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THE RECURRING DREAMS OF JEAN ROLLIN

PART ONE


FUCK YOU! Sorry. I always heard you have to start out with a reeeeal go-getter. Well folks, I’m in love with a man. But Jean Rollin is a man amongst men. He’s a man amongst super-men. Hell, he’s a man amongst fucking aliens. But most of all, he’s a filmmaker whose black masses and white asses work the graveyard shift in castles and crypts of a psychedelic netherworld. Wrongly nailed into the coffin of “horror” despite eschewing many of its cheapest tricks, including gore, Jean Rollin instead allows folks to bump their heads in the darkness along a strange assemblage of poetically charged persons, places, things and ideas. You could say NOUNS, but you’d be a FUCKFACE! Nouns are real. Jean Rollin conjures something up that is not…of…this…woooorld. Check all cold, lab-rat logic at the door. It won’t do you a lick of good. You have to feel your way around in here. And they’re cold dreams. After all that’s the temperature of truth that hides from daylight. You just entered a graveyard at twilight, buddy. And the sinking shadows are already washing the writing from the headstones. Everything is now washed in blackness. Now the King of France will guide your brain fluid through eerie channels of the perverse and the poetic. You may be asking yourself, “so what’s up with this motherfucker Jean Rollin?” and so here is what’s up with this motherfucker Jean Rollin.

France, 1968. A bunch of crazy shit is going on across Western Europe, but I don’t really give a shit. My understanding is that a bunch of Frenchies went to the cinema for a screening of Rape of the Vampire and went fucking apeshit-cuckoo-berserk. Call it too much Descartes…call it a beret one size too tight on the national consciousness, perhaps constricting all blood to the head…call it the French. All I know is they fucking hated Jean Rollin. Maybe if they would quit bringing their fucking political baggage into the MOVIE THEATER then they would sink a little deeper into their chair. Rollin never gave a fuck about these subtexts, though they are clearly available to users and abusers for misinterpretation in The Nude Vampire, Rape of the Vampire, Night of the Hunted, and especially Fascination. This anecdotal stink-bomb pretty much sets the tone for the man’s entire career as an under-valued director, often lacking support at home as well as abroad. Tsk tsk not my dear weeping boob. He always found a way to continue making films. Even through many a hardcore flick under pseudonym Michel Gentil, Rollin used the dough to finance his most personal (and I say successful) works like La Rose De Fer and Lost In New York.

The man has since earned legions of extremely loving loyalists in the fuckface of adversity. Despite scatological distribution deals and his constant uphill battle through the roadblock of blocky expectations from “genre fans”, people too often incapable of matching the shape with the hole, and sadly too lazy to keep pushing it through until the useless bits are shaved off the edges. This is where we stand. With over “a shitload” of movies in his catalog, his work has managed to sync with many a heartbeat out there. Now I’ll do my best to segue the brains of the uninitiated into his dreamworld too.


