DVD Review: Bathory: Countess of Blood

STUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Juraj Jakubisko | CAST: Anna Friel, Vincent Regan, Hans Matheson, Deana Jakubiskova, Karel Roden, Franco Nero
DVD RELEASE DATE: 7/24/20112| PRICE: DVD $24.98
BONUSES: none
SPECS: R | 141 min. | Historical epic drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

 

Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific murderess in history, the Hungarian Countess Elisabeth Bathory de Ecsed, often referred to as “the female Dracula,” gets an historical record-straightening in the lavishly produced, meticulously detailed 2008 historical epic film drama Bathory: Countess of Blood.

In the late 16th Century, the Hapsburgs and the Romanovs were getting ready to seize control of Eastern Europe. While the Turks were still trying to make Western inroads, Elizabeth Bathory (Anna Friel, Limitless) and her vast Hungarian land holding were a much sought-after prize caught in the middle. Political intrigues and personal jealousies led to the Countess being vilified as a vampire and a witch. Her Protestant faith also brought the enmity of the Catholic Church.

Bathory: Countess of Blood movie scene

Anna Friel goes gothic in Bathory: Countess of Blood.

To add to that, Elizabeth was an educated, cultivated woman capable of fending for herself when her husband was away. Cast in point: To help her female servants defend themselves against rape, Bathory gives them a two-pronged switchblade; the result: vampire-like wounds.

And she was definitely a free spirit, attracting to her court artists and musicians like the painter Caravaggio (Hans Matheson, Sherlock Holmes), who sought to preserve her beauty on canvas. He also enjoyed a (for him) rare heterosexual fling with the Countess, who leaves him naked on the side of the road. Not to worry: They later have a reunion quickie in a Viennese confessional.

Directed by veteran Czech filmmaker Juraj Jakubisko (it’s his first English-language film) and spectacularly photographed on gorgeous Czech, Hungarian, Slovak and Austrian locations, Bathory is reported to be one of the most expensive motion picture productions in the history of Eastern European cinema. It clocks in at a healthy 141 minutes but, if anything, the film has more momentous events that its lengthy running time can contain.

Anna Friel give a true star turn as Elizabeth and all the myriad characters are beautifully played, especially Karel Roden (The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch) as her nemesis Juraj Turzo; Vincent Regan (Lockout) as her husband Ferenc Nadasdy; and the always-watchable Franco Nero (Letters to Juliet), who brings stature to his cameo as Holy Roman Emperor Mathias II.

Don’t be deterred by the sense of revisionism: There are plenty of bare-breasted torture victims, burnigns-at-the-stake and beheadings. And as for the Countess’ legendary bathing in the blood of virgins to preserve her beauty? We see the bathing in the film and the crimson liquid is depicted (spoiler alert!) as red herbs.

 

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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.