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Giallo Fever: 'She Killed in Ecstasy'

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We recently paid tribute to the long and prolific career of one of the heavyweights in European horror, softcore and exploitation cinema, Jesus “Jess” Franco, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 82. While Franco was not as well known for directing giallo films in the traditional sense, I'd say his 1970 erotic thriller She Killed in Ecstasy qualifies as a near-entry in the genre, albeit loaded with all the quirks and fetishes that Franco loved to indulge in his films. It's also an excellent showcase for the talent and allure of star Soledad Miranda, a profoundly beautiful woman whose career got a boost from working with Franco on films like this one, plus the cult classic Vampyros Lesbos and Count Dracula with Christopher Lee – all filmed shortly before her untimely death in a car accident.
 
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Unlike most giallo stories, which generally have a mystery to solve, She Killed in Ecstasy is more of a revenge tale, in which Miranda plays the widow of a brilliant medical researcher whose life's work, which involved embryonic testing, was rejected and literally trashed (they burned his notes!) by a committee of his colleagues, driving him to commit suicide. The widow then uses her sexual prowess to seduce and murder the four people (one of whom is played by Jess himself, as seen above) she believes responsible for his death. Shot almost back-to-back with Vampyros Lesbos, this film also employs many of the same cast and crew.
 
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Franco is often criticized for clumsy camera work, excessive use of the zoom lens for dramatic emphasis, gaping plot holes or storylines that go nowhere, and disorienting edits... and I won't lie to you, all of those sins are committed here. But for all the misses, when Jess gets it right, it's quite amazing to see and hear. The influence of psychedelic culture is apparent in the excellent modern jazz/rock score by German duo Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab (whose work he also employed on Vampyros), surreal angles and color schemes, and Miranda's frequently nude form is idolized in loving widescreen shots, often in beautiful Mediterranean settings.
 
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Ecstasy has made it to DVD in the US twice to date, from Synapse and Image Entertainment, respectively. Both releases are of reasonably good quality, and both are officially out of print but easy and cheap to obtain. While Franco's work is definitely not for all tastes, this film (along with Vampyros Lesbos, Venus in Furs and his De Sade series), is an excellent introduction to his rare classier side.
 
Instead of a trailer, here's a stylish fan video for the film, set to Hubler and Schwab's groovy music, which is a loving homage to both Franco and Miranda...
 
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