THE HEADSTONE OF LOGIC…

Rollin is heavily influenced by a wide variety of fantastic and surrealist influence, but the most notable would probably be Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face, and especially Judex), whose work is the missing link between the classic serials of Louis Feuillade (Les Vampires - complete with villainess Irma Vep - anagram for VAMPIRE!!!, Fantomas, and the original Judex serial) and his own work. On this timeline, you could see a liberal glide into amorphous abstraction from Feuillade to Franju to Rollin. These early renderings of eroticism pressed their impression all over Rollin's imagination, producing in him his own dream treatments with an unbridled power of unchained fantasy as a result of working in a post-May of '68 world where any taboo was re-examined openly. What separates Rollin from the pack of exploitation pillagers is the slow-burning, sauntering style of abstracted and spell-like worlds, where happenings have oddity alone equal to or surpassing the most mind-fucked slasher film, and whose fleshy vixens rival the hottest of the plotless porn that was packing theaters of the day. But Rollin's specialty was his unique sense of slow burning wonder. A sensibility rooted in something of an intelligence, albeit one that prods the darkness of the mind. A lot of the same thing can be said of Jess Franco really. When these guys work....they WORK. And when they don't, they allow you in like Duchamp does. You can make it work. I've never had any difficulty making myself love even the "shittiest" Jean Rollin film. Shittiest by whose standard? Fiancee of Dracula is fucking awesome. Two Orphan Vampires? Fucking great. Suck balls you assbags. I liked Killing Car for God's sake. ANYWAY. Rollin comes from a lineage of artistically and intellectually inclined folks (his mother was friends with Jean Cocteau, and father was involved in theater if I remember correctly). A bit of a Sartre meets Genet type...a smart guy...but mostly interested in comics and crime. Drawn to brash things that are really a lot dumber than he is. So he inevitably imparts his brainwaves onto these formats and into these avenues, eventually going the hard route into self-and/or BARELY-financed cinema, by producing a series of shorts. Some of his self-taught work was made in the military (so I guess, make that "taught by a technician", which is pretty fucking ironic for like ten reasons), and eventually lays down uniquely French drapery on the scaffold of gothic tastes set up by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava in Italy before him. The whole "girl in a castle, defenseless against evil" equation turns to "girl in a castle, for unexplained reasons, and with what relationship to evil...and IS it evil?". All by way of automatic imagery and intelligent provocations of the unconscious mind that would make Andre Breton cream his pantaloons. Complete with its discombobulation of erotically charged happenings, you can trust that the two would have had a bottle of wine or two had they been contemporaries. But adding to stock surrealism is a unique sensibility for imparting a heavy-but-human, nostalgic melancholia into his films. The existential-questing vampires of le Frisson Des Vampires, for example, are then dipped in tie-dye in an effort to “modernize” things. While Magritte would pop an apple on some dude’s head, Rollin whips up trippy velour vampires in starry sleeves dishing deep thoughts from a sideways glance past a huge “psychedelic” earring . These philosophical manifestos characterize his early films, ringing throughout the castle walls, bouncing off abstracted set pieces designed to reinforce the message. But let’s pry our fingers from the monkey bars a bit because anything truly notable about Rollin is quite frankly, nearly intangible. His most notable attribute is much more elusive than any descriptions of its candy wrapper.

Waking dreams would be putting it lightly. There is an alchemical lucidity looming throughout the films, ascribing a quality of meaning to them that only imagination both encodes and decodes. A dark, connective cloth holding together the motifs of decay, erotic vampires, beautiful twin girls, explorers of crypts, cemeteries, castle dungeons, and of course that desolate gray beach that begins and ends so many of his films. What truly defines Rollin’s work is his eye for visual poetics. His willingness to let images bring about the transmutation of very commonplace elements in the gothic canon (i.e. vampires) into worlds of strange new meaning. He baptizes them into the church of Rollin, submerged and washed of their former baggage. Free of their trappings and adrift in Rollin’s own unpredictably viscous fluid of dream-like possibility. It wipes your mind of any “normal” conceptions by visually articulating a world of unreal mechanics where these archetypal horror fiends are released. Objects operate under the physics of the subconscious. I THINK I’M BEING REDUNDANT NOW, but here, characters of old can play with topless girls, pirates, clowns, demons, bird-men and TWINS, TWINS, TWINS, TWINS. For every pair of neck-holes you’ll always find a pair of twins. And the man was not above splattering some blood across a tittie.


But for all of his pet motifs, the real core of electricity that turns round Rollin’s gorgeous flip-book of images is the subtle, dark, connective cloth that quietly and completely drapes Rollin’s shadowy body of subconscious-prodding work. These amorphous depths are what influence the colors in your cathode tubes and LCD screens. A marriage of ethereal core and the expected sleaze, nudity, and blood typical of Euro-horror of this time and place on planet fucking Earth.

That’s why I’ll go on record dicking around with accusations of Rollin being the “black poet of erotic horror”. But be clear, that’s my name-calling there…and he was never pretentious enough to assume any role of high priest. In fact, despite Rollin’s inclination toward the mystical…the occult…the intangible…the man was as modest as a midget with acne. As such, the films are stuck in a no-man’s-land…being way too fucking smart to be naive, but with intellectual leanings always checked by a child-like heart. Ultimately titillating something in us, the faithful fucks, a taste for trash and for a remarkably human, poignant heart murmur or two from the depths. He keeps the brain and the dick in high form.

