Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Honourable Mentions: Immoral Tales


Known, in its original French, as Contes Immoraux, this 1974 film directed by Walerian Borowczyk was made up of four erotic shorts that had an element of the grotesque or the taboo to them. Our reason for looking at this is that the third tale is based upon the tale of Countess Erzsébet Báthory (Paloma Picasso). Since reviewing Hammer’s Countess Dracula I have been of the opinion that anything with a Báthory reference deserves either a review or a mention on this blog.

If the film has a supernatural element to it or, obviously, a vampiric element it should have a review. Such is the impact, however, of the actual tale/legend of the historic Báthory that reference to her deserve a mention. If it has physical regeneration then a review it is, if it is indicated that the blood bathing is due to a psychotic belief in blood rejuvenating the bather then we are at least in mention territory.

Báthory on horseThis segment, however, nearly broke that mould and, quite frankly, I found myself bored. The film tells us that we are in Nytria, Hungary and it is 1610. We see the Countess upon a horse and then cut to a village and see village life. A couple rutting in a barn, the treading of, well it looked like cabbage, and the milking of a cow.

selecting from the peasant stockSoldiers arrive and round up the young women. The soldiers make an announcement about those who please the Countess will be permitted to touch her magic pearl dress, an artefact that brings bliss. The rutting girl runs but is soon captured. The Countess inspects the girls and then has them all taken to her castle. It is here that things went wrong for me.

Paloma Picasso as BáthoryFirstly, what happened to the rutting girl and her defensive lover. She is lost within the morass of naked female flesh and he vanishes from the film. There was a narrative set up and no follow through. Also the remainder of the film is primarily the preparation of the girls, essentially having them shower and soap each other. Aside from being impressed at the idea of mass showers in 1610 and soap in regular use, this failed to be erotic and also failed to carry a narrative.

Eventually the girls are placed in a bedchamber and the Countess enters with a see-through, pearl encrusted dress. The girls begin to touch and then rip at the dress. They fight over the pearls, as the countess backs away, scratching at each other. Though we do not see the deed it is clear that the handmaiden uses her sword.

blood bathingThis frenzy seems to be how the blood is gathered (a most inefficient method to my way of thinking) as the next scene sees the Countess blood bathing. After a short moment of this we get the hint of a lesbian tryst with the handmaiden and then the Countess' arrest by a soldier – and it is clear the handmaiden sold her out.

I don’t know, perhaps I was expecting some horror. Perhaps I was expecting the segment to actually be erotic – given the film’s reputation. Perhaps it was the fact that the blood bathing was almost an afterthought and the film offered absolutely no reasoning for the act. All in all this segment bored me.

The imdb page is here.

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