Friday, February 24, 2012

Farewell Lina Romay (1954-2011)

Just taking this opportunity to send a little love out to Lina Romay, who passed away on the 15th of this month from cancer. She was just 57 years old. Born June 25th, 1954 in Barcelona, Spain as Rosa María Almirall Martínez, she'd take her stage name from a 40s-era actress and jazz singer and became a cult legend thanks to her forty-year collaboration with extremely prolific Spanish director Jesus Franco, whom she was involved with off-screen as well. Romay would become Franco's muse soon after the tragic death of Soledad Miranda in a car accident in 1970 and went on to appear in the majority of Franco's films from 1972 onward. Some say the two worked on over 200 film projects together, though many of these were either never finished or never released. Showing versatility in a wide variety of roles in a wide variety of different genres, the lovely Romay also accumulated numerous production credits along the way.

Lina began her acting career for Franco playing a gypsy in the THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972) and from there on out the two were an inseparable pair. In 1973 alone she appeared in more than half a dozen exploitation features, including THE GOBBLERS, THE LUSTFUL AMAZONS, the unreleased MYSTERY OF THE RED CASTLE and (in a small part) THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF. She'd also play perhaps her best-known role; mute, caped, often-nude vampiress Irina Karlstein, in FEMALE VAMPIRE (or one of at least fifteen [!] other titles it was known by). In THE PERVERSE COUNTESS (1973 also), Romay played a woman hunted down by a cannibal couple (Alice Arno and Howard Vernon) in this erotic spin on The Most Dangerous Game. In the gruesome WIP feature BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975), Romay played a vicious murderess who killed her philandering lover and ends up getting an electro-shock to her most private of areas. In ILSA, THE WICKED WARDEN (1976), she was a nasty female prisoner who had pins driven into her breasts by the iconic Dyanne Thorne, in JACK THE RIPPER (1976) she played a cabaret singer who has the misfortune of crossing paths with a serial killer played by Klaus Kinski ("A gentleman," recalled Lina) and in WOMEN WITHOUT INNOCENCE (1977) she's one of many mentally disturbed women locked away in a asylum who may be killing off the others. The sexually-explicit DORIANA GRAY (1976) found her playing twin sisters; one moody, depressed and sullen because she can't achieve orgasm and the other a nymphomaniac driven mad with desire. The above titles are just the tip of the iceberg in her extensive 70s filmography.

The 80s saw lots of erotica, zombie and cannibal flicks, de Sade and Poe adaptations, action movies and much more. She assisted Franco on the popular slasher BLOODY MOON (1981) and starred, served as assistant director on and helped to edit MACUMBA SEXUAL (1983). During the late 90s, Franco began working with the company One Shot Productions and Romay got to co-star with several notable U.S. Scream Queens. She especially enjoyed working with LUST FOR FRANKENSTEIN co-star Michelle Bauer, whom she referred to as "The closest thing to John Wayne, skirt or not, I've ever seen." William Berger, Howard Vernon and Antonio Mayans were amongst Romay's other favorite actors to work with.

The dynamic between Franco and Romay was the dynamic between voyeur and exhibitionist, as the completely uninhibited Romay would often appear in hardcore films for her husband, well into the 2000s. When asked about her participation in these films, Romay simply stated "I do not regret anything," adding "When you do what you like, it's ALWAYS worth it." Romay even got to direct at least a dozen hardcore films herself, usually under the names Candy Coster or Lulu Laverne, and penned the screenplays for KILLER BARBYS VS. DRACULA (2002), SNAKEWOMAN (2005) and others.

Romay was a fan of the films of John Ford, Robert Altman and Luis Buñuel and listed Dreyer's VAMPYR and Murnau's NOSFERATU on a list of her favorite movies. Of her own film work, she was especially fond of her roles in THE PERVERSE COUNTESS (1973) and LORNA THE EXORCIST (1974).

Lina - like her Jess - absolutely lived for the cinema, so I find it only fitting to conclude with a few photo memories.

Doriana Grey (1976)

Night of the Skulls (aka Night of the Assassin) (1976)

Ilsa, the Wicked Warden (aka Wanda the Wicked Warden) (1977)

Cannibals (aka White Cannibal Queen) (1980)

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