The light of the cemetery, his women typically strut as hyper-sexualized, sauntering manikins of death. Serving some yet-to-be-named purpose, though always eerily exuding potent shimmers of character, or if not, then style at least! As a frame of reference, think Jess Franco’s “arty” films like Succubus or Venus In Furs. But whereas Franco seems to relish opportunities to simply glue a pussy to your captivated forehead, Rollin pulls more of a “Nude Descending the Staircase” on you. A little more grace, a little less abrasion, and a hint of dare I fucking say “class”. Yes, these are “classy” works. The simple, take-away lesson here though is that Jean Rollin’s films are not going to pick up easily on your GPS. Murky, subtle, yet still highly sexualized…equally bloody, psychologically grinding, and ultimately human. I’d stretch this birth canal open wide enough to grant a Gustav Klimt of cinema passage. He was after all, obsessed with mysticism, females, and death, binding his stories with these elements in what has become an immediately recognizable visual glue.

But all these wonderful sounding testaments to the man’s demeanor and art have also earned him his sentence. Life…in no-man’s land. This is the strange purgatory between the purely visceral and the purely intellectual where Rollin’s work is “doomed” to exist as a result of its predominantly unusual, unclassifiable qualities. Sure, the low-hanging fruit is to call it “erotic vampire cinema” or even more broadly, “Euro-horror”, but that would be selling a real dreamer real short. This is why both gore-hounds and art-house cinephiles cannot quite find solid footing on Rollin’s back. And good! Fuck your footing. I hope every last one of you easily-categorized fuckers shake off his fucking raft. Those lazy assholes should learn to swim (see “understand”)! Now for those viewers who revel in the stranger pleasures afforded by all things bizarre, surreal, obscure and certainly highly suggestive, well…enjoy if you haven’t already been!

Now, the recurring dreams of Jean Rollin are getting the dee-luxe treatment thanks to Redemption (UK), who has teamed up with Koch Lorber (acquisition?) to produce sparkling new transfers of all his major output on what I have personally compared/verified to be truly fantastic new Blu-Ray (and DVD) releases. At the time of this writing (1792), at least eight have been released, including many that were not issued under the lovingly assembled “Encore” special editions in the mid-2000’s (which are HIGHLY recommended if you can find them). I will do my best to introduce each one over a series of entries here on Terminal Boredom. Here goes some words...

FASCINATION (1979)

If you’re peering into the woods from the outskirts...to those looking to enter the strange and beautiful woods of Jean Rollin’s imagination, Fascination is the perfect tree to fall asleep under. Its story sits halfway in the daylight, but everything feels equally shaded by Rollin’s brooding sense of impending doom. It bears the fruits of truly chilling imagery as well. By this point, Rollin had easily reached his zenith in terms of exacting his visions. Fascination is an odd fairy tale taking place in the foggy countryside of 19th-century France…in a beautiful chateau somewhere…deep in the forest. Empty. Except for a pair of virginal chamber-maids, including lovely Rollin-regular Brigitte Lahaie, alone playing house while the master is away. Suddenly the vanilla fun is disrupted by a thief who has just double-crossed his partners, and was fortunate enough to stumble across the place while on the run. It’s a dash of fate being hinted at. Suddenly the endless woods open up to a sanctuary within which he can hide.

As the fleeing bandit holes up with his hostages, plotting escape under cover of darkness, the two girls occupy his attention with plenty of sex and vague, tongue-in-cheek allusions to someone or “something” due to return after dark. It’s a perfect set-up. Pressure from the normal folks with guns during daylight hours, and from forces of darkness soon to be imposing themselves on the chateau at night. The waiting game allows plenty of time for the beautifully slow, dialogue rich unraveling of the actual plot. Please, savor the increasingly thick sense of dread that piles up. It’s an excellently brooding, subtle accumulation of atmospheric weight that perfectly culminates until finally the chateau completely transforms from “point of escape” into a nightmarish human mousetrap. The two “innocents” are actually awaiting the return of an esoteric “coven” of bloodthirsty bougeous women back to the chateau that night. And their cravings are satisfied! With a little Satanism peppered in, and even a bit of thematic cannibalism given the vamp-on-vamp action that seals the deal, it delivers. My one complaint would be that the ending doesn’t quite manage to seal off the incredible water-weight of the flowing build-up. But what could?!! If nothing else, this is a superb achievement in terms of conjuring a tone. Savor the tone. Savor the image.

There’s a playful juggling of captor and captive that is totally delicious. Something that would give the Marquis De Sade a boner. Watching the thief in his rose red and black striped coattails as he ignorantly laughs away increasingly obvious warnings, even as the coven has descended on him. Oblivious to the mounting situation. Priceless. The swapping of captor and captive is the main thread of genius tying this film together, and it’s skillfully plucked at during all the right moments like a harp string. By the way, hats off to Brigitte Lahaie. I’d show this performance to anyone doubting her chops as a serious actor. I cannot believe Rollin found her working in porn. She is incredible in this, not to mention the iconic “girl with the sickle”. And Franca Maï…what a fucking role for her. So sweet and virginal, half-sickened, half-curious during her first taste of calves blood…then watch that face contort with sick pleasure by the last drop!

