Vampyros Lesbos

In the DVD interview, an admittedly ancient Jess Franco said he made the film because he thought vampires were classy and lesbians were sexy. Unfortunately there's not much more to this Euro-shlocker classic from 1970, which lacks the mystery and invention of the French sleaze-masters Alain Robbe-GrilletJean Rollin and Walerian Borowczyk. The avant-garde soundtrack enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s, but in the context of the film it's wildly discordant and jarring, although perhaps I'm just not made for this sort of stuff, finding Goblin's celebrated work on Argento's Suspiria equally ridiculous. Franco apparently made over 160 films in the course of a long lifetime, some of which have been lost. On the basis of this supposed highlight, would guess a lot of them were pretty disposable.



This might just be Verhoeven's most straightforward satire, in which the ironic stance isn't compromised by the director's complicity in what he's showing us – something that drags down Basic Instinct and Showgirls and even Starship Troopers. Perhaps it's a product of the slightly scrappier look of the picture. This was Verhoeven's first big budget sci-fi action film, and although the suit cost a fortune, it otherwise doesn't have the sheen of his work in the 90s. Its grit makes it less alluring, but it also makes it a purer work, not as contaminated by Verhoeven's taste for exploitation.

Being a comics kid first, this reminded me a lot of Frank Miller's brilliant 80s books – The Dark Knight Returns, Ronin, Elektra: Assassin –  not only in its cyberpunk aesthetic but its satirical bent, particularly when it comes to including an exaggerated version of American television news and advertising. Frank Miller contrasts the superficiality and decadence of the media with his stoic, hardboiled heroes clinging on to a notion of chivalry that's dying around them. To some extent Verhoeven follows this line – especially in his crass depiction of the criminals driving 'Old Detroit' to ruin. But Murphy is a more interesting hero because he is also a victim – the corporate powers-that-be hijack his body and programme his mind so he cannot compromise the company that owns him. He becomes a symbol of a society in which people have become products, treated as means rather than ends. Nothing in Verhoeven's later science fiction work is as simple and as powerful as that central idea.