aka-Vierges et Vampires,Requiem Pour un Vampire
Reviewed By-Sean Patrick Dolan Director: Jean Rollin Cast: Marie-Pierre Castel, Mireille DíArgent, Philippe Gaste, Dominique, Louise Dhour, Paul Bisciglia Source: Encore Filmed Entertainment (2005, PAL Region 0) Extras: 3 Discs, 64 Page Booklet, Interviews, Director Commentary, Le Dernier Livre, French Language or Dubbed English Audio- Optional Subtitles in English, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish Runtime: Approx. 83 minutes (Feature)
This ENCORE FILMED ENTERTAINMENT DVD release is the second volume in a series of collectorís editions of Jean Rollin films. For long-time fans of the great French director these releases have been- and continue to be- a long hoped for yet unexpected miracle. Considering that Rollin has for so long been underexposed, some of his films being almost completely unavailable as recently as five years ago, it is truly amazing that his films are now being given the deluxe treatment in these three-disc special editions. Like the first volume in the series, LES DEMONIAQUES, VIERGES ET VAMPIRES (REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE) comes in a beautiful case, includes a full-color booklet of photographs and comments by Rollin, and features three DVDs packed with extra features.
DISC 1 contains the feature film, which is presented in the anamorphic 16:9 format with a choice of the original French audio track or dubbed English, and optional subtitles in a wide variety of languages. It also includes an introduction by the director, in which Rollin discusses the unique way in which the film was made. Working under a limited time and with budget constraints, Rollin decided to return to the technique he used when shooting his first full-length film, LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE (THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE (1967)); he improvised it. Starting with only a single image in his mind, Rollin wrote three-fourths of the script in one night, only to realize that he had written no dialogue! When it was time to shoot the film, he put all of his attention on the action, the camera work and the images. The result, REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE (1971), is yet another unique Rollin film and one which once again baffled his audience and critics. The director reports, with obvious glee in his voice, that after watching the film, French audiences realized they had seen something bizarre, but did not realize why- until told the first dialogue is not spoken until almost an hour into the film. Rollin also reveals that the unusual construction of the film, like several other films in his body of work (among them LES DEMONIAQUES (1973)), is reminiscent of the old serials and comics of his youth. REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE is a series of one seemingly random image after another that, surprisingly, does progress in a fairly logical manner. The film begins with two teenage girls in clown costumes driving down the road in the midst of a gunfight with their unnamed pursuers. The young man who is driving the car is shot and killed, and the girls flee into the woods before arriving at a cemetery at the other side. They next stumble on an old chateau and witness a bizarre ceremony in its cathedral.
They attract the attention of a female vampire and are pursued by the vampire's human servants as they try to escape back to the cemetery. Once captured, they are dragged into a dungeon filled with half-naked women chained to the walls. They are forced to watch as the male servants ravish the women and the vampires feed on them. Only then do they meet the chateauís master, the "last vampire". He is an ancient creature whose powers are beginning to fade. With his group of followers, he is searching for suitable candidates to serve them in propagating the vampire race. The girls are told that they must lure victims back to the chateau for him and his brood to feed on and that the next night, they will be "initiated". He does not explicitly say what this means, but he does give a hint- "One cannot be both virgin and vampire". The next day, both girls find a suitable victim, but one of them falls in love with hers and allows herself to be "initiated" early. When it is discovered at that night's ceremony, the head female vampire is furious and the girls attempt one last escape. They are nearly captured in a climactic battle with the vampires and their servants in the cemetery, but receive help from a very unlikely ally.
REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE is my favorite early Rollin film, and according to Rollinís introduction on this ENCORE special edition, one of the directorís favorites as well. The beginning is way out there even for Rollin, and the strangeness of the images and events is compounded by the fact that there is almost no dialogue in the first forty minutes of this film. The lack of dialogue, combined with an almost comical soundtrack, give the first half of this film the feel of having been made in that era when sound was just being introduced to the medium. Rollin makes up for the lack of sex and nudity in his previous film (LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES (1970)) with an overabundance here, including several scenes with the stars, Rollin regulars Marie-Pierre Castel (LA VAMPIRE NUE (1969), LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES, BACCHANALES SEXUELLES (1974), LEVRES DE SANG (1975)) and Mireille D'Argent (LA ROSE DE FER (1973), LES DEMONIAQUES, LEVRES DE SANG). These beautiful actresses are of very diminutive size and this, combined with their knee socks and pigtails, lends the film a decidedly darker edge as the two become lost- almost irrevocably so- in a very nasty fairy tale.
Rollin would repeat this casting trick again in later films, such as LES RAISINS DE LA MORT (THE GRAPES OF DEATH (1978)) and LES DEUX ORPHELINES VAMPIRES (TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES (1995)). The visual style of this film, too, is darker than the kaleidoscopic LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES, but it does have its campy moments. The "last vampire" looks like a geriatric Christopher Lee and, in one memorable scene, he opens his cape to allow two vampire bats to fly out and alight on the girls' necks. A sleazier variation on the same scene occurs during the dungeon "orgy", when a vampire bat lands between one of the female captive's thighs and begins to suck blood from a very tender area. Despite its odd beginning, REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE is still the most accessible film from this stage of Rollin's career, with a simple, straightforward plot and loads of sex and sleaze replacing the lengthy dialogue that chafes the sensibilities of many viewers. It is quicker paced and contains less of the surreal imagery typical of Rollin's work, but is still undeniably and instantly recognizable as a "Rollinade".
