COUNTESS DRACULA [The Bloody Countess]
First English-language paperback edition of LA COMTESSE SANGLANTE, re-titled to coincide with the release of the Hammer horror film based on Penrose's singular gothic historical fantasia.
COUNTESS DRACULA [The Bloody Countess]
"I am in peril, O cloud! Send me ninety cats, for thou art the supreme Lord of cats. Give them they orders and tell them, wherever they may be, to assemble together, to come from the mountains, from the waters, from the rivers, from the rainwater on the roofs, and from the oceans. Tell them to come to me."
The great surrealist poet and collage artist's bizarre and brilliant semi-biography of Erszébet Báthory, in the florid and more or less faithful English rendering of Alexander Trocchi, who perfected his French translation skills along with his heroin habit during a youthful sojourn in Paris. Penrose, one of a notable number of great Surrealist women artists who produced rich and strange narrative work on Gothic themes, pours out a litany of detail whose historical accuracy is not always in doubt but is certainly beside the point. The Blood Countess, the Hungarian Dracula, the Beast of Csejthe, the female Gilles de Rais, a notorious bottle-blonde, that selfsame Liz Bathory who served as borrowed sexy-vampire template for scores of filmmakers and novelists: she is Penrose's subject; but THE BLOODY COUNTESS has within it as much philosophy as history, and still more poetry: "To tell the truth, Erszébet Báthory, when she came into the world, was far from being a complete human being. She was still akin to the treetrunk, the stone, and the wolf."
Penrose's book was adapted by screenwriter Jeremy Paul, with enormous liberality, into the 1971 Hammer Horror film COUNTESS DRACULA, under which title a new novelization by Michael Parry was issued (based purely on that screenplay, without apparent reference or credit to Penrose.) This edition's cover does what it can to confuse matters, advertising "THE BLOODY COUNTESS now filmed as COUNTESS DRACULA"; it is, however, the source material and not the derivative work which shares its name. The text may come as some surprise to those who know the film, which may fairly be described as underrated but which shows a marked preference for magnificent overacting and rivers of blood over the subtle or the uncanny. Penrose's own style is mysteriously compelling while mostly devoid of suspense; a continuous stream of erudite mysticism, by turns gruesome and whimsical, full of "the terrible eroticism of stone, of snow, and of walls." There is nothing like it.
First edition. London: Calder & Boyars, (1970). 7.5'' x 5''. Calderbook CB231. English translation by Alexander Trocchi. Original printed red and white wrappers. 192 pages. Ink gift inscription to first leaf. Small old price sticker to rear wrapper, hint of sunning to spine. Quite clean and crisp.
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