Doriana Grey (1976)

Director: Jess Franco  Writter:Jesús Franco  Running time:75 min   Country:Switzerland  Language:German  

Genre:Adult | Drama | Horror  Subtitle: Enlish Starring:Lina Romay, Monica Swinn, Raymond Hardy



Is it porn? is it exploitation? Or is it Franco?
by tim_age

I can''t help asking these questions while watching most of Franco''s movies from the late seventies, early eighties. And this one is a good example of this period in his career.

If you have seen Vampyros Lesbos or Female Vampire (a.k.a. Erotikill) you basically know the story. In Vampyros Lesbos there''s a stunning vampire girl (Soledad Miranda) who rather sucks the blood out of other females than out of men and in the end dies.

In Female Vampire there''s the same eternally young girl this time sucking on genitalia instead of necks to keep her youth and satisfy her hunger. She also dies in the end, although she commits suicide if I remember correctly. Alternate versions of this movie have the vampire girl actually drinking blood to bypass censorship.

Doriana Grey, filmed 3 years later and again featuring the ravishing Lina Romay playing lead, basically recycles the same story but doesn''t make any compromises.

Doriana Grey, an eternal youth, is living all alone up in a castle with her mute servant and keeps her youth by sucking the life out of innocent girls with the occasional man on the menu. In the end she satisfies herself and dies, floating in a small swimming pool, just as the Female Vampire dies playing with herself in a bath filled with blood.

This brings me back to my three basic questions.
Is it porn?

Sure, it is. I wouldn''t call this family entertainment. You get a lot of masturbation scenes (and I mean a lot!), a couple of lesbian scenes and some man-woman action. There are extreme close-ups of female genitalia and scenes that can only be considered as hardcore porn.

On the other hand, most of the sexual partners of Miss Grey die and she is not having any fun, at least, according to the story she''s not supposed to have. I''m not an expert on porno-storylines but I don''t find it very erotic to see people die after having sex. So, in some way, this is hardly an erotic movie.

Is it exploitation?

Definitely. It is a prima example of seventies erotic cinema from the seventies. It might not be very erotic nowadays, but it was shot to be.

Is it Franco?

Affirmative. Although it''s more explicit than earlier Franco movies, it still contains some of his trademarks:

Out-of-focus camera work. Many scenes have Franco play with the focus,
making many parts very confusing and giving it a dream-like quality.

Zoom in - zoom out. Franco has often been critized for using the zoom
lens too often. Others defend the director, saying he only did that during a short period of his career (i.e. 1968-1971). Still, in this movie there''s a lot of zooming going on.

Completely useless shots. This is one of my favorite Franco trademarks,
the ability to move the camera to a completely useless part of the scenery, focusing on rain pouring down or a leaf against the dark sky. This can be explained by Franco''s own words, claiming to be a voyeur. He doesn''t only focus on female genitalia, he''s also a voyeur of the beauty of the ordinary world.

Storyline. I''ve already discussed the similarity between this movie and
other Franco movies like Vampyros Lesbos and Female Vampire, but there''s more. He frequently uses characters that are mute or have a speaking disability (e.g. Lina Romay plays a mute vampire in Female Vampire), in Doriana Grey the servant is a mute who used to be a protest singer (!); a girl locked in asylum, telepathically connected to someone in the outside world. This can be traced back to Murnau''s Nosferatu, but it is also a recurring storyline in Franco''s movies. And then there''s the doctor in the asylum who goes by the name of Dr. Orlof, a name you''ll find as early as 1959 (The Awful Dr. Orlof). Dr. Orlof in turn seems like a reference to Murnau''s Nosferatu again (Count Orlok).

So in the end, what have I just seen? A typical Franco movie who continues to move towards pure sex movies and leaving the horror genre altogether, keeping up with the zeitgeist. Definitely a must for Franco fans but not a very good place to start.

One last word: the DVD, released by the producer Erwin C. Dietrich, has been completely restored, cleaned up and digitally mastered and looks perfect in every way. This is how they should treat all movies before transferring them to DVD.