Blood Hunger: The Films of Jose Larraz – Boxset Review
Director: José Ramón Larraz
Cast: Karl Lancbury, Vivian Neves, Marianne Morris
by Sarah Morgan
Fifteen years ago, boxsets featuring the work of British low-budget directors Norman J Warren and Pete Walker were released to the delight of fans. It’s odd that it’s taken so long for Jose Larraz to receive the same treatment. The Spanish-born film-maker started out as a comic book illustrator in his native country before fleeing Franco’s regime. After ending up in the UK he began to churn out movies that are an often bewildering mix of Continental and British-style exploitation productions.
Arguably his best work, Symptoms, which stars Angela Pleasence and Peter Vaughan, has already been graced with a blu-ray release by the BFI, so that’s missing from the boxset. Instead, Larraz’s first film, Whirlpool, is included alongside The Coming of Sin and Vampyres (pictured above).
The latter has a strong reputation among horror fans. It has a high gore content and was partly filmed at Oakley Court, a huge Gothic pile on the banks of the Thames near Windsor. It made appearances in several Hammer films (it was located very close to the company’s Bray studios) and, perhaps most famously, provided the exterior for the mansion in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The plot focuses on two female blood-suckers who lure unsuspecting male victims to their home before draining them of their vital fluids.
The other two films are probably best described as psychological thrillers. The Coming of Sin was actually made abroad and tells of a bizarre menage-a-trois involving a gypsy, a guy who enjoys naked horseback riding (I’m not sure we ever find out why) and an older woman.
Whirlpool, meanwhile, seems to owe quite a bit to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. It charts a tragic weekend spent by a young model at the country pile shared by an ageing beauty and her adopted photographer nephew, who is only turned on by voyeurism.
The three films have much in common, mostly lesbianism, a heavy quota of sex scenes (they were sometimes paired with sleazy movies in Soho’s cinemas) and the relationships between three people in isolated settings.
Vampyres is the strongest of the three, and The Coming of Sin the weakest. All three are somewhat otherworldly, perhaps because their sound was added later, often by actors other than those we seen on screen.
The storylines, however, would never be made today in light of the MeToo movement – they contain far too many degrading moments involving women for that.
There are a plethora of special features on each disc, some of which address that issue; several of them are actually more interesting than the films themselves.
‘Blood Hunger: The Films of José Larraz’ Boxset is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £69.99