RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE
Rollin's debut feature is a strange, often confused affair that
will probably leave most viewers baffled. It does, however, offer
hints of where his remarkable career would go, and has much to
fascinate within its confused whole.
Originating as a short film designed to play support to another
feature, the film was eventually expanded to feature length, taking
the form of a two part story – though part 2 is a more or
less direct continuation of part 1. It's loosely plotted, but
initially tells the story of a psychoanalyst who visits a chateau
where for women live, believing themselves to be vampires. They've
been convinced of this by superstitious villagers, who then descend
on the chateau to stop the 'vampires' escaping.
As the film progresses, it gets stranger and stranger, what little
coherent story there was falling away to a series of dream-like
moments involving real vampires. Characters disappear
and then reappear later with no real explanation, everyone seems
to be in a trance-like state and the film's tenuous grasp on reality
rapidly falls away.
It sounds a mess, and in many ways it is. But if you can adjust
your mind to accept Rollin's free-form narrative and not worry
about anything making sense, then there is much to enjoy here.
While the film betrays the technical inexperience of all involved
– the focus is often off, for one thing – it offers
up a series of startlingly striking images, some haunting moments
and an atmosphere of such complete weirdness that it becomes oddly
compulsive. The film is closer to a series of artistic vignettes
than a regular narrative story, and is as close to the scattershot
unpredictability of a dream as any film you'll see.
the crude English title, The Rape of the Vampire
(Le Viol du Vampire sounds so much more elegant!)
is not remotely exploitative – the nudity, while frequent,
is restricted to boobs 'n' bums, and is entirely non-sexual, while
the action scenes are a knowing pastiche of B-movies, serials
and horror clichés, twisted and deconstructed to the point
where they seem almost deliberately undramatic.
This is hardly the Rollin film to use to introduce new admirers,
but for those already attuned to his unique style, it will be
a fascinating, trippy experience, and one that shows his remarkable
visuals could work just as well in black and white as in lurid
Redemption's Blu-ray has the usual impressive extras – a
fascinating documentary about the film, video interviews with
Rollin and star Jean-Loup Philippe and – best of all –
two early short films by the director. Les Amours Jaunes
(1958) is a decent if ordinary student piece, set in Rollin's
usual coastal location, but Les Pays Loin from
1965 is remarkable – two people find themselves somehow
lost in a strange city where no-one speaks their language, and
the 16 minute film follows their adventure. It mixes crime movie
pastiche with a very Rollinesque sense of alienation and detachment,
and makes you wonder what he might have made if not confined to
the softcore horror world. Worthy of the price by itself, the
film is a very welcome addition to this impressive package.
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