Blood Hunger : The Films of Jose Larraz Blu Ray review

Jose Larraz transferred from comic book author in Spain to film director in England during the late 60s. Now his catalogue of films, isn’t exactly stellar. However, the highlights are often revealing to his skill as a story teller. His best work is SYMPTOMS (available from the BFI on dual format), a taut psychological thriller. Other highlights are on offer in this beautifully packaged set from Arrow. WHIRLPOOL starts the set. Its Larraz less seen and until now, hard to find film. A young model called Tulia (Vivian Neves), stays over in a country home. Hoping for a peaceful break, she enjoys the company of an older lady and her younger nephew. As the weekend progresses, things begin to take odd turns. From the mystery of a disappeared Irish model to the locked room in the cellar that the nephew skulks back to. WHIRLPOOL balances a masterful powerplay with sexuality, without losing pacing or momentum. I rarely find a film I havent seen that is as good as, or as worthwhile spending time with. Larraz was often hit or miss in his work. Sometimes he was unable to navigate themes, direct with panache or create a coherent whole. WHIRLPOOL is a well executed package.

THE DISC

I honestly have little to compare it to. The quality of the transfer seems to restore grain, tone and colour without artifical emphasis.

THE EXTRAS

The best three are Commentary by Tim Lucas gives everything from the films history to the literally kitchen sink. Lucas Video Watchdog would have championed Larraz and the film no doubt but he often excels in his vast knowledge of 70s British cinema. Obsessive Recurrence: The Early Films of José Larraz allows Kim Newman to capture Larraz themes and obsessions which sometimes can be obvious though on other times, it was so hard to define. Deviations of Whirlpool, personally it is always something I enjoy. A good comparison between national cinema organisations treatment of films. It also shines a light on how we want to see a film and what we want a film to be.

Jose Larraz most famous work is VAMPYRES. A tale of a couple on holiday in the British countryside, an old delapidated manison and two female, lesbian vampires that entrap passing motorists for food. The film feels heavier than on previous viewing. I think in truth it is less my interest in the film and more the forced erotic encounters that lack…well bite. Larraz sets up a great idea and then sets about executing the whole with tired set ups and less sophistication then I would have expected. Made in the same year as the afore mentioned SYMPTOMS, it is a strange counter point.

THE DISC

Arrow deserve credit for this. A dvd version (of which the film had lots of releases) was truly awful. Here it has been restored to clarity and removes a lot of image diffusion from the night scenes, underground scenes and the famous death scene (which was cut for a while but not on DVD.)

THE EXTRAS

The top three here are Archival interview with José Larraz. It is an older, more formal style of conversation. It also however makes for an understanding of Larraz and his body of work in the period. The real money though is on Reimagining Vampyres. Victor Matellano remade the film in 2015 and he seemingly added a portion of what had been discussed but left out for various reasons. He works like a demon and talks like a machine gun. New interviews are a collection of those on set and behind the scenes. I really enjoyed Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska. Witty and honest but also not afraid to say their piece.

Jose Larraz arrived back to Spain after a four-year break. The first film he made there was THE COMING OF SIN. Also known as THE VIOLATION OF THE BITCH, which might be an extreme name but that was the 70s. A young gypsy woman keeps having dreams of a naked man riding horse back. When he appears in the fields near to where she is saying, this leads her to seek refuge with another. Animal urges are on the precipice in THE COMING OF SIN. Sexual desire drips from every frame. Fear of the past and the primal rip apart as the film runs. Larraz creates another strong piece and his last great film.

THE DISC

Firstly there are two version on the disc. The English version and the Spainish version. Something about the Spainish version left me feeling more content. Both have the same content but it feels more reflective of the version Larraz envisioned. Now the transfer is good enough to wade in.

THE EXTRAS

The best three on this disc are His Last Request by Simon Birrell. A shortish film from Birrell that saw him work with Larraz. The formers accument and the latters skill are in full work here. Which then makes Remembering Larraz author and filmmaker Simon Birrell, very worthwhile for fans of the director. Variations of Vice: The Alternate Versions of The Coming of Sin, sees the greatMarc Morris discuss the censorship history of the film. I have not seen the cut versions but it is always compelling to see how things are and were. Also Morris establishes what made the film so difficult for a audience, or should that be the censor itself.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

 

  • Three films from José Ramón Larraz: WhirlpoolVampyres and The Coming of Sin, all newly-restored in 2K from original film elements
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing for all features
  • Newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • 80-page perfect bound book featuring new writing by Jo Botting, Tim Greaves and Vanity Celis

 

WHIRLPOOL

 

  • Original US Theatrical Cut
  • Brand new audio commentary by Tim Lucas
  • Obsessive Recurrence: The Early Films of José Larraz – author and critic Kim Newman reflects on the recurring themes and underlying obsessions linking together the early productions of José Larraz
  • A Curious Casting – actor Larry Dann on the strange story behind his casting in Whirlpool
  • Deviations of Whirlpool – featurette comparing the differences between the US Theatrical Cut and a previously circulated, alternate cut of the film
  • Archival interview with José Larraz
  • Image Gallery
  • Trailer

 

VAMPYRES

 

  • Brand new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger
  • Brand new interviews with producer Brian Smedley-Aston, actors Marianne Morris, Anulka Dziubinska, Brian Deacon, Sally Faulkner, makeup artist Colin Arthur and composer James Kenelm Clarke
  • Reimagining Vampyres – a brand new interview with Larraz s friend and collaborator Victor Matellano, director of the 2015 Vampyres remake
  • Archival interview with José Larraz
  • Jose Larraz and Marianne Morris Q&A at 1997 Eurofest
  • Image Gallery
  • Trailers

 

THE COMING OF SIN

 

  • Spanish and English language versions of the feature
  • Brand new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger
  • Variations of Vice: The Alternate Versions of The Coming of Sin exploitation expert Marc Morris on the strange and scandalous release history of José Larraz’s most censored film
  • Remembering Larraz author and filmmaker Simon Birrell shares his memories José Larraz
  • His Last Request (2005, 27 mins) – short film by Simon Birrell
  • Archival interview with José Larraz
  • Image Gallery
  • Trailer

 

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