Director: Jess Franco
Also known as: The Perverse Countess, Les Croqueuses
Tagline: Hunting humans was her favorite game!
Choice IMDB keywords: Nudity, murder, sex, independent film
Plot: When a young couple in a classy seaside village finds a nude woman washed up on the beach, they aren’t particularly surprised by the story she tells them, about a house of horrors and a “man with black glasses” who’s trying to kill her. That’s because the couple (played by Robert Woods and Tania Busselier) know all about the Count and Countess Zaroff (Howard Vernon and Alice Arno). Woods and Busselier actually make their living by seducing gullible girls and boating them out to that crazy house, where the count and countess feed the ladies, seduce them yet again, then show off their collection of hunting trophies. Mixed in with the animals? Human heads!
These aristocrats have a fun hobby: They strip their guests and send them out on the grounds to be hunted, Most Dangerous Game-style. If the guests survive long enough, the count sets them free. Otherwise, the countess—who is also naked, save for a quiver of arrows—shoots them dead, then roasts them and serves them for dinner to the next young woman Woods and Busselier procure.
But then Woods has a change of heart. Maybe it’s the way their latest victim (Lina Romay) says, “This house scares me” when they walk her up its long steps after a carefree afternoon of skinny-dipping. Or maybe it’s the way the creepy count calls Romay a “jewel” for his “collection.” Whatever the reason, at the end of Countess Perverse, just after the title character fells Romay, Woods puts a stop to the madness by shooting the countess. And just before the closing credits roll, the count looks down at the corpse of his magnificent bride and boasts, “You will be the best meal of my life!”
Key scenes: Though only 76 minutes long, Countess Perverse is padded out with long scenes of the characters puttering around in boats, walking slowly ashore, and making their way up to and around the count and countess’ MC Escher-esque home.
The movie also features multiple scenes of the bad guys entertaining their prey, serving them thick steaks and then smirking knowingly at each other when the victims-to-be say, “It’s exquisite… very unusual… what is it?” (The hosts boast about their special blend of coffee, too, but the movie never indicates what’s so special about it. Ground pubes, perhaps?)
The majority of Countess Perverse is then taken up by the big hunt, which director Jess Franco scores with a combination of jungle sounds and generic acid-rock, while Arno and Romay dash through the tall grass and sand dunes, completely starkers.
Can easily be distinguished by: The abundance of soft-focus sex scenes that fill the space between plot points—though it could also be argued that the plot is only there to fill space between the sex. Also distinctive: the way Franco moves his camera around with the wild abandon of a hobbyist, to make sure we haven’t missed any bare crotches, exposed breasts, or legs peeking through high-slit skirts. (This is a good movie for flank-fetishists.)
Sign that it was made in 1973: Not to be indelicate, but to paraphrase Porky’s, this movie features “so much wool, you could knit a sweater.”
Timeless message: From the countess: “Sometimes us women have to push their men to try new things.” And from the count: “Reject nothing that gives you pleasure.”
Memorable quotes: The count and countess’ dinner conversations are packed with portent, as when the count tells Romay that it’s a shame she won’t be around the next time they serve their signature meat. The countess then hastily explains to Romay that she won’t be able to dine then because “You’ll have already left,” to which the count says, “Yes… ‘Already left,’ indeed.” Sinister cackle implied.
Available on DVD from Mondo Macabro.