I really love how with Fascination, Rollin manages to strip clean any traditional "vampire" or "witch" baggage that might have otherwise slagged down the fantasy of the unknown. Your mind centers around a vague fear…loosely assembled around a vague conception of Satanism. You never quite know WHAT the fuck is going on, or what is going to come at nightfall, but you feel it lingering within the room like a film of smoke in the air. I like that. By 1979, Rollin was arguably at his zenith in terms of exacting his visions. Here we definitely get some of the most haunting and memorable imagery in his catalog, possibly the most exemplary.

The near still-life of Franca Maï in her proper Victorian attire of white dress and hat, clearly a delicate specimen of Bourgeoisie womanhood, suddenly applying a finger-load of blood gently to her lips…cut straight to an establishing shot of her statuesque figure surrounded by the blood-soaked floors and hanging sides of beef of a particularly gruesome slaughterhouse. Chilling and really unforgettable. Sweet sugar plums for the dark-at-heart. I remain always convinced that if Rollin had simply painted a few frames of his imagination, he’d be hailed as the second coming of Francis Bacon. Philippe D’Aram’s soundtrack is haunting and aides in the totally immersive effect of this film as well.

This is on Netflix now in HD too! So really, you may as well begin your descent into hell now motherfuckaaa!!! I really wish the brief “deluxe box set” reissues that Encore did a few years ago had managed to eke out a version for Fascination, as I’m sure their typical 64-page booklets and multi-paneled digipaks would have been phenomenal for this one.


LA VAMPIRE NUE (The Nude Vampire) (1970)

If you want to dig into a truly wild sci-fi vampire film, you just hit the nail on the brain. This beautifully shot film shows Rollin’s interest in the superman concept. But not like some Nazi douche with any condescending ideals of Ken dolls and plastic He-men soldiers. This goes with the idea of the “different” man…misunderstood…but also just sort of “accidentally superior”. In a non-exterminating way.

One such vampire girl (The Nude Vampire) is held captive in an insane science experiment involving bird-men with guns guarding her life in the strange mansion/laboratory where scientists with dubious motives claim to be helping her by keeping her from the light. Debauched and deranged clinical practices involving hooded men methodically injecting Technicolor liquids into the large-breasted, also hooded, “nude vampire” provide some stunning images. But as bizarre as that sounds, it doesn’t ever quite develop the same grip that Rollin harnesses so tightly over his other, much more oneiric and poetic later films. The story avoids total discombobulation, and certainly a step forward from the piecemeal assembly of Rape of the Vampire, but it makes some very tight turns trying to grip itself. It’s rich with themes but carried in such an odd carnival of bird-men, suicide cults, and vampire feedings, all leaning heavily on the science-fiction rails for its stylistic glue. It doesn’t necessarily beg to be “figured out” as much as it begs to “be really strange”. Still, it’s a great film, and packs some really potent scenes. Just not nearly as elusive or brooding as other works.

Despite Rollin denying any direct politics pretty much flatly, it's also a bit hard to completely ignore the group of "harmless vampires oppressed by the others" standing up for their rights. The scientists are presented as the masters of the physical world, and analyze their captive vampire from that viewpoint. Conversely, the “vampires” belong to a metaphysical world, one that cannot be totally understood by the lens of science. In a Hammer-esque finale, the rising vampires march the castle, torches in hand, playing the role of the villagers ousting the scientist monsters! Fucking brilliant! After a brief chase, science is rendered impotent, as the peaceful and misunderstood vampire race march forward into an onslaught of physical bullets totally unharmed. They simply reclaim their specimen and leave. Another holy fucking fuck. Chasing what they do not understand, but have witnessed, the block-headed scientists chase the vampires to a country theater, set, as Rollin would, in the middle of nowhere. The amazing ending uses this abandoned theater as the symbolic portal to the next dimension. An eternally old couple sit, waiting to check against a list at the welcome table. Lusting for unobtainable knowledge, the scientists, not on the guest list, of course push their way through the curtains anyway. WRONG MOVE NERDS.

