There is something very impetuous about Jean Rollin's fourth feature film. Shot on a very tight schedule with virtually no script, Requiem for a Vampire (Cursed Virgins or Virgins and Vampires) is a sort of stream of consciousness work from a director whose films quite often feel like dreams. Requiem's two distinct halves take on very different visions. This film, the production of which was the direct result of the financial success of his first feature, was a production for hire in which producer $am $elsky gave Rollin a budget and a few cues and told him to make a movie. The result is a strange mix, half pure Rollin, and half corrupt sexploitation, but all creepy.
We meet our characters, the virginal sisters, in media res, as they are fleeing some sort of shenanigans at a New Year's party wearing clown costumes and make up and firing shots out the back window of a car being driven by a male companion. When a stray bullet take out their driver, they light out on foot, running from something unseen, but presumably dangerous. They have no idea that in their haste to find safety they are about to happen upon the chateau of the vampire king, who keeps a dungeon specifically for torture and sexual sadism, and who is always on the prowl for fresh blood, so to speak. The king demands the sisters for his harem, but they aren't so sure. Will they escape the madness, only the Devil know...
On the cover of the disc and in the introduction by Mr. Rollin, he calls Requiem for a Vampire his favorite film because it was the film that came most purely from his subconscious. When he arrived on set he barely had a script, and only a vague idea of where the film was going. He knew he wanted the sisters, he knew he had to have a scene with vampires being serenaded by piano in a graveyard, and he knew that $elsky wanted a lot of sex. He accomplished all of these goals by turning Requiem into an expurgation of his subconscious.
The first forty minutes contain almost no dialogue and very sparse music. They mainly show the girls running across the French countryside, changing out of and back into their clown gear and eventually finding the chateau. It sounds a bit dense, but I was kept on the edge of my seat by the prospect of something happening, and even though it wasn't I didn't lose hope. We are treated to repeated glares from the sisters looking directly into the camera with an incredulous gaze as if to say, "can you believe this?" It's both amusing and unsettling, and while it doesn't pack the wallop of Shiver of the Vampires, it sure as hell gave me the heebie-jeebies.
The film takes a wicked turn for the exploitative in the second half when Requiem descends into a frenzy of sex and blood as the sisters are first cast into and then retrieved from the dungeon and offered eternal life, as long as they can find someone to take their virginity post haste. Somewhere in the middle of that is one of the most graphic dungeon orgies I've ever seen. We don't actually see any penetration, but there is some very aggressive groping and convincing simulated sex. The orgy is only seven minutes long, but due to its lack of dialogue and context, it feels a lot longer. The stuff with the sisters finding their victims is more amusing because it is part of the plot, and they are a pair of saucy wenches, indeed, in spite of their assumed virginal qualities.
Rollin has said that this was the last film he ever made for commerce, that his works from there on out were for art. Well, he's partly right. Within a couple of years he was making hardcore porn under an assumed name to pay the bills, but the Jean Rollin films kept coming, and getting simultaneously weirder and more cogent as time went along. Requiem for a Vampire is certainly not among his best films, but with a resume as long as Rollin's (about 45 films in the span of 20 years), it takes something pretty special to get into that stratosphere. It is an important film in his oeuvre, however, because it showcases so many of his ideas unfiltered by the refining process, and that makes it essential.
Requiem for a Vampire on Blu-ray from Redemption/Kino is in better condition than The Rape of the Vampire, the previous disc, but still has its quirks. The image is solid, and shows a surprising amount of detail and strong colors. However, there is still damage in the forms of white specks and the occasional line through the image. Nothing to get too crazy about, but these Rollin discs look pretty damned good in my opinion. Unlike Rape of the Vampire, we are presented with both the French and English language versions of the film. I chose the original French, though it didn't matter until about forty minutes in because there was no dialogue. The English dub on this film isn't as good as some of the other Rollin films I've watched, but it was satisfactory, though the French track was more solid all around.
The extras on this disc don't quite reach the heights of the Rape of the Vampire disc, but we get some good stuff, nonetheless. There is the customary introduction from Rollin, a making of featurette featuring an interview with Natalie Perrey, Rollin's longtime associate who passed away in the time between the first batch of Blu-rays and this one, and an interview with the one of the lead concubines, Louise Dhour. All in all, pretty satisfying stuff, though a feature length documentary on Jena Rollin's career is desperately needed at this point.
Another swing and another solid hit from Kino/Redemption. A collaboration which is proving to be as fruitful and successful as I'd hoped when I first reported on it last year. This is definitely one for Rollin fans to snatch up, and anyone curious about the Eurohorror genre needs this on their shelf.
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