Friday, May 16, 2008

Vamp or Not? Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay


Sometimes you want a little bit of sexploitation or maybe some fantastique. With its wondrous cover this 1971 flick by Bruno Gantillon would seem to be just the ticket. Plus it is on some vampire filmographies to boot. Its place must be questionable, however, hence doing a ‘Vamp or Not?’ article.

Alfred Baillou as GurthThe start of the film is odd, to say the least. A young naked girl is tied and on trial. She is surrounded by old women and the proceedings are presided over by a makeup wearing man, whom we later realise is a hunchback dwarf named Gurth (Alfred Baillou). She has broken the rules and her punishment is to be cast out. She cries defiance, stating that all is illusion.

As I say, an odd start but in perfect keeping with the film, which has a surreal, dreamlike quality throughout that is reminiscent of Jean Rollin but, to be honest, not as lyrical as Rollin at his best.

Françoise and AnnaTwo girls drive through the countryside. They are Anna (Michéle Perello) and Françoise (Mireille Saunin). They take turns driving and, after a while, stop at an inn. The patrons are all male and older, a comment is made about the place still being in the middle ages. They order mulled wine and coffee to take away and notice Gurth looking at them. The innkeeper advises them not to drive through the village but to turn around and leave. When Gurth has gone they leave.

we know what you're doingThey drive for a while but, as night falls, they seem to be driving in circles and then the car runs out of petrol. They shelter in a barn – cue some lesbian heavy petting – and in the morning Anna has vanished. Françoise comes across Gurth who leads her through a forest until she sees a lakeside castle. Gurth vanishes.

Françoise in boatThere is a boat, of a (cheap looking) pre-Raphaelite design. When Françoise steps into it, it takes her (under its own steam) to the castle, where she is met by three chiffon wearing ladies, who lead her to their mistress Morgane (Dominique Delpierre) – the spelling difference from the title is due to a disparity twixt subtitles and English title. Morgane seems evasive of her questions and gets her stoned before going off to a ceremony with the three ladies.

Anna is a little tied upThis is in a cavern room, where Anna is tied up and here we get the crux of the vampirism. Morgane (yes she of Arthurian fame) is a spiritual vampire. She exists by taking the souls of young ladies and, in return, gives them eternal life and beauty. If they displease her they are thrown to the crones where they will age.

Dominique Delpierre as MorganeTo be honest, that is a liberal interpretation. We do not see what Morgane does with the souls. If it were psychic vampirism she would consume the soul/spirit/lifeforce – but we do not know if she does. To say it is psychic vampirism is a leap at best.

Even if we take that leap we have the taking of souls for everlasting life and giving eternal youth and beauty, but… Well that’s all we really hear of it. Anna agrees to the pact and screams but we don’t see what happens to her. Later we see her and she seems spacey but happy. The need for souls is not mentioned again. To be fair it seems more like a thrown in extra and the majority of the film concerns Françoise and her attempt to escape Morgane and the enchanted realm she is in.

Morgane's witchesThe film itself, as I mentioned, is dreamy. It is also somewhat slow and nothing really happens. There is an underlying philosophical question about femininity, youth and aging – this is answered subtly but not in great depth. There are some naked lesbian romps but, for a sexploitation, these are low in number. Beautiful photography and luscious sets cannot disguise the wafer thin story.

All in all I think the spiritual vampire aspect is so sparingly used that to class this as Vamp would be simply misleading. Flawed as a fantastique and sparing with its sexuality for a sexploitation this is interesting but not the best film to watch. I’m going Not Vamp and would suggest you are better off with Rollin.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

I love this movie! However, I would never connect it, however tenuously, with vampirism.

This is a movie about fairy lore. Before the Romantics completely restructured fairy lore in the 19th century, fairies were the stuff of nightmares. Impossibly beautiful, in human form, the traditional fairy was pure sexuality and mischief with no morality, no soul, and no regard for humans.

This is the only contemporary work of fiction I know that captures the horror of fairies in the medieval imagination. If you haven't already, read The Ballad of Thomas Rhymer or Le belle dame sans merci to get a real idea of who Morgan le Fay/Morgana/Titania was.

Apparently, the original screenplay featured a heterosexual couple and not nearly as much nudity, but the only way Gantillon could get funding to make the film was by selling it as softcore lesbian porn.

It's a shame no one has followed this up with more stories about Faerie as horror.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Howard. I agree, it should never have be connected with vampirism. It does appear on some filmographies though - hence looking at it.

I've read quite a lot of Arthurian lore, rfom the Mabinogian onwards, but I must admit my fairy lore generally is sparse (at least mainland Britain, I've read a fair wedge regarding the Irish lore). I'll have to look out for the text you've mentioned.

Many thanks for the comment