Overall this film is equal parts wild beauty and overly-ambitious conceptual tourrets syndrome, but with a staggering core concept. The connective tissue is less subtle than in other films, and it tries a little too hard to cram a little noir, a little surrealism, a little gothic and a little art in there BUT, it’s still overall THE SHIT. For me, this one just tries to get a little too far into "the world of regular science" for my taste. Especially for Rollin, who does his best the farther away from reality he gets. This may be why some of the visuals are totally stunning, for example, Pony Castel and sis are found donning some of the wildest costumes I’ve ever seen (glass shards on suspended shower curtains = bra). Oh, and speaking of them, Pony and sis fall down the stairs REALLY SLOW in this, which is truly hilarious.


LES DEMONIAQUES (The Demoniacs) (1974)

A revenge charmer full of seaside sadism and Nordic shipwreckers that lure unsuspecting boats to their doom in the rocky bay. Among these pirates are the fantastic John Rico and the unstable, striped-shirted, beret-wearing Willy Braque, whose angry Tourette's syndrome cannot be contained even by that moustache. While raking the waters for washed-up booty one fine-wrecking-night, two surviving girls float ashore assuming they’ll be saved. The sea-dogs promptly rape the shit out of them and crush their poor, pretty little heads in with nearby boulders while the dangerous curves of naked villainess Tina (Joëlle Coeur) slam down on the wrecker- captain’s ding-dong from the rocks above, cackling mockingly down over the spectacle of cruelty below. Tina’s sadistic ass-flashing is a recurring high point in moral low-ness throughout, featuring a similarly provocative melt-down on a bed and along the hull of a burnt ship. Always flashing tits and demanding blood. She’s a euro-babe alright. Anyway, the looters flee, leaving the girls for dead. But that’s when the revenge story begins to cook over a post-rape/murder drink. No sooner do the pirates enter the local watering hole than their sanity begins to wilt under the watchful eye of its psychic matron, who has seen it all from her piano. Her visions of the girls’ presence nearing the cursed island ruins, stir panic in the captain, who fears not only jail time, but the entombed demon of the ruins. This spectacular "bar" set is straight out of a Kienholz installation with a sense of impending decay emanating from cheap, muted, flaking walls crawling with occult objects and sinister ornamentation. The abstracted washes of doom hang over tables of whiskey shots checkered between the occasional doomed sailor with his head hanging in various shades of drunken reflection or gothic euro-slut cackling and sucking some young lovers face off. Here the pirates self-destruct in flames of guilt that build up quietly around their consciences. The creeping sensation is tonally spot on for a revenge story. And the paranoid mania of the pirates is stoked higher with each reported sighting of two ghostly girls walking on the beach.

The two girls find themselves drawn into the gates of the forbidden ruins. Here they are greeted and ushered into the depths of a cathedral by a clown (!!!) awaiting them, to where they meet with a hippy-crypt-keeper in a really sweet necklace. Briefed on the graveness of their choice and then groomed for their demonic wedding ceremony, they unlock some demonic vengeance. This chunk is absolutely dripping with Rollin’s artful ether. You doze into the rag and accept the blurry interplay of these odd characters. The girls exact their revenge as the Captain and crew find them in the cathedral, telepathically dropping statues of Saints on them from above! The most insanely awesome moment is again, Tina being trapped beneath a small Jesus statue, screaming and flailing around as the lifeless stone Jesus looks down at her!! This is where some gore-hounds buff their boners with the usual charge of “bad effects”, but the merit with Rollin is always to look at the content…the idea…where it’s incredible. This isn’t just some campy slasher with a cantaloupe head-smashing where that criticism may be valid due to a complete absence of depth.

The beautiful ending is electric with symbolic meaning. It doesn’t get much more potent than watching the morning tide rise over the open mouths of the lady-avengers, who are helplessly bound in place and left to watch the inevitable. A force of nature devouring them at the exact moment the demon had promised to revoke his powers from them (dawn). Tying the natural elements to an all-consuming force of revenge is a beautiful choice, and this moment clarifies the overall arc of Les Demoniaques as a loose poem about the perils of revenge. I have to say I appreciate the care taken to avoid a direct or obvious moral statement. So the gold nuggets lay buried in subtlety. The temporary, seductive powers of hate are portrayed in a powerful undercurrent that spans the film. Even the devil is kind of a laid back dude in this. A casual force of nature…not an over-bearing or hateful force. More like a dude who’d approach the lessees of his power with a cool, “Yep, I’m a demon of revenge. You actually shouldn’t fuck with me but I mean…if you reeeeally want to….wait….you know this shit is bad for you right…”. The whole chain of events is an interesting play on themes of innocence…what it means to be innocent…how it is corrupted…how in a way, it destroys you. The shitty position this ultimately puts the girls in is pretty evident. It’s all fucked up. And while Rollin isn’t at his most visually intoxicating here, it’s a damn important little nugget of bleak beauty from the master of cool nuggetry.

