Die teuflischen Schwestern [1977]

Erwin C. Dietrich (screenplay), Erwin C. Dietrich (story)

Karine Gambier, Pamela Stanford, Jack Taylor

Two sisters live retired in a country estate. Their home is a golden cage and one of the sisters is very sick: she suffers from a terrible disease: she is nymphomanic! Milly has needs, which want to be satisfied – therefore Edna has to pick up some young men every night and bring them to Milly. Very soon, both cross all frontiers and addict lust and delusion.

With Sexy Sisters (Die Teuflischen Schwestern, “The Devilish Sisters”), profligate Eurosleaze maestro Jess Franco again indulges his penchant for the sexually provocative and perverted, only this time without the sadomasochistic torture of the many Women In Prison films he made during this same period. Here the cruelty inflicted is strictly mental rather than physical.

Bleach-blonde heiress Millicent “Millie” von Stein (Women in Cellblock 9’s Karine Gambier) stands to inherit millions when she turns 21, though she’s completely ignorant of her late parents’ will and what it contains. Such is not the case with older sister Edna (Pamela Stanford), executor of the family estate — she’s been controlling the finances for a few years now and wants to keep it that way. A clause in the will stipulates that all money and property will pass to Millie unless she’s declared mentally incompetent, in which case Edna gets everything. If Millie dies, however, the entire fortune will be turned over a charitable foundation. To maintain control, Edna schemes with her lover, the corrupt “Dr.” Barnes (who may not even be a real physician), to drive poor, naïve Millie stark raving mad. As part of Millie’s “therapy” they keep her confined to the family mansion, chained naked to her bed in a sort of gilded cage complete with golden manacles. Barnes (Female Vampire’s Jack Taylor) regularly injects Millie with drugs which cause her to hallucinate and become insatiably horny. Because of these drugs and the twisted mind games played upon her by her own sister, Millie — whose 21st birthday is fast approaching — is on the brink of total mental breakdown. As a form of torture, Edna has lesbian sex with the maid in front of her captive sibling; she also invites strange men to ravage Millie in an effort to drive her over the edge. (A psychiatrist, unaware of Barnes’ special “treatment”, recommends that Millie be given prolonged periods of rest with no sexual activity whatsoever, including masturbation.) Edna takes perverse delight in implementing her plan… After having her own fun with the one night stands and male prostitutes she brings home for Millie’s “consumption”, she voyeuristically enjoys the show as sex-crazed little Sis is rogered six ways from Sunday. One of the men brought to the mansion is the same brute who raped Millie when she was only 12 years old — and because of the Spanish Fly that’s continually pumped into her, she actually enjoys having sex with him. To complete the mind-fuck, Millie is told that such incidents are merely bad dreams.

In a house where everybody is screwing everybody else — Edna and the maid; Edna, the maid and the rent-a-studs; Barnes, the maid and Edna; Barnes and the live-in nurse; the nurse and Millie; Millie and the rent-a-studs, etc. — something is bound to go haywire. Sure enough, a monkey wrench is thrown in the works when a guy Edna picks up in a bar for her sister ends up falling in love with Millie after sleeping with her. Awakening disoriented the next morning in his car, in another part of town (was it all a dream?), the man later locates the house and begins spying on the von Steins in hopes of finding a way to free his captive sweetie. In the meantime, a leather-jacketed gigolo (Eric Falk, Barbed Wire Dolls) is brought home to service Millie but drops dead of a heart attack during the act. Millie’s truly freaked out now, and Edna has a corpse on her hands… Or does she?

Sexy Sisters is a fairly professional-looking film compared to a number of Jess Franco’s contemporary works — there are no wobbly shots and everything’s actually in focus. Yet there’s no doubt you’ve entered the “Franco Zone” when the flick opens in a nightclub, an avant-garde stage performance featuring two nude masked women in progress. He attempts to give the numerous sex scenes an artful flair (shooting some of them through swaying bead curtains, for example) rather than resort to simple, and ultimately boring, bump and grind antics. He also accentuates (celebrates?) the unabashed kinkiness of the Edna character, all the more to contrast her decadent Sadean behavior with that of the innocent, victimized Millie. It is Edna, not Millie, who’s the real nymphomaniac. She doesn’t need drugs to remain voraciously horny. A few of the scenes with Stanford creep right up to the line of hardcore pornography but never cross it. Actually, had Franco decided to go all the way and make this an X-rated film it could’ve been a pretty damn good one.

As an envelope-pushing softcore feature, however, the film is continually undermined by the ludicrous, laughably silly English dubbing. I almost awarded the flick EC’s “Extra Cheese” icon just on that basis. A typically monolingual American, I have no idea if the German-language script is any better in terms of dialog, but it does at least sound better in German. Some of the English dialog is so goofily performed — “Ah, my little tigress. I’ll stick you so hard you won’t have the breath to scream. Gimme your ass!” — you might just be laughing too much to ogle Karine Gambier’s voluptuous bod. (She’s buck naked 99% of the time.)