WhirlpoolAnother “lost” film unearthed, a Danish-made grindhouse classic from the famed Spanish sleazemeister Jose Larraz.  No, WHIRLPOOL does not live up to the mystique it’s attained due to being out of circulation for over 35 years, but exploitation movie aficionados will be satisfied.

WHIRLPOOL, made in 1969, was the Spanish born, England based Jose Ramon Larraz’s first feature, made for peanuts in Denmark.  It was of course dubbed into English and released onto the US grindhouse circuit (under the title SHE DIED WITH HER BOOTS ON and proudly bearing an X rating), where it fit in nicely with similarly themed flicks like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THE CANDY SNATCHERS, and further benefited commercially from the presence of model Vivian Neves, at the time something of a household name.

The film would set the tone for most of the director’s next 25 features—which would come to include the popular VAMPYRES (1974) as well as SCREAM AND DIE (1973), SYMPTOMS (1974) and the evocatively titled VIOLATION OF THE BITCH (a.k.a. THE COMING OF SIN; 1978)–with its compact and claustrophobic account of amorous doings in the midst of a vast forest, not to mention the premiere use of Larraz’s Americanized pseudonym J.R. Larrath, which was utilized on quite a few of his subsequent films.  For a time WHIRLPOOL seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth, at least until a poor quality timecoded copy was finally dug up in early 2005.  Let’s hope a better print is on the horizon!

Theo is a strange young man living with his “aunt”—actually a middle-aged woman who years earlier took him in off the streets—in a secluded house in the midst of a forest.  He’s a compulsive photographer, and this inspires Julia, an ambitious young model, to stay at their place.  But Theo has quite a few ugly habits Julia doesn’t know about, which become painfully evident over the next few days…her last, as it turns out.

Theo initiates a relationship with Julia, and even gets her to have sex with his aunt so he can photograph them in the act.  Problems intrude, however, when Theo takes a shady “friend” into the forest with Julia in tow…and then snaps a bunch of pictures as the guy brutally rapes her.  Equally problematical is the intrusion of a nosy police inspector trying to discern the whereabouts of a missing young woman who stayed with Theo previous to Julia; Theo handily kills the cop and then disposes of the body in a nearby lake.  Around this time Julia discovers a cache of disturbing photos that alert her to Theo’s true motives and attempts an escape.  Theo, however, gives chase…and, to make a long story short, the lovely Julia takes her place at the bottom of the lake.

Although his films tend to be trashy, Jose Larraz was/is a talented filmmaker, which is fully evident here in his directorial debut.  WHIRLPOOL suffers from overly measured pacing and much noticeable padding (Larraz lavishes a LOT of attention on the sight of Vivian Neves getting dressed), not to mention an extremely thin, predictable narrative.  It is, however, a nicely photographed film (or so it appeared in the poor-quality dub I viewed) and has a powerfully wrought atmosphere of mounting apprehension that climaxes in a grisly finale showcasing Larraz’s penchant for disturbing graphic violence.  Needless to add, this film is NOT for the squeamish!

Vital Statistics

Athena Film

Director: “J.R. Larrath” (Jose Larraz)
Producer: Sam Lomberg
Screenplay: “J.R. Larrath” (Jose Larraz)
Cinematography: C.H. Childs
Cast: Karl Lanchbury, Vivian Neves, Pia Anderson, Andren Grant