APRIL 10, 2012
It’s a shame that after five years of daily horror intake that Rape Of The Vampire (French: Le Viol Du Vampire) is my first Jean Rollin movie, given his stature in the genre and the fact that I like most French horror I see. Somehow I’ve managed to see like seven Lommel movies and not one Rollin? For shame, BC, for shame. Luckily, Netflix has a pretty decent selection on streaming, including this, a fitting introduction to the man since it was also his first feature film.
Except it’s not really a feature film in the traditional sense. Sure, it runs 90 minutes and there are actors who appear throughout, but it’s actually two films sort of jammed together. Rollin made the first part (which runs a little over a half hour and even has end credits) as a short, and it was then decided to expand it into a feature. So new characters are introduced and mingle with the old ones, making it sort of a sequel or spinoff more than a typical second half of a film. I assume this was an anomaly in his career and that the rest of his films are meant to be full length to begin with, right?
Anyway, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I’d be lying if I said couldn’t wait to write a review after. Sometimes I just want to watch a movie to enjoy it and not have to tell hundreds of people how dumb I am because I didn’t understand what the hell was going on for most of the runtime and had to consult the IMDb synopsis to piece together what my mind could not. Granted, this doesn’t seem to be the most accessible film ever made, but re-reading parts of the synopsis made me wonder why I didn’t “get” that bit from watching it. Then again, the author begins by assigning names to four of the characters (one of which he changes) because Rollin didn’t bother and the film doesn’t have a full credit crawl, so I hope you will let my “ignorance” slide on this one. Also, I don’t know if it’s a problem carried over from the DVD, but the bottom half of the subtitles were cropped below the screen. I could read them, but it made for a very frustrating viewing experience, taking a few extra moments to digest for an already talky movie – I wasn’t looking at the actual image nearly as often as I’d like. If you come across a dubbed copy, I would highly recommend it so you could actually focus on the film instead of the bottom (and lower!) of the screen.
One thing I noticed is that while the movie offered plenty of nudity, it was often just that: naked women. Actual sex was rare, and unless I was just reading the subtitles during it, there wasn’t any lesbian activity, something that’s pretty much synonymous with anything on Rollin I’ve ever heard. Maybe that came later. Anyway, there are more shots of naked flesh than there are of vampires biting people or even baring their teeth, so if you want a full blown horror movie I’d steer clear. This is much more of an art-house/experimental film than traditional genre fare; not that I’m complaining since I’ve certainly seen enough of those, but with such a lurid title it may attract the wrong crowd.
It also has some elements of a spy thriller of sorts, with a car chase, a body being misplaced, a secret formula, and even a damn shootout in the finale. The dudes had that mod look that I associate with Diabolik, and of course every woman in the movie was gorgeous and would have looked right at home in a Bond flick. This movie has it all! Except a streamlined plot.
I would love to see a full length version of the (superior) first half, as it could be a fun mystery as well as the rare vampire film that tackled the “is she crazy or is she telling the truth?” approach of some possession/exorcism films like Emily Rose. In this opening, three folks show up at this isolated castle said to house four vampire sisters. They don’t believe the tales and want to prove to the town that the women are just crazy and that there’s no such thing as vampires, and for the most part it seems they are right (for example, the women hate sunlight but suffer no real effect from being exposed to it). This stuff could be fleshed out into a fun, tense movie where they need to weed out which of them are vamps and which are simply crazy (if any), but since it was intended as a short Rollin doesn’t have time to really play around or develop the characters (again, the four girls don’t even have names).
Anyway, I’m excited to check out more, and I assume at least one of you folks is an expert so I’ll ask: should I keep going in order, or should I jump around in his filmography? If so, which would you recommend I check out next? I’m going to try to get some of the physical discs so I can watch the extras and get a little more context (and possibly an alternative audio option), so keep that in mind as well. With only a year to go I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll never see them all, so I want the crème of the crop here!
What say you?