Le Frisson des Vampires (1971)

Le Frisson des Vampires (1971) movie poster

director Jean Rollin
viewed: 10/16/2017

The Shiver of the Vampires is perhaps the most completely realized vision of Jean Rollin. In my opinion, that is.

Of his early films, Le viol du vampire (1968), La vampire nue (1970),  Requiem pour un vampire (1971) (all vampires, all the time), it’s as lush a production as he ever seemed to land, and also features another gorgeous Art Deco throwback movie poster, even nicer than La vampire nue.

On the surface, what’s really new? Naked vampires with sapphic leanings, elegant ruins inhabited, death and deathlessness, longing and desire. But at the same time it does differ. The soundtrack by Groupe Acanthus is certainly a-typical and kind of groovy. But that’s not it.

Rollin employs Bava-esque colored lighting , evoking a cheap but effective surrealism. The appearances of Isolde (Dominique), the vampire queen, first from a clock, then exploding from wall hangings, and (less effectively) dropping into a fireplace call to mind Jean Cocteau and the gorgeous simple effects in La Belle et la Bête (1946).

The story is the subversion of the heterosexual , or traditional married relationship. A freshly married man and wife arrive at the wife’s cousin’s castle only to find them dead. Well, dead and undead. Two mysterious nubile servants quietly run the show. But the wife is seduced away from her virginity as well as her husband’s grasp.

Rollin’s depictions of lesbian relationships is less purely exploitative and scopophilic. The women of his films escape their patriarchal worlds and find freedom and beauty in love between themselves. He’s nowhere as clear in his attitude toward male homosexuality, but maybe he’s frowns on all masculinity.

Ultimately, the heroes of the story are “the Renfields”, the unnamed lesbian servants, who overthrow not only the patriarchy at the end but overthrow the entire bourgeoisie.

I’ve watched Rollin’s vampire quartet over a four year span, in no particular order, so I would like to re-watch as a group sometime to better have a collective impression of the ideas and attitudes.

I do think this the best of the four, though I like them all.

 

Full Moon of the Virgins (1973)

Full Moon of the Virgins (1973) movie poster

directors Luigi Batzella, Joe D’Amato
viewed: 09/25/2017

I’m going with Full Moon of the Virgins here, contrary to the title the movie is better known as: The Devil’s Wedding Night. That’s what it said on the version I saw, a literal translation of the Italian Il plenilunio delle vergini.

What neither really gives you is that this is a vampire flick. A sort of throwback Gothic vampire flick in the style of heyday Hammer Films.

Mark Damon stars as twin brothers researching some Wagnerian biz of German lore, only to step into a sort of gender-swap Dracula thing. The Countess Dracula is Rosalba Neri, and she’s got the goods as resident vampire lady.

I sensed a vein of humor running throughout. Not camp, per se, but playful?

I guess I’m at a bit of a loss to say why I liked it, but I did. The production is really pretty solid, putting location Piccolomini castle in Balsoranao to great use, and employing mostly nice cinematography.

And ultimately, you get those full moon virgins for the devil’s wedding night, eventually in their altogether.

The Velvet Vampire (1971)

The Velvet Vampire (1971) movie poster

director  Stephanie Rothman
viewed: 07/31/2017

Interesting and unusual, but still not quite remarkable, Stephanie Rothman’s The Velvet Vampire won’t probably change your life but is certainly worth seeing.

Celeste Yarnall is the titular (in more ways that one!) vampire, an ageless lady, mourning her long-dead love, who makes her home in the California desert. She invites a young couple to her home to spy on voyeuristically, to seduce, and eventually to feed upon.

Unfortunately, this couple are not just bad actors but quite annoying people. Which leaves our Velvet Vampire as the only interesting character in the film.

The desert setting, daylight excursions in a dune buggy, the dream sequences that could be Pink Floyd album covers all add flavor to this film.

I’ve always loved the poster.

Lips of Blood (1975)

Lips of Blood (1975) movie poster

director Jean Rollin
viewed: 07/14/2017

Lips of Blood is one of the most dreamlike of Jean Rollin’s surrealistic horror films. It also seems like one of the better-funded of productions, though from what I’ve read, it suffered from some production shortcomings that kept it from being a fully-realized vision.

Rollin’s films all have that feel to me; compromises everywhere, but dreams realized and visions captured nonetheless. The locations are gorgeous, including the “aquarium at the Trocadero, the ruins at Chateau Gaillard, and that seemingly ever-present beach at Dieppe with its rotting pilings, an image of longing and loss. Lips of Blood feels somehow more personal as well, and apparently Rollin based the character of Frédéric (Jean-Loup Philippe) on himself.

Frédéric is triggered by a photo of a ruined castle and a memory, much like a dream, invades his mind: as a child, going there and falling in love with a beautiful, short-haired girl (Annie Belle, last seen by me in Rollin’s Bacchanales Sexuelles (1974). The rest of his existence begins to fall away as he hunts for the castle and the girl, and meanwhile frees some other sexy, near-nekkid vampires.

Rollin was indeed a romantic.

Curse of the Vampires (1966)

 

Ibulong mo sa hangin (1964)

director Gerardo de Leon
viewed: 07/07/2017

No matter what you call it, Blood of the VampiresWhisper to the Wind, Ibulong mo sa hangin, the one thing you know is you’ve got another Gerardo de Leon vampire picture. While it’s not quite as much a masterpiece as his Blood Is the Color of Night, it does have some interesting visual effects (albeit somewhat muted by the quality of the print I watched).

