Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Blood Bath-ory

15 – 138mins – 2008
Script by: Juraj Jakubisko
Dialogue by: John Paul Chapple
Directed by: Juraj Jakubisko
Starring: Anna Friel, Karel Roden, Vincent Regan, Hans Matheson, Franco Nero, Antony Byrne, Bolek Polivka


With a budget of £10million, this lavish production charting the truth behind the legend of “vampiric” mass murderess Elizabeth Bathory is the most expensive Slovak/Czech movie ever made. Curiously, it has taken six years from when the cameras started rolling to emerge on region 2 DVD. Completed in 2008 (having replaced departing lead Famke Janssen with Anna Brookside Friel), Bathory’s staggered release schedule has seen it hit different markets at widely different times, but quite why its UK debut has been so delayed – especially given Ms. Friel’s nationality and celebrity – is beyond me.

Slovak auteur Juraj Jakubisko presents his infamous immortal countess in a softer and more sympathetic light than you may expect for a woman listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific serial killer of all time – a record Jakubisko clearly does not accept as true. He also contests that her renowned blood baths (a trait which many believe inspired Bram Stoker with Dracula) were in fact medicinal herbs, and not the blood of her virginal female victims. Furthermore, any accusation of vampirism is limited to one sentence – this is a more grounded depiction.

Well, as grounded as a film about murder, witch doctors and monk-inventors-turned-spies in 16th century Hungary can be… The 138 minute epic is certainly a rich and exotic affair, stirring a plethora of ideas, characters and genres into one sumptuous piece of romanticised art. Tonally, the film feels like a blend of French werewolf thriller Brotherhood of the Wolf and an episode of The Tudors: there’s dark and potentially supernatural hokum, political intrigue, war, bloodshed, royal deceit, rape and romantic whimsy – and the aforementioned Catholic duo even bring an (ill-advised) splash of Van Helsing into the mix with their comedic endeavours!

It’s certainly a grand gothic affair, even if it does take some following as the years speed by and the assorted threads extend ever-further as Bathory loses her grip on reality while her ever-youthful body betrays her cerebral spiral. Friel and Hans Matheson excel as the doomed countess and her fanciful artist, while the European locales provide an opulent visual backdrop. However, the sheer scope of Jakubisko’s ambitious vision is dizzying in its abundance and could have benefited from a little restraint. Less is more, Mr Jakubisko – unless you’re trying to break some kind of world record…?

In a CR@B Shell: A controversially considerate portrayal of a monstrous feminine, Juraj Jakubisko’s vision is a decadent concoction of fact and fiction, horror and drama, hallucinations and whimsy – making Bathory an intriguing potion which is hard to swallow in one mammoth gulp.


  1. It certainly had its moments! Thanks for reading and commenting, Elisabeth, hope you stick around :)