Daughters Of Darkness (1971)

Rating: **

A bizarre and artsy French-Belgian-German film about the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. It's really a vampire film, but the vampiric references are so obscure and the execution is so obtuse that it's hard to tell. But what really sets this film apart is the incredibly strange cast of characters. Let's start out with the two main characters, Stefan and Valerie. They are young lovers traveling on their honeymoon - but something's not right. Stefan is a bit of a maniac and an emotional powderkeg. He also has a "mother" who is either gay or a transvestite (or both), which is never explained and could possibly be linked to further insanity and darker secrets in Stefan's psyche. His wife, Valerie, is a bit of a neurotic air-head who loves Stefan regardless of all the torment he puts her through (he even viciously beats her at one point in the film). Enter the Countess Bathory who takes an immediate liking to Valerie, making her current female "partner," Ilona, extremely jealous. The countess is determined to make Valerie hers and eventually seduces her, killing Ilona and Stefan in the process. Lots of strong lesbian sensuality going on in here, but it's all just too strange. Then we have the eccentric retired policeman, who is keeping his eye on the countess because he knows she's caused trouble in the past, and knows she isn't really one of the living. She eventually offs him, too. Nicely filmed, and just strange enough to keep you interested, but not too strange to be boring or frustrating. A couple of shock scenes also keep you on your toes.