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Thursday, 15 March 2012

Farewell to the Female Vampire ~ RIP Lina Romay 1954-2012

Sad news for cult movie fans everywhere: the death this week, just announced in Spain, of the incomparable Lina Romay, star of many - if not most - Jess Franco directed movies, and the lover and lifelong companion of the man himself.

Lina Romay was a wonderful actress: beautiful; sensual; wicked and pretty; uninhibited and, best of all, the kind of actress who you always sensed was happy and the time of her life (hidden just a little when playing a viscous femme fatale, blonde-wigged assassin or vampire with an unusual - but in retrospect obvious for the genre - method of bite). She was memorable in so many roles but especially Female Vampire (iconic of look and seductive of reputation - the coolest, loveliest vampire ever to be seen and adored in a horror film), Doriana Grey (a horrific, erotic descent into madness to rival Polanski's Repulsion) and Rolls Royce Baby (truly a classic of 70s sinful, decadent but gorgeously hip and happening cinema).

A devoted companion to Jess Franco for life - always by his side and always very much in love with perhaps, for me, one of the few directors who is less a director, than an actual world of film; a one-man film industry of every weird and wonderful genre imaginable, sometimes shot deadly serious with actors as great as Christopher Lee or Klaus Kinski (and Lina was memorable in a brief role as a victim of Kinski's Jack in Franco's 1976 film version of Jack the Ripper) and sometimes so far off the wall as to be nearly dreamlike and impenetrable of vision, if not of the physical act. All Franco's films peeped at, adored, sneered at, and sometimes shot with venom his loyal cast, through the trademark zooming lens, but few were as memorable as Lina Romay, who had to step in to the bright shadow of Franco's previous muse, Soledad Miranda, who died even more tragically young than Lina Romay now has (Miranda died at 27, Romay a still unfair 58).

Romay was a vital part of Franco's world and a reason his films remain and have become increasingly respected despite their often being labelled as nothing more than trash - her hair and physical frame in her youth as iconic to cult movie fans as that of silent movie star Louise Brooks, with whom she shared an uncanny twin-like recognition, and when Franco won his Goya award a few years back - finally, proper recognition for his work in his home country - it was Lina who stood proudly by his side, and the applause was almost as much for Lina's role, as it was for Franco's enigmatic, unforgettable works. Very - truly - sad news. RIP - Lina Romay.

words: mark gordon palmer

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