La nuit des étoiles filantes (A Virgin Among the Living Dead) (1973)

Plot from IMDB

A girl arrives from London to visit her estranged relatives in a remote castle for the reading of her father’s will. After a while she discovers that they are all in fact dead and her decision to live with them turns into a nightmare. Unable to leave she’s drawn into a macabre underworld through visions of nude satanic rituals and her own impending sacrifice.”A Virgin Among the Living Dead” is an unjustly overlooked gem from Franco’s mid-period, wherein he fully embraced erotica and dreamlike narratives.I forget who it was – maybe Truffaut, Maybe Godard – who said that the best way to criticise a movie is to make another movie. “Virgin” functions like a critique of Franco’s more famous “Vampyros Lesbos“. That one too had a more than average dollop of eroticism and dreaminess. However, in that movie, the eroticism failed to do anything, and the dreamlike nature of the story seemed employed to mask the fact that the script didn’t make any sense.I hazard a guess that the huge, overwhelming majority of movies given the “dreamlike” tag are such pictures. “Dreamlike” is just a polite way of saying “nonsensical”. “Virgin Among the Living Dead” is a rare example of a movie that achieves its dreamlike atmosphere, and its eroticism. In so doing it is like a living rebuke to “Vampyros Lesbos”. The only thing that movie had over this was the presence of Soledad Miranda. The main actress in “Virgin” is beautiful but doesn’t have the hypnotic quality Miranda effortlessly possessed.The plot is sparse and rather typical of Eurohorror. A young girl comes to stay with her estranged family in a small rural community after the suicide of her family. Yes, she spends the night in a hotel first, where she mentions where she is going and gets a predictable reaction – it really seems like practically all Eurohorror movies begin this way. However, in this case the effect is different as the hotel isn’t crowded with people who shut up as soon as she mentions where she is headed – rather, the hotel is empty save for the hostess. This subtle difference foreshadows Franco’s off-kilter approach to his familiar material.Any fans of Eurohorror know that the gods of the genre – Fulci, Argento, Franco, even Joe D’amato – had a hidden reserve of talent they used to breathtaking effect early in their careers, before moving on to bargain basement slop for the lion’s share of their working lives. “A Virgin Among the Living Dead” is like a call back to the early days of the ’60s, where Franco was a promising director, even in the minds of mainstream critics. It is extremely well shot, and subtly effective – absent is the violence the director would become known for.It is a must see for Franco, and Eurohorror, fans.