Movies Reviews

The Work of Jean Rollin: Requiem for a Vampire (1971): Jean Rollin’s fourth vampire film leans heavy on the S&M, but fails to fully entertain.

The films leads attempt to escape from a surreal and evil chateau.

I’m starting to feel Rollin fatigue. Jean Rollin’s movies have been occupying my limited free time for the past month, and it is starting to get exhausting. I enjoy looking at a director’s body of work, but I think I may begin reviewing some other stuff in the process that way I don’t get burned out. I think I may begin looking at some Godzilla films and then return to Rollin a bit later. I think I have made it to a good stopping point for the moment because I have just finished his fourth and final vampire film: well at least for his early works anyway.

Requiem for a Vampire is quite similar to the previous three Jean Rollin movies I have looked at: full of sexuality, cemeteries, chateau’s, and vampiric violence. The S&M is amped up in this movie and is one of the few reasons I didn’t enjoy it as much. Being S&M heavy, the violence is often more sadistic and gratuitous. In one extended scene we a woman being tortured that felt unnecessary and was far too long–it honestly knocked a whole star off my rating.

The film stars Marie-Pierre Castel–who featured in The Nude Vampire and The Shiver of the Vampires–and Mireille Dargent as Marie and Michelle, respectively. The film follows them as they get lost in the French countryside and eventually stumble upon a decrypted chateau. The film has a fairy tale atmosphere, and Rollin mixes that with erotic elements to give us something unique to his style. The plot of the movie is non-existent; instead, we are asked to follow these two lost girls as they stumble upon weird vampiric forces deep in the country. The movie features a familiar surrealist tone that is present in the previous films, but I don’t think the quality of the movie is at the same standard as The Nude Vampire or The Shiver of the Vampires which are both quite good at intermingling the surreal, the erotic, and the vampiric.

I wish I had more to say about this film, but it just didn’t leave an impression which I attribute to being burnt out. I enjoyed the fairytale-like atmosphere and it added to the surreal tone well; however, I wish that Rollin would have focused on that more instead of the lingering and gratuitous sexual violence that is present in the film.

Rating 2/5

Movies Reviews

The Work of Jean Rollin: The Shiver of the Vampires (1971)-“This is where the dead make a living preserving their lives.”

The two maids encased in red light discover their vampiric masters.

The Shiver of the Vampires, released in 1971, is another strange vampiric entry in Jean Rollin’s filmography. This was his third feature, and the first one to feature explicit lesbian themes. Lesbian eroticism was more subtextual in previous films, but in this film, it takes the forefront of the movie and the narrative. The story and narrative structure of the film is much less surreal and dreamlike than Rollin’s previous two films, The Rape of the Vampire and The Nude Vampire, but the film is still quite strange and bizarre. I found myself laughing at some of the weirder scenes in the film, but whether that was intentional on Rollin’s part I do not know.

The Shiver of the Vampires follows two newlyweds, Isle and Antoine (played by Sandra Julien and Jean Marie Durand, respectively), as they are visiting Isle’s cousins after their wedding. Isle and Antoine are told by the townsfolk that her cousins have passed, but when they arrive at their castle, the cousins are talked about by their two unnamed servants (played by Marie-Pierre Castle and Kuelan Herce) as if they were still alive. We soon learn that the cousins are newly initiated vampires who eventually want their cousin, Isle, to join them in a weird incestuous plot.

The cousins are not the only vampires who live in the castle; also residing there is a female vampire named Isolde who quickly begins to prey on Isle on arrival. The interactions between Isle and Isolde are where we see Rollin playing with lesbian themes. There is always a subtextual erotic element to vampiric works–the exchange of body fluids being an apt example–and we see that eroticism amplified in The Shiver of the Vampires in ways Rollin hasn’t explored before.

One could look at Rollin’s use of vampirism as a metaphor for non-traditional sexuality. Isle refuses to sleep with her new husband, instead choosing to go off at night with another woman who kisses and bites her. We also see this subversion of norms in the cousin’s religious practices. They have long diatribes on their study of pagan religions in the area and how they are subversive to traditional Christianity. The movie frames the relationships in the film in a strange way too. Isle and Antoine’s relationship does not seem entirely healthy since she refuses to have sex with him, and he sneaks into her room at night to peak and lust at her naked body, all while she is sleeping. This sexual assault puts Antoine in a weird position as the hero of the film. It is hard to root for him after you see him acting the way he does. The only relationship that does not seem entirely toxic is the relationship between the two maids who seem to have a loving relationship with each other–although there is one moment where they tease Antione sexually while he is sleeping, much in the same way he touches his wife while she sleeps.

