The recent death of Jess Franco inspired me to revisit his filmography (well, some of it). Like many of his films, A Virgin among the Living Dead is laced with an erotic energy, but it’s built on a seductive, languorous atmosphere rather than just flashes of naughty bits (though there’s plenty of them, natch). Discovering these films on late-night SBS as a youngster felt like peeking into an adult world, something forbidden yet impossibly complicated. This film’s set-up (a young girl, attending her father’s funeral, finds that her companions are the walking dead) is quite transparently a metaphor for the combined attraction and aversion towards sex felt by its titular virgin.
Franco demonstrates a real sense of artistry even it’s regularly obscured by the low budget. The best example of this for me was a shot midway through the film where a distant eerily erect figure is revealed to be the victim of a hanging (in what turns out to be a significant, recurring image). Of course, this talent goes hand-in-hand with underwritten dialogue (in an often incoherent story) and shaky cinematography that relies too heavily on extreme zooms at inexplicable moments (like Sergio Leone, Franco loves his extreme close-ups).