DISC 2 is full of extras, beginning with interviews with two of the stars of REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE, Louis Dhour and Paul Bisciglia, which run approximately ten minutes and sixteen minutes, respectively. Dhour, a trained pianist and singer, met Rollin at the house of mutual friend Ben Zimet (LE PAYS LOIN (1965), LES DEMONIAQUES). She was given her first film role by Rollin in REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE, went on to play a small yet important role in LES DEMONIAQUES, and worked with Rollin a third time on LES ECHAPPEES (1981). Although she states that a nightclub job kept her from seeing films or plays for a period of twenty years, she is a great fan of the "fantastique" film, the genre in which Rollin specializes. So, too, is the discís other interviewee, Paul Bisciglia, who describes himself as a fan of the "aesthetic" side of cinema. He quotes a friend, Ferriere, who said "Rollin sometimes really turns out bullshit, but he really takes fantastic shots. He always has at least one brilliant shot in each film". Bisciglia, who has worked with other big French names, including Renoir, had faith in Rollinís ability to "make something brilliant, whether in his shots, his dialogues, or his guidelines for the actors". He goes on to state, "I said to myself: ĎSomeday I will also have a brilliant shot in a movie with Jean Rolliní". He then discusses such a scene that occurred in LES DEMONIAQUES. Like Willy Braque (interviewed on the ENCORE collectorís edition of LES DEMONIAQUES), both Dhour and Bisciglia have nothing but fond memories of working with Rollin. Bisciglia echoes Braqueís statement that Rollin always gives his actors great freedom and honestly considers their suggestions.
He offers his opinion on the merits of this approach versus directors with a more heavy-handed style: "I hate those director/dictator types. They are worth shit and that is exactly what they produce". Perhaps the most exciting extra on this disc is "Le Dernier Livre", which is a very rare opportunity to hear Rollin read one of his own short stories. This feature also includes a brief interview about RollinĎs writing career. The director started writing while suffering from kidney disease. He has published twenty of his own books to date- only slightly less than the twenty-two full-length films he has directed under his own name. Rollinís books are also in the fantastic genre, but more "intellectual" than his films. Referring to budget constraints, he states, "If I were to show in my movies what I really would like to show, I would have to be like a present-day Cecil B. de Mille. So I put in my books what I canít put in my films." Rounding out the second disc are the French and English trailers of the film, which are notable for- and highly amusing in- the way they completely mislead the viewer as to what to expect in REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE, leaving the viewer completely unprepared for a Jean Rollin film, expecting instead some sort of Hammer vampire flick. "Two Young Virgins in the Clutches of Monsters! The Virgin Vampire in the Castle of Orgies! The Feast of the Last Vampire in the Crypt of the Damned!"
The extras keep on coming with DISC 3, starting with a twenty-five minute long audio commentary with Rollin hitting all the high points of the film, explaining details of the production, discussing his motivations in making the film and, of course, his touches of artistic flair. According to the director, REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE is not his best film, but the one he "prefers". He likens it to the beloved serials and comics of his youth- we donít know why the girls are running away, why they are dressed as clowns, or who is the person driving the car. Only after forty minutes have passed and the first real dialogue occurs is the beginning of the film finally explained- after this, the film follows a fairly logical narrative structure. Rollin says he took this approach simply because he found it amusing! He hoped that his audience would be interested in the film without these standard plot elements.
Rollin talks about the improvised nature of the film, from its writing to its shooting. Before he had written one word, or even had a general idea for the script, Rollin had in his mind the image of Louise Dhour playing the grand piano in the middle of the night in a cemetery. He had waited for his next opportunity to make a movie to include this image- which turned out to be the most expensive scene in the film, mainly due to the cost of moving the piano. In addition, more attention was paid to lighting, sound, and costume in this scene than any other. Rollin used this approach of building a film around an image in his head many more times in his career. However, while most of this film was improvised, some elements were very deliberate. Rollin purposely contrasted "the bright costumes of the clowns against the sadness of the place (the chateau)". He also wanted to put something melancholy and sad in the film, thus the sympathetic character of the last vampire and the ending he chose.
The third disc also contains several alternative scenes whose existence are explained as follows: "To avoid possible censorship problems in France, the producers decided to shoot several Ďself-censoredí scenes with the girls wearing clothes." This is ironic, considering that many of the erotic scenes were included at the request of the producer, Sam Selsky, to help sell the film. Finally, there is also a slideshow of production stills; ninety-nine images total, with Rollin present in many of them, set to the filmís theme composed by Pierre Raph. As mentioned above, another excellent bonus present in this- and all the other ENCORE special edition releases of Rollinís films- is a sixty-four page booklet filled with full color photographs from the filming of REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE, as well as comments by the director, which are at times more in-depth than the discís commentary feature and which include additional anecdotes, among them several humorous brushes with the law which could only happen to Jean Rollin. The booklet also includes the complete text of "Le Dernier Livre" and a complete list of Rollinís literary works. By this point it should be quite obvious- ENCORE FILMED ENTERTAINMENT has done another truly exceptional job with this volume of the Jean Rollin Collection, which is a dream come true and an answer to the prayers of Rollinís long-time fans.
Story: 4.0 Bitch Slaps Extras: 5.0 Bitch Slaps Picture/Audio: 5.0 Bitch Slaps Overall DVD: 5.0 Bitch Slaps
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