Things go sideways for a noble Filipino family when the adult children find out that pops has been keeping their dead mom in the basement since she turned into a vampire at death.

The cool effects of which I speak seem to mostly be effected via lighting techniques, revealing shocking visages of vampires and their fangs. Not sure if these look better or worse due to the washed-out nature of the print, but I though they were cool.

The mother vampire is a pathetic thing, chained and whipped by the father and his henchman. There is some mad repression going on here. And if that weren’t enough, you’ve got the household staff in blackface!

I’ve yet to be disappointed by a Filipino horror film.

Well, REALLY disappointed.

Requiem for a Vampire (1971)

Requiem for a Vampire (1971) movie poster

director Jean Rollin
viewed: 06/04/2017

Jean Rollin was nothing if not a cinematic poet. Since he worked on the cheap and in the horror and porn/sexploitation genres, who knows how close he ever came to fully realizing his visions. But visions they are, even the worst of his films oozes dreamy fantasy over any storyline or plotting.

I’ve now watched enough of his filmic corpus to say that I am indeed a fan. That said, I’m still contemplating his work and have yet to fully develop any well-constructed conclusions.

Requiem for a Vampire follows many of his themes and ideas: vampires, young runaways, lesbian lovers, strange cults, all set against the French countryside, venerable houses or ruins. Requiem begins oddly with a car chase, in media res, with two clown-painted girls and a getaway driver pursued by gunmen. They do indeed get away, but the driver is killed, so the girls torch the car and then wander through a cemetery to ruins haunted by a vampire cult.

Most interestingly, Rollin runs much of Requiem’s opening with the barest amount of dialog. Though this might have been a functional thing (non-sync sound), it also turns the film into a more purely visual one, telling the story through action and imagery and not propelled by dialogue.

In the end, the girls are challenge to become vampires or remain virgins and while this again speaks to Rollin’s themes of women positioned in opposition to patriarchal demands, fleeing a society for which they have no place, the film also features some more brute rape as well.

I don’t know where it falls in my Rollin spectrum, but it’s certainly an undeniable Rollin picture.

Blood Is the Color of Night (1964)

Blood Is the Color of Night (1964) movie poster

director Gerardo de Leon
viewed: 02/25/2017

Blood Is the Color of Night and that color is transcendent. Be it blue, or red, or green.

Gerardo de Leon’s Blood Is the Color of Night a.k.a. The Blood Drinkers is another ridiculously entertaining horror flick from the 1960’s. It’s a vampire movie made originally for the Philippines market, re-dubbed for amusement and enlightenment elsewhere. And certainly that regionalism is part of its charm, not playing to the world but to a local audience.

More than anything, though, is that mother of invention, necessity, which led de Leon to the film’s most notable quality. With an apparent limit of full color film, much of the movie is filmed in tinted black and white in hues of red and blue and green. This technique was not uncommon in the Silent Era, but is intensely surprising and evocative here, heightening aesthetic values far above where they would have been in mere “color”.

I totally dug it.

Condemned to Live (1935)

Condemned to Live (1935) movie poster

director Frank R. Strayer
viewed: 01/25/2017

“What good can there be in a hunchback?” – Mob member

Actually there are a few good lines in this “vampire” picture. Condemned to Live is a cheap 1930’s thriller-maybe-horror film from the Invincible Pictures studio. While it’s not exactly Poverty Row, it’s also not exactly the big time either.

Vampirism as seen in Condemned to Live is a disease, transferred by vampire bat to pregnant woman to fetus, eventually showing itself in middle age when that fetus has grown up into a noble member of the gentry. The transformation is werewolf-like (not a constant state of being), but only requires a scowling countenance, lost memory, and biting people to death.

There is not a lot here, though it’s also hardly worthless.

The Body Beneath (1970)

The Body Beneath (1970) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 01/23/2017

I’ve had a number of Andy Milligan films in my queue, on my watchlist, in planning to see, but The Body Beneath was the first one I ever watched.

And I really don’t know what to say.

Reading about Milligan’s life is interesting.

The Body Beneath comes from his brief stay in Britain. So it’s about an English vampire clan seeking…”new blood”. It’s clearly made on the cheap, but it has a totally different vibe from say Ted V. Mikels, H.G. Lewis, really any low budget schlockmeister that I can think of. Maybe the closest I can come is to say it’s like a Kuchar brothers movie with all the intentional camp sucked out of it. And Kuchar movies are almost 100% camp.

I don’t know. Still pondering.

Thirst (1979)

Thirst (1979) movie poster

director Rod Hardy
viewed: 01/09/2017

The first part of Thirst involves the abduction of a young woman named Kate (Chantal Contouri) by a vampire cult. Though she’s been raised as a normal person, she has aristocratic roots in vampire world, and so they try to convert her. What’s weird about it is that the cult operates a commune/farm where human “cows” are kept for their blood, zoned out people.

Kate’s not down with this biz, not by a long shot. Tries to escape. Gets brought back.

Which leads to the film’s second part, a drug-induced extended nightmare, part lolling dream, mostly surreal weirdness with interesting visual effects. In many ways, this is the film’s most interesting segment.

At some point, you kind of wonder if this is at all supernatural. Are these folks just drinking blood and liking it? Or do they actually develop powers like extended lives? Their fangs are just pop-ins. But then their eyes do glow right before they lunge in for the bite.

Not by any means your typical vampire film. In fact, given the food supply angle, farming humans, it may fit more evenly with other science fiction movies about weird societies.

Still, very interesting.