Color, 1971, 80/77m.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams, Paul Muller, Howard Vernon, Ewa Strömberg, Horst Tappert, Jess Franco
Severin (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), ELEA (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Second Sight (UK R2 PAL), Image (US R1 NTSC), Umbrella (Australia R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Synapse (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)
Returning once again for inspiration to the plotline of Cornell Woolrich's female-driven revenge thriller The Bride Wore Black, which had already at least partially inspired his Venus in Furs and The Diabolical Dr. Z, Jess Franco spins his most erotic take on the concept of a beautiful woman avenging a death by picking off the guilty parties one by one. The late cult cinema goddess Soledad Miranda (Vampyros Lesbos) returned here for her penultimate collaboration with Franco before her untimely death, and her presence ignites what could have been another routine potboiler into a hallucinatory descent into erotic insanity.
A beautiful woman (Miranda) lives in bliss with her husband, Dr. Johnson (Williams), who conducts unorthodox experiments with human embryos he keeps in jars around the lab. When a medical committee rejects his findings and orders him to discontinue his work (leading to the vandalizing of his lab), the unstable doctor overreacts by slitting his wrists. The devastated Miranda then takes it upon herself to seduce and kill the three men and one woman "responsible" for the suicide. Of course, two of the potential victims include Dr. Orloff himself, Howard Vernon, and Franco in one of his largest roles.
As dreamlike and deliciously Eurotrashy as Vampyros Lesbos, this film, also known as Mrs. Hyde, differs mainly in its adherence to a non-supernatural plotline. Miranda's erotic presence once again drives the film along even when the plot doesn't seem to be going anywhere, and her systematic seduction/murders are all memorable set pieces complete with plentiful nudity. (Unfortunately this also requires Vernon to get naked, so viewer beware.) German musicians Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab (Vampyros Lesbos, The Devil Came from Akasava) return for another mind-bending assemblage of funky grooves on the soundtrack, while the Mediterranean locales and pop art set design make this early '70s eye candy of the first order. Not a film for everyone, of course, but then Franco fans already know that.
In 2000, Synapse released a DVD of She Killed in Ecstasy (or Sie tötete in extase) in what amounted to a cleaner, sharper rendition of the same print used for Redemption's U.K. VHS release, which was the first English-friendly version ever officially issued. Hairline scratches and debris littered that transfer, which was also fairly washed out but featured good, removable yellow English subtitles. That disc also includes the delirious original German trailer and some surprisingly explicit artwork of Ms. Miranda. After the Synapse disc went out of print, an anamorphic revamp turned up from Image which benefits from the additional resolution and a slightly cleaner presentation, also with the German trailer. A UK release from Second Sight sported the same revamped transfer, though in both cases it suffers from some obvious cropping of the original 1.66:1 framing to 1.78:1. In late 2014, a German Blu-ray without English-friendly options turned up as well in conjunction with the release of Vampyros.
Surpassing all of its SD predecessors by miles is the 2015 release from Severin Films, whose Blu-ray looks terrific from a far more pristine source than any other US or UK release. The new HD transfer looks so vibrant and rich that the film takes on a far more enjoyable dimension than before, and even better, it clocks in almost three minutes longer with an extended cut previously available only on that aforementioned German release (which didn't have subs). The real beneficiary here is Vernon's death scene, which now contains a cringe-inducing bit of genital mutilation that catapults the film to a whole new level of extreme horror. The German DTS-HD mono audio (with optional English subtitles) is very satisfying throughout.
The extras begin here with another great interview with the late Franco, "Jess Killed in Ecstasy," with the filmmaker chatting for nearly 17 minutes about the film's genesis as a successor to Vampyros for the same German financier, the literary genesis of the necrophilic aspect of the story, the reason for all that amazing architecture, his dissatisfaction with the Bavarian-born Williams (which is odd considering how many times Franco used him), the reason for Miranda's "Susan Korda" screen name in these films, his recovery from the shocking news of her death, and the flaws that he felt kept the film a notch below Vampyros. The ending with his Goya award is really bittersweet, too. "Sublime Soledad" is the same worthwhile 20-minute piece on the star with Amy Brown seen on Severin's Vampyros Lesbos disc, while Stephen Thrower contributes another entry in his roster of excellent Franco deconstructions as he spends 13 minutes on the film as a signpost towards the increasingly prolific pace he would keep up through the decade as well as the obsessional nature of his considerable output that has earned his loyal fan base. He feels like this is a more hasty project than its companion piece, which is true, but it's a charmingly macabre and twisted piece of entertainment all the same. A six-minute interview with Muller (in Italian with English subtitles, oddly enough) is a humorous six-minute piece about his Franco excursions including topics like cannibal films, improvising without a script, and working on and off whenever he was available with the director for eight films.
Last up is the German trailer, of course, but that isn't quite all. Included as a second disc is a CD soundtrack, and this one requires a bit of explanation. The scores for Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed in Ecstasy, and The Devil Came from Akasava were originally issued as the one of the first CDs from Lucertola Media, a short-lived but well-remembered German company, under the title 3 Films by Jess Franco. The very limited (500 units) disc became a hot item when the single "The Lions and the Cucumber" hit it big, which led to a reissue from Crippled Dick Hot Wax under the title Vampyros Lesbos Sexadelic Dance Party omitting several tracks from the 24 cues found on the first version. So what we have here in the Severin release is the first pressing of the complete 24-track version in its original sequence in twenty years, which should be enough to make fans snap this one up in a hurry.