Pomona Queen


A lecherous gothic fairy tale with a bona fide cult following, Richard Blackburn’s 1973 Lemora, Lady Dracula is the latest bit of pulp ephemera to fill Pioneer’s bill. Should we be thankful or suspicious? The movie—in which 16-year-old Lila Lee (Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith, a few years shy of her softcore porn career and plainly loaded to the gills) fends off the advances of a Baptist minister (Blackburn), an assortment of Play Doh-pussed mutants, the titular leader of a group of vampires (lantern-jawed Lesley Gilb), and just about everybody else with a speaking part—is early-’70s Southern California cheez-wiz from start to finish; I half expected the Manson family to turn up. Too priggish to earn a place alongside its better-known contemporaries The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left, Lemora is nevertheless surprisingly well made. Blackburn makes inventive use of his Pomona locations, and the story moves along nicely until the final 20 minutes or so, when he runs out of plot before he does film stock.

Rumor has it that Lemora was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency, but you have to wonder why they’d bother in the same year that The Exorcist was released. Maybe they took offense at the film’s tame lesbianism, best exploited in a scene where Lemora bathes Lila and compliments her on her “exciting figure” (the two fail to take up the snails-versus-oysters debate, however). The folks at Pioneer may be too savvy to use the movie’s “banned in Peoria” status as a selling point, but I wonder if they aren’t programming it just to draw the kind of cynical, laugh-at-anything crowds it neither targets nor deserves.