Starting this year, I want to look at directors and their bodies of work. With some directors, I will be looking at their entire filmography, and with others, I will be viewing a select body of work either from a specific period in their career or works that define the director as an artist. I want to start by looking at the oeuvre of Jean Rollin.
Jean Rollin was a French director known for his vampire films, specifically his lesbian vampire films. I wanted to start with him because despite the luridness of the subgenre–that being lesbian vampire films–his work is quite sophisticated and surreal, and that starts in his first feature film, The Rape of the Vampire.
The title The Rape of the Vampire (Le Viol du Vampire in French) catches your attention and detailing the plot of this movie is a struggle because it feels more like a collection of surreal images than a concrete story. That is what sets Rollin apart from more exploitative directors; Rollin calls upon gothic, surreal, erotic, and fantastical to tell his stories. The movies don’t feel pornographic–even though Rollin would eventually go on to do more hardcore films–rather, they feel like erotic and fantastical dreams.
The Rape of the Vampire starts with a psychoanalyst going to a dilapidated gothic manor to try and convince four sisters that they are not vampires. The movie was originally designed to be a short film, but another segment entitled The Queen of the Vampires was added to stretch the film out to feature-length. You can tell by the pacing that the movie was supposed to be a short film. While The Queen of the Vampire features some strange and almost comedic moments, it makes the movie overly long, and at only 95 minutes, it feels more like 3 hrs. I liked the surreal, dreamlike tone that the film has, but it is, unfortunately, amateurish and boring for a lot of the runtime. I have seen some later films from Rollin, such as Fascination, which utilize the surreal tone and the slow pacing well, and if I was not familiar with some of his other work, I probably wouldn’t continue down the road of his filmography so fervently. Having said that, the movie is interesting and offers some strange moments that elevate some of the pacing and boring elements.
The Rape of the Vampire is a weaker and more amateurish work from the French auteur, but that is to be expected with it being his first film. Despite the hammy acting, the boring pace, and the amateurish quality, The Rape of the Vampire offers a surreal and fantastical look at the vampire genre.