Odd note thing: There is a Fellini-esque moment on the beach where the demon, the clown, and the keeper of the crypt gather on the beach to discuss helping the girls. They don’t. Out on Blu-Ray now via Redemption in the UK and USA, however, I also recommend the huge Encore DVD box, which contains a 64-page booklet with sweet stills.


LA MORTE VIVANTE (The Living Dead Girl) (1982)

Helene and Catherine innocently dedicate their young lives to each other by entering into a blood-pact in the attic of the creepy Valmont Chateau, committing them to one another beyond death. From this vine grows a beautiful, pondering subversion of the typical “love” story. See, unfortunately, Catherine has died since then, and when the harvest of their friendship culminates beyond the boundaries of life and death, it yields crops of deviant obsession and a good bit of gore.

Life goes on…the estate they grew up in is now for sale, and locals use the family crypt as a dumping ground for barrels of chemical waste (though I’m pretty sure the small town is donkey-powered) while the agents show it above! A couple of town dummies quickly turn from their chemical dumping to a little opportunistic grave-robbing, but that doesn’t sit terribly well with the dead Valmonts. My advice would be don’t turn this off when the Troma-esque earthquake throws down the first smoking waste drum or you will miss a great film. Catherine Valmont emerges from her coffin with a really bad eye-gouging to start the film off on the wrong foot, and you can feel Rollin is uncomfortable playing Fulci right fucking away. It’s all actually fairly decent, but I guess it just seems so “staple” of an intro for a dreamer like Rollin. Anyway, fortunately, the eco-zombie tone shifts over rather quickly, and resolves gracefully onto solid ground for the duration.

I’m sure the vast majority of horror fans will cite the gratuitous gore as the film’s biggest plus, and who could blame them with scenes of the undead Catherine Valmont sitting mute and naked playing a at a blood-soaked piano? These are the holograms of hell on this earth that so many folks relish. But the fertile soil is in my opinion Helene’s lonely and un-Godly predicament as the “living” friend who is forced to reconcile this aberration of nature occurring in the body of her friend. Slowly and deliberately played out, this personal transformation culminates in a fucking intense inversion of all things living, dead, good and evil. Fucking brilliance, and it likely washes over anyone with a lazy eye leaning toward only the most vibrant shots of open throats gushing out the red stuff. Scenes of “the living dead girl” prodding an antique rocking horse in her empty chateau are top notch, and reveal her soulless search for memories. Pushing it inquisitively, inanimate….and animate.... The empty Chateau that sits above the family crypt is host to open houses and most of Catherine’s feeding. Helene develops quite a knack for creatively diverting anyone into the bowels of the Chateau for a feeding! But the more Catherine feeds on life, the more she realizes she is in fact “dead”, and so ensues the brilliant, crown fucking jewel of The Living Dead Girl…the crossover that occurs between the “living” and the “dead” girls. Fuuuuuuck.

Helene’s transformation from a lively girl who has accepted the loss of her friend mutates into an obsession with keeping Catherine alive. Living for yesterday. Pleading with the now self-aware Catherine, who had developed a keen sense of “right and wrong” for a dead girl by the way! It comes to a point where Helene is so engrossed in the return of her friend that she begs Catherine, the stubborn zombie who doesn’t want to eat(!!!) to please keep eating…to stay alive….for them. The inner turmoil of her empty black eyes as she constantly hints of the hell Helene knows nothing about is beautiful. Catherine knows she is an abomination of nature, and this treatment of “zombie as conscientious and philosophically able thinker” is as powerful as the treatment used in Night of the Hunted. Her black eyes and pasty white porcelain face tell the whole story in several awesome scenes toward the end. It all crescendoes in Helene transforming into the one who needs to take lives…while Catherine rejects her own vampirism. Even freeing a girl who is to be sacrificed while Helene is axing some bitches head open outside.

