Digi-Schlock: COUNTESS PERVERSE (Mondo Macabro DVD)

The Jesus Franco filmography has always posed a challenge to cult movie collectors.  He has spent decades cranking out films at a staggeringly prolific rate and has worked for an array of different producers, resulting in a large filmography that is divided up in countless ways.  To make things even more complicated, several Franco films have been toned down or radically re-edited by distributors trying to force his eccentric work into more commercial shapes.

Countess Perverse is a good example of a problematic Franco title.  It was re-edited more than once by distributors who sought to tone down the film’s morbid tone and up the sex quotient.  New scenes were shot by Franco and yet more footage was added in the form of pornographic insert shots by overzealous Italian distributors.  Tracking down any copy of this film in its original version has been tough, much less one that looks halfway decent.

Luckily for Franco’s fans, Mondo Macabro has come to the rescue.  This label has long been a champion of eccentric European and Asian fare, always striving to present the best and most complete versions possible of obscure genre fare from all corners of the world.  They have recently amped up their Franco-film output with well-liked releases like Sinner and Lorna The ExorcistCountess Perverse continues their success streak in this area, excelling above the norm in a few different departments.

The first thing you’ll notice about this disc is how good it looks.  It presents Countess Perverse in a high-definition 1.33:1 transfer that represents the way the film was intended to be seen.  The image quality is very impressive, with rich colors and sharp detail on all that distinctive handheld Franco-style camerawork.  Better yet, this represents the director’s cut of the film, without any of the reshoots or inserts that dogged its pre-DVD video versions.  The original French audio is retained for this disc and it is presented with optional English subtitles.

Mondo Macabro has also added in a handful of extras that show off their curator’s passion for this material.  First up are a pair of video interviews.  The first is with star Robert Woods, who talks about how made the transition from being a European western star to working with Franco.  He shares fond memories of Franco, also discussing the other films they worked on, and talks about how the winding path of his career took him in many directions.  The other interview is a retrospective piece with author/critic Stephen Thrower.  He’s currently wrapping up a book on Franco’s career so he is able to offer a well-researched discussion of this film, its context within Franco’s career and a thoughtful appreciation of its odd charms.

Elsewhere, there are a variety of text supplements that are well worth the viewer’s time.  The first is a discussion of the film’s troubled production and distribution history that complements Thrower’s commentary on the film nicely.  There are also bios for most of the cast, all of whom have lead the interesting lives that you might expect from people who ended up in Jess Franco film.  These bios feature several dishy anecdotes that ensure they make an entertaining read.

The package is wrapped up with the customary previews reel for other Mondo Macabro releases.  Anyone familiar with the label’s work knows it offers a colorful, often outrageous and smartly-edited travelogue through the extremes of international genre cinema.

All in all, this is a stellar disc for anyone interested in the wilder side of Euro-cult fare. If you’re a Franco fan, this is a must for your collection.

If you want to read Schlockmania’s film review of Countess Perverse, click here.

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