Blu-ray Review: THE COMING OF SIN

Jose Larraz’s elegant and depraved masterwork comes to Blu-ray as part of Arrow’s Blood Hunger box set

In the annals of exploitation cinema, Spanish filmmaker Jose Larraz had one of the more unique voices; a multi-hyphenate artist who dabbled in many mediums, including comic books, and whose filmed fixations on beautiful women and hot sex were matched for his interests in darker, more psychological explorations. And while his resume certainly boasts a more than a few middling efforts, Arrow Video has collected a trio of his undisputed masterworks in their new “Blood Hunger” Blu-ray box set, where fans and fans-to-be can find gorgeous transfers of essential Larraz pictures like WHIRLPOOL, VAMPYRES and THE COMING OF SIN. It’s that last-listed title that brings us here. Because I’d never seen THE COMING OF SIN until now. And it’s just as astonishing a work of erotic horror as I’d heard it was, the depraved equal to WHIRLPOOL and sensual kin to VAMPYRES, a balletic three-hander that forsakes plot in favor of fevered couplings and ratcheting tension.

The film (released in many markets under the riotous and misleading title THE VIOLATION OF THE BITCH) stars Lidia Stern as Triana, a beautiful but simple Gypsy servant girl whose masters “loan” her out to an older, sexually voracious artist named Lorna (Patrice Grant) at her beautiful country estate. Before you can say “The Rain in Spain”, Lorna is smugly boasting that she will refine Triana’s palette, teaching her how to read, to speak, to socialize. And to fuck. Because it’s clear from the moment the two women meet that there is a strong sexual connection and Larraz revels in sustaining that tension, creating a dripping erotic aura that only relaxes once his film veers into full blown mania.

Triana’s endless nightmares of a man on horseback pursuing and raping her threaten to become reality when she sees the buff young Chico (Ralph Margulis) prancing around on his steed in the nearby wood. And wood he doth have. In one deliciously perverted dream sequence – the likes of which was and still is used to market the picture – Triana imagines she is naked inside the body of a Trojan horse, Chico’s horny equine circling her with intent to mount. It’s a hot, revolting and hilarious scene that perhaps only someone with Larraz’s sense of sick humor could pull off and render so poetic. Later, after indeed sexually assaulting Triana, he is slowly, surely ingrained into the women’s lives in and out of their bed, though all the while the brutalized Gypsy woman is having fevered visions of death. Soon an intense menage a trois is in full bloom…and none of it ends well.

Like VAMPYRES (which is brilliant but a much more accessible effort), THE COMING OF SIN uses a boiling love triangle to propel its running time, making the audience focus on character and dialogue and the lush surroundings as opposed to some sort of cliche-driven three-act narrative nonsense. And as far as the performers themselves are concerned, they are mesmerizing, despite the fact that Larraz used non-actors as his leads. In the case of international films like this, most of the time the films were not shot with sound at all, meaning every actor was dubbed in every market and that’s true here; we never actually hear the actors’ real voices in any print. But who cares when the cast is so fascinating to watch, gracefully moving across the frame, gazing longingly and scornfully at each other and lyrically rolling over each other’s sweaty bodies. In fact, it’s a boon to the film that we don’t recognize these performers at all, an immersive hook that gives the picture an earthy sense of reality (though beware the hilariously terrible British actor who dubs Chico in the English language track).

Arrow selects a few choice extras to pad out the back end of their beautiful release, most amusingly, a lengthy interview with occasional filmmaker, renowned inventor and close friend of Larraz, Simon Birrell, who dryly (albeit amusingly) regales anecdotes of his decade long association with Larraz, his adventures in Spanish adult movie theaters and his insight into what made the gifted, visionary filmmaker tick. There’s also a typically information-packed commentary by Arrow’s Eurotrash go-to-gal, Diabolique editor and writer Kat Ellinger who per usual approaches her subject seriously, offering sharp observations about THE COMING OF SIN and the man who made it. She’s joined by her podcast partner and frequent collaborator Sam Deighan and though the pair obviously recorded their chat remote, in different countries (presumably via Skype), their comfortable intellectual chemistry shines through.

The beauty of the “Blood Hunger” box set is that outside of the widely released VAMPYRES, casual horror fans aren’t that familiar with Larraz. They’re in for a treat with THE COMING OF SIN, a film dripping with portent and atmosphere, and Arrow is to be commended for making this release and the set such an vital, entertaining and educational experience.