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R.I.P. Lina Romay (1954-2012)

The scintillating star of over 100 Jess Franco films passes away at the age of 57.

One of the most beloved and enduring stars of cult, horror, and erotic cinema, Spanish actress Lina Romay has tragically succumbed to cancer at the age of 57. Her death on February 15, 2012 was formally announced yesterday in Spain.

BornRosa María Almirall Martínez in June 1954, Romay was the wife and long-term creative partner of beloved, controversial, and notoriously prolific Eurosex filmmaker Jesus Franco. Romay began collaborated with Franco in 1972 at the age of 18, when she appeared briefly in his Erotic Rites of Frankenstein. She would go on to star in his Bare-Breasted Countess (released in the U.S. in multiple versions, and under several titles, including Female Vampire and Erotikill) the following year. Franco and Romay’s personal and professional relationship would ultimately span nearly 40 years, with Romay appearing in over 100 of Franco’s films, including many of the director’s most controversial experiments with bondage, fetish, and erotic horror (Barbed-Wire Dolls, Macumba Sexual, Wanda the Wicked Warden).

Romay spoke very openly about her career and felt proud, fulfilled, and creatively committed to her work as an erotic performer, which she never failed to approach with creativity, integrity and respect. She appeared in both hardcore and softcore movies, was an avowed and enthusiastic exhibitionist, and shared her husband’s vision of sexuality as a gateway to exploring the darker nuances of the human psyche.

Lina is survived by her husband, friend, and creative accomplice Jesus Franco. The compelling and strange body of work they produced together, and the intensity of their love and devotion, have inspired countless fans and influenced the world of erotic and Psychotronic cinema profoundly. Lina’s unique screen presence, her intense and unconventional beauty, and the joy and passion she brought to her work have made her an enduring icon of European cult film. Go here to read Tim Lucas of Video WatchBlog’s heartfelt tribute to her.

Lina Romay was an incredible inspiration to me growing up, and the news of her death saddens me greatly. If you’ve never heard of her, do yourself a favor this weekend and Netflix a copy of Female Vampire – I promise you won’t be disappointed. If you’re feeling more edgy and ambitious, track down a copy of Ilsa: The Wicked Warden too (originally Wanda the Wicked Warden, but the title was bowdlerized for the reissue, since it co-stars Dyanne Thorne, headliner of the popular and similarly-themed Ilsa series). Wicked Warden is a darker and more confrontational movie, and like most of Franco’s work it can appear campy at times, but the psychosexual intensity of Romay’s performance as a manipulative and willful sexual masochist is stunning.