Female Vampire is a 1975 French-Belgian film directed, written and co-edited by Jesús Franco. It was made in 1973, but was only distributed two years later. The film is set in Europe and stars actress Lina Romay as Irina von Karlstein, a vampire who has sex with both male and female victims. In an unusual variation of the vampire myth, Karlstein performs oral sex on her victims until they die, draining them of their sexual fluids.
Three versions of the film were shot --- straight horror, horror mixed with sex and the hardcore pornography version. Franco's original title for the film was The Bare Breasted Countess, but it was released under many different titles over the years. The film was shown as The Bare Breasted Countess at the 2009 Fantastic Fest in the United States. The title was later changed to Female Vampire for its DVD release.
The plot revolves around Countess Irina von Karlstein (played by Lina Romay), a mute woman who needs sex like a vampire needs blood in order to stay alive forever. When new victims are found fatally drained of potency, forensic scientist Dr. Roberts consults his colleague, Dr. Orloff, who confirms that a vampire is responsible. Meanwhile, Irina is confronted by a psychic investigator who believes he is destined to become her lover and join her among the immortals.
In director Jesús Franco's productions from 1972 and onward, his films became more inclined towards themes involving female sex and zoom in shots on female genitalia. After the death of Franco's previous preferred lead actress Soledad Miranda, he cast 18-year-old actress Lina Romay as the Countess Irina. Romay was more open about her sexuality than Miranda, which allowed Franco to focus on his more sex-based themes in his films. Franco originally made three different versions of the film. The first was the straight vampire film La comtesse noire (The Black Countess), a horror-oriented sex film titled La Comtesse aux seios nus (The Bare Breasted Countess), and the hardcore pornography version Les avaleuses (The Swallowers). These films ran at 72 minutes, 82 minutes, and 96 minutes respectively.
Franco felt that Female Vampire was an erotica film opposed to a pornographic film. Franco compared the use of sex in his films to the film In the Realm of the Senses by Japanese director Nagisa Oshima whose film contained sex with social and political commentary. Franco compared his film to Oshima's, stating "there are lots of hardcore shots but nobody would say 'Oh, it's a porno film!' No. It's a very important story. I felt in [Female Vampire] I did the same thing. There was a need to show it, like you must show how Dracula sucks his blood, you need to show how this Countess sucks the semen." Some scenes with the vampires were filmed twice in a traditional vampire film and another in a more graphic style.
The film was edited by Franco and Ramon Ardid edited under combined pseudonym Pierre Querut.
The film premiered in France under the title La Comtesse noire on May 7, 1975. Producers added hardcore pornography scenes to the film on some of its releases. The film has been released under several alternative English titles, including Yacula, Jacula, Bare-Breasted Vampire, The Bare Breasted Countess and Naked Vampire. The film was screened under the title The Bare Breasted Countess at the 2009 Fantastic Fest with Lina Romay and Franco in attendance.
Female Vampire was released by Image Entertainment on DVD on August 8, 2000. The film was re-released on DVD and blu-ray disc by Kino International. The Kino release includes both a 72-minute "horror version" and a 104-minute "erotic version".
From a contemporary review, David McGillivray (Monthly Film Bulletin), reviewing a 59-minute dubbed version of the film, stated the cuts have made a narratively complex film even more confusing, describing the film as "a fragment of a much longer film, although in this case the cuts have added a bizarre new level to a work already wrapped in mystery" The reviewer commented that "what exactly is going on, and what exactly Irina is doing to her victims, remains a mind-boggling conundrum", noting that "with the exception of the first encounter, she appears not to be doing anything at all."
From retrospective reviews, Kim Newman referred to the film as "One of Franco's better films" as well noting that for Franco's fanbase it is "a masterpiece; to everyone else, wearisome tat." The online film database Allmovie gave the film one and a half stars out of five, but opined that the film "benefits from a haunting performance by Romay as the cursed vampire."