REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE
Also Known As
Requiem pour un vampire
Vierges et vampires
Virgins and Vampires
…and many more titles
Directed by Jean Rollin
France/1971 – 88 Minutes/Widescreen
DVD Provided by Redemption (Salvation)
Article written by Craig Hamann
Simplicity is filmmaker Jean Rollin’s best weapon. He’s on top of his game when he doesn’t try to overload a plot and focuses on his refreshingly offbeat visualizations. For the most part, that’s the method Rollin utilizes in REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE. Some Rollin fans have insisted that it’s his best film. I disagree. But one thing for certain, it sure is signature Rollin, given the sense of isolation in his images and his use of two sexy girls in the lead roles, not to mention the sexual nature of his vampires.
Two pretty young women, Marie and Michelle, are in a bizarre car chase. I say bizarre because both ladies wear clown suits but their male driver is dressed normally, the two cars in the chase are ultra-slow, and it’s unclear who is chasing them. Maybe they’re running from the police, or robbers, or someone with road rage. There’s no way to tell. Anyway, Marie shoots at the attackers and they shoot back. The girls and their driver give their pursuers the slip, but unfortunately the driver dies from a gunshot wound. So the girls run across a field and find a motorbike. They ride that until it gives up the ghost, forcing them to take cover in one of the spookiest looking cemeteries in cinematic history. After having to avoid two grave diggers, they go back on the run and end up at a gothic-looking chateau. Finding a bed in one of the rooms, they seize the quiet moment to engage in lesbian sex and get some rest. But soon they discover the chateau’s morbid secret, which is that it houses a Master Vampire, who is the last remaining vampire on the planet, and his coven of two women and several male thugs. Both the Master and his coven are fascinated by the girls’ virginity and intend to change Marie and Michelle into vampires. Will the girls get away or will they become creatures of the night?
This film actually has two stories. The first one concerns the girls being pursued by…well, as I said, I don’t know. At one point, Marie and Michelle babble about entertaining at a party and then having to escape from a fight. Okay, that might work, but why do they have the driver, why are both of them carrying revolvers, and who the heck did they piss off so much? My first impression is that the girls are actually disguised because they are criminals, perhaps robbers, but that is never verified anywhere in the film. Whatever the case, they’re definitely on the run. During this time, we see textbook Jean Rollin filmmaking. While the story’s through-line may be questionable, it’s replaced by stunning landscapes and expertly shot backdrops. It’s quiet filmmaking, mostly devoid of any dialogue, and the imagery is both beautiful and frightening at the same time, a quality that Rollin executes better than anyone.
The second story centers on the Master Vampire’s desire to involve Marie and Michelle in his futile attempt to continue his race. Despite the thin plot, Rollin does do a good job of creating an offbeat relationship between the aging bloodsucker and Marie. No, it’s not a sexual relationship, which may surprise some Rollin fans, but it’s more of an understanding. I’d like to describe this further, but there’s no way to do so without providing spoilers. Admittedly, I found myself feeling bad for the old guy and I understood his final decision at the end of the film. Even during this second story Rollin throws most of his focus into the visuals. There are the impressively moody shots of the chateau and the erotic scenes of sexual perversity. Also, as fans of Rollin have come to expect, there is the slow but not boring pacing, allowing the viewer to fully digest the shot composition in every scene.
The film is not without its drawbacks. While the sex scenes may delight some Rollin fanatics, the rather cloddish orgy in the second act appears as nothing more than a series of filler scenes to extend the film’s running time. Rollin’s budgets are always limited and I think it shows in this movie more than some of his other work. For example, there are several items, including steel handrails, in the chateau that make the place appear more as a tourist stop than an abandoned structure hidden in the countryside. The characters, even the relationship between the two girls, are inconsistent enough that normally it would demolish the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Fortunately, none of these things really matter. After all, this is a Rollin film and his signature is so creatively strong that only his strengths as a filmmaker count. His ability to captivate his audience and lead them through a universe that is wholly defined by him alone is second to none.
DVD extras include an interview with Louise Dhour (who plays one of the ladies in the coven), additional scenes, trailers, a stills gallery, and teasers for other Redemption releases. The picture quality is only average, with several scenes containing a fair amount of scratching. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but quite honestly I feel as if I’ve seen better picture quality of this film in other releases. The sound isn’t great either, but then it doesn’t matter that much. This is a quiet movie with little dialogue and a modest amount of foley work. The unremarkable transfer job aside, REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE is a great example of Jean Rollin’s stylish filmmaking. For Rollin fans, this is an absolute must-see. For genre fans that aren’t familiar with the filmmaker, this is a good movie for you to begin your education.