish horror legend Jack Taylor
Extract from an archival interview with José Larraz
Image Gallery
Original Spanish Trailer

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