I have to confess, I pushed pause, and just when I thought it was safe to eat White Castle…Rollin throws in an extended “neck-eating scene”. It was really the only fitting ending, and my White Castle was delicious, indicating that I watch way too much of this sort of shit. In summation…if Helene wants to feed her so bad...well….be careful what you wish for Helene.

Watch it. It’s on Netflix, but I would recommend getting the Blu Ray. The encore 3-disc special edition is excellent, and includes a massive 64-page booklet, while the older Redemption release does the trick fine too but if I were buying fresh, I’d get the Blu-Ray just reissued in late August.


LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES (The Shiver of the Vampires) (1971)

From the moment the titles roll over back-lit tombstones, radiating light beams through huge plumes of smoke and the great soundtrack by Acanthus, you smell the blood and patchouli oil emanating from the frames with a weird, hybrid hippy-vampire aesthetic sensibility. This and Requiem For A Vampire are probably the two most “celebrated” of Rollin’s films, despite claims that The Living Dead Girl was “the most successful” financially. Le Frisson Des Vampires paints with candy-colored, Suspiria-like washes of colored light and dials up the hippy-vampire undercurrent allowing for multiple midnight romps in smoked out graveyards to play out. It’s a story of destiny pitting a honeymooning couple against the backdrop of the new bride’s (Isle) family castle, and the gravity of the new bride’s family leanings.

Upon entering the fucked up mountain-village digs, news is promptly revealed of Isle’s cousins deaths; a result later ascribed to their occupation as “vampire hunters”. Of course they stay in the castle anyway, and the cousins arrive to dinner! Prepare for heavy dialogue concerning ancient religion, existential oddities, and the generally spooky. Each night of their honeymoon is disrupted by midnight explorations of the castle, unexplained urges to walk outside, stumbling onto black masses and late night titty stabbings. The framework of the “new bride” story slowly combusts from the friction between her earthly husband and her impending destiny with the undead. The poor fucking husband. He never had a chance. And he was attacked by every book in the library to boot! The sexuality is sweet, and overall pretty fucking tip-top in this outing I must say. Isle’s transformative fevers get relieved each night by some fairly hot visits from Isolde, a scantily clad vampire in hippy garb who enters the room at night through Isle’s grandfather clock.

Unlike Requiem For A Vampire, this is a dialogue-heavy film. Whenever destiny is NOT expounded upon at great length by the ridiculously (in a great way) clothed hippy vampire cousins, the curious couple explore the grounds, sleepwalk into crypts, and are lured into misty graveyards or haunted libraries, but the dialogue is incredibly interesting.

Rollin uses a lot of mirrored elements and opposing forces in this one. Running themes of humans misunderstanding vampires, the living misunderstanding the dead, a grieving widow and new bride comparing notes on marriage, vice versa and versa visa. In terms of technical prowess, it doesn’t surprise me this one was shot right after the Nude Vampire. Both stories rely on heavy pockets of “you don’t understand us” dialogue to deliver their respective goods. The big difference with The Shiver of the Vampires being the dialogue doesn’t attempt to carry so many loose shards of exploded serial-themes around anymore. Rollin had shaken his fragmented approach to Rape of the Vampire pretty completely by this point. The castle is here a singular forum for a cool religious philosophy lesson. A uh….church? But also a final hoorah to excess, making a pivotal transition into the less-wordy/more “looky” and ethereal qualities of say, Lips of Blood or The Iron Rose afterward.

The set design in this plays a crucial role. Isolde, emerging from the inside of the grandfather clock, pale faced at midnight. The costume of the cousins; draped in black satin with purple stars and light purple blue crushed velvet bell-bottoms shimmering like an oil slick. And the masterstroke: the unexplained presence of several macabre statues and set pieces serving as devilish stand-ins for forces unknown. During one conversation between Isolde and her cousins, Isolde refers to “The Master of the World”, never acknowledging the decaying, blank, inhuman life-size statue of a rotting, priest-like figure with spooky primitive paint across his lips…it’s just looming next to them while they discuss this “Master of the World” in silence…presiding over their trivial talks. There is also an empty picture frame, with cartoonishly baroque gold flair, housing two teeth-marks in the castle wall…each dripping blood! These surreal flourishes add a sense of mystery and flair to the depth of topics hinted at in the film. Apparently there was also an homage to Franju’s Judex in the film…with Isolde lying in her coffin, placed in the middle of open ruins…with a white dove bleeding onto the lid.


Until next time, don’t die please!





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