There are moments in the movie that also borderline on comedy–at least for me. Rollin likes to feature moments where the camera is spinning around, and during one of those moments, I could have sworn that one of the maid’s actresses was about to laugh. I can honestly understand if she was because the movie’s bizarreness and strange nature give it a comedic feel–I’m not sure if it was intentional or not. In one comedic moment, Antoine goes to find the cousin’s in their library and is attacked by books falling off the shelf on top of him, which made me think of a slasher-themed episode of Boy Meets World in which Jennifer Love Hewitt is killed by stacks of books falling on her. There is another moment when Isolde, the vampire lady, descends from chimney like a lesbian vampire Santa Clause.

All in all, The Shiver of the Vampires is a strange, unintentionally funny movie that amps up the eroticism of the previous films while toning down some of the more surreal and dreamlike narrative aspects. While this was a departure in tone, it still featured signature elements we have seen in previous Rollin movies such as castles, eroticism, ending at an oceanside, and surrealism–although it has been toned down. It will be interesting to see what elements he keeps throughout his work and whether the surrealism will be toned down again or amped back up to 11 like previous works.

Rating 3/5

Movies Reviews

The Work of Jean Rollin: The Nude Vampire (1970) Review: Eyes Wide Shut and X-Men meet in a surreal and fantastic film.

The Nude Vampire (La Vampire nue). Released in 1970. Directed by Jean Rollin. Starring Caroline Cartier, Oliver Rollin, and Maurice Lemaitre.

The Nude Vampire, released in 1970, is an immediate improvement following Jean Rollin’s first feature, The Rape of the Vampire. The film features many of the surreal and arthouse qualities but uses them to the film’s advantage, rather than being a detriment to the film’s entertainment. The Nude Vampire tells the story of a young man Pierre, played by Oliver Rollin, as he discovers a secret plot involving his father and a vampire. The audience is thrust into the middle of the plot, and the opening scene of Pierre attempting to save the girl is quite surreal and feels like you have stepped into a dream. In this way, it is quite similar to The Rape of the Vampire, and The Nude Vampire uses many similar elements that we saw in the previous film: long meandering shots, a loose, dreamlike plot, and a focus on eroticism, death, and cults.

The film’s plot reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut, directed by Stanely Kubrick and released in 1999. In both films, there is a cult who wear mask and hoods, and there is a link between the cult and sexuality. The sexual elements of the film aren’t nearly as explicit as Eyes Wide Shut, something I find interesting since Rollin is known for his sexually explicit movies. The sexuality in the movie is seen more in the background and through the character of Georges Radamante, Pierre’s father, who uses the women in his life for his selfish purposes, sexual or otherwise. Something that I found interesting in both of Rollin’s films that I have watched so far was the female presence in his films. The main character of this film is Pierre, but the object of his desire seems more important than his journey. Caroline Cartier plays the Vampire, and I don’t believe she has any lines in the movie at all, but yet her presence and character are much more important than the dialogue she is given and the number of scenes she is in. She is seen by Georges, Pierre’s father, as a monster and a vampire, who he is attempting to exploit for nefarious purposes, but we see that he is the true monster by kidnapping her and forcing her to do things against her will.

The Nude Vampire is a fascinating film, and we can see by his second film the kind of themes and stories that Rollin is interested in, mainly fantastic and erotic stories with gorgeous women. The Rape of the Vampire, while somewhat interesting, made me question my journey through Rollin’s filmography, but The Nude Vampire reassured me that it will probably be a worthwhile and unique experience.

Rating 3.5/5

Movies Reviews

The Work of Jean Rollin: A review of his first film The Rape of the Vampire (1968)

The Rape of the Vampire (Le Viol du Vampire). Released in 1968. Directed by Jean Rollin.

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.

Rating 2/5