She Killed in Ecstasy was filmed very closely to Vampyros Lesbos with many of the same crew members present, and it shows through in most aspects of Jess Franco’s work; with similar musical arrangements by Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab, a cast that included Soledad Miranda in top billing, and Manuel Merino again handling cinematography, the film looks and feels like a direct off-shoot, albeit establishing new exploration of territory for a Franco film. This time, instead of focusing on lesbianism and the supernatural aspect of vampires, Franco turns to grimmer territory with a revenge drama about love across life and death and a woman who plots to murder the scientists who humiliated her husband into suicide.
As a Franco film, She Killed in Ecstasy is much less dreamy and surreal than what he’s generally known for. The film’s opening finds main woman Mrs. Johnson (Soledad Miranda, using pseudonym Susann Korda to appeal to international viewers) plotting her vengeance with a voiceover, then slips back in time to show the rising action that forces her to make this decision. Franco’s script is much more direct than Vampyros Lesbos, using narrative exposition as a means to explain Mrs. Johnson’s motivation. At the same time, Franco doesn’t spend too long with the Mr. and Mrs. before Dr. Johnson (Fred Williams) commits suicide after an embarrassing moment in his life where his scientific work is ridiculed and derided.
But She Killed in Ecstasy is less about Dr. Johnson than it is about giving Mrs. Johnson a reason for her killing in ecstasy. The story requires this directness, a clear explanation of motive and the ability to define the four targets that Mrs. Johnson pursues; Franco does just that, and quickly, giving the audience the reason for Dr. Johnson’s suicide and also effectively highlighting the scientists that indirectly caused it.
From here, Franco is given room to let Miranda do her thing on-screen. Her cinematic allure comes from her dark features, especially in She Killed in Ecstasy: the lighting of her face, the way her dark makeup frames her, givers her eyes a dark depth that shows the rage and vengeance in Mrs. Johnson. Again, she’s featured in various forms of undress mostly because of Franco’s fascination of her body, but in a way it’s a fairly integral aspect of the film. As Mrs. Johnson kills, she finds some excitement in it that’s inevitably linked to sex; her drive to murder, too, is due to her devotion to Dr. Johnson in a way that borders necrophilia (and, at one point, is surmised).
Franco’s pacing is rather swift as well, and She Killed in Ecstasy is directed in such a methodical way that it’s difficult to imagine someone could not be caught up in the murders. There’s an inevitability to the events, structured by the four murders; they continue to become sloppier, with Mrs. Johnson getting closer to being caught. Each of them is different, too, with sex a large part of the process.
But She Killed in Ecstasy‘s rather straightforward approach to the revenge slasher means there’s little to surprise the audience. Miranda does carry the film to its conclusion, but there’s little message within Franco’s story: it is simply a tale about vengeance, and without a moral at the end of the film to tie things together, She Killed in Ecstasy feels somewhat vacuous.
Franco attempts to include an investigator attempting to find Mrs. Johnson before she kills again, but these scenes are spaced much too far apart to be of much substance. For large parts of the film, Franco refrains from including the man at all, leaving a few holes in the plot when he does manage to insert these scenes.
Still, She Killed in Ecstasy is worth a look for Miranda’s acting and the visceral beauty within the killings. Franco’s direct approach to this tale of vengeance leaves little surprise but allows Miranda to flourish on-screen, nude and beautiful and also hauntingly bleak. He even manages to sneak in a lesbian scene with Ewa Stroemberg again. It’s a well-paced thriller from Franco that includes enough blood and beauty to make up for its standard plotting.
She Killed in Ecstasy was released by Severin Films at the same time as Vampyros Lesbos, and there’s significant cross-over. This is another two-disc set with an excellent slipcover/new artwork from Wes Benscoter along with color disc artwork. The film is presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio, and again looks fantastic with great color preservation, excellent German soundtrack, and very minimal damage within the print.
Special features are very similar to the Vampyros Lesbos disc. There’s another 20-minute interview with Jess Franco shot at the same time as the other one; this time he discusses more than just She Killed in Ecstasy, that subject encompassing just a small portion of the interview. Along with it is the same interview with Amy Brown about Soledad Miranda. Another interview with Stephen Thrower, Franco-buff, is included where he covers She Killed in Ecstasy‘s similarities to other Franco output. Finally, there’s an interview with Paul Muller about Jess Franco, who highlights some of the fun of working with the man. Also included is the German trailer.
Finally, and most interesting, is an audio disc titled 3 Films by Jess Franco; this is a CD featuring 24 tracks from Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed in Ecstasy, and The Devil Came from Akasava, presented in excellent audio quality with an insert with track listing. Not only do you get the film, you also get a stand-alone soundtrack record. This makes She Killed in Ecstasy well worth the price, and really you should purchase this along with Vampyros Lesbos so the discs look great on your shelf.