Sie tötete in Ekstase (1971), aka She Killed In Ecstasy, was Jesús Franco’s follow-up feature to Vampyros Lesbos (1971). Sie tötete in Ekstase was the last of three films that were not only aesthetically linked but that starred cult movie icon Soledad Miranda. Eugénie de Sade (made in late 1970 and released in 1973), Vampyros Lesbos, and Sie tötete in Ekstase are all vehicles for Miranda that explore, rather exploitatively, the correlation between sex and death. Franco litters these films with mid-twentieth century modernist architecture and furniture while employing a Wellesian take on psychedelic camera effects like the zoom. These films look like Pop Art and play out like the sleaziest of pulp novels.
Sie tötete in Ekstase follows Mrs. Johnson (Miranda) as she exacts revenge on the medical council for having rejected her husband’s (Fred Williams) experiments on human embryos, driving him too suicide. Mrs. Johnson doesn’t just kill her targets, she seduces them, delivers a mortal blow and then mutilates them by, in all cases but one, cutting off their penises. In these lurid scenes of sexual degradation Mrs. Johnson often wears a wig as a kind of disguise; a reference on Franco’s part to Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958).
While Franco’s evocation of the paperback thriller is effective it’s his choice to cross cut Mrs. Johnson’s attacks with her “memories” of tender (often sexual) moments with her husband that make these grotesque scenes truly compelling. Franco suggests that it isn’t just revenge that motivates Mrs. Johnson, but a need to recreate the intimacy she shared with her late husband. This is further reinforced in a scene where Mrs. Johnson actually has intercourse with her husband’s corpse after murdering one of the doctors on the medical council.
Franco takes the paper thin plot of Sie tötete in Ekstase and adds this deeply disconcerting psychological element that recasts the tropes of pulp in some compelling ways. In a scene at a church a bereft Mrs. Johnson encounters Dr. Houston (Paul Müller) and without realizing he is one of her intended victims finds a temporary solace in his compassion towards her. Upon realizing who he is Mrs. Johnson flees in terror. It’s a minor moment in the film but it illustrates the capacity of the grieving mind to compartmentalize.
Yet grief is not the primary focus of Sie tötete in Ekstase. Like Eugénie de Sade and Vampyros Lesbos, Sie tötete in Ekstase is a film about Soledad Miranda. She appears mostly naked for the majority of the film with her body framed in mirrors or photographed through martini glasses. Franco’s camera invites the audience’s gaze to take in all the details of her body in slow panning shots. The fact that Sie tötete in Ekstase features Miranda’s most complex role and her best performance is secondary to her physical beauty.