Thursday, 19 December 2013

Bathory: Countess of Blood (2008)

In the 'misleading impressions' stakes, the gold winning film has to be Bridge to Terabithia. The cinema trailers portrayed a Harry Potter-esque adventure story, which the film is really, really, really not. There were probably some traumatised kids out of that little bait and switch. It was also a shame since the film - actually a faithful adaptation of the book - was very good.

This film is a solid contender for the silver medal, however. First, there's that title. Then there's the slogan across the top of the DVD box: "Warrior. Tyrant. Lover. Vampire." These pretty much combine to promise a sleazy, exploitative gore and nudity fest, probably involving a dominatrix-like, bisexual vampire queen.

Oh, if only that was the movie this actually was.

It's not that the basic concept of the film - challenging the traditionally accepted account of Bathory as a bloodthirsty murderer - does not have merit. The fact of the matter is that she was a wealthy protestant in a largely catholic country and there were some very powerful men who stood to gain immensely if she was found guilty of such terrible crimes. Alas, the film goes too far the other way. It portrays Bathory as a medical pioneer, a swordswoman capable of besting her chief accuser in combat, and a possible lover of Caravaggio. Quite the woman! It also plays very loosely with history, including the manner of Bathory's actual death. When you're challenging the accuracy of the commonly held version of events, you should perhaps not include elements that are readily determined to be false.

Worse than this, however, it is that it is much too long. It clocks in at a full 140 minutes, and would be much better served if it were around 2/3 of that. There's a lot of tedious bloat here, as well as some elements that feel like they belong in a different movie. It's like you're watching A Man For All Seasons and suddenly bits of Hudson Hawk show up. Both of which are films with merit, but they do not make a good combination.

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