Requiem for a Vampire
Director - Jean Rollin
Cast - Mireille Dargent, Marie-Pierre Castel
Country of Origin - France
MSRP - $24.95
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4/5)
About a year ago the world lost one of it's great unsung cinematic visionaries, and one of the true pioneers of French fantastic horror the now legendary Jean Rollin. During his career Rollin's work was primarily known by a devoted group of European horror aficionados, and kept alive by the work of fans who kept his work in the public eye. His films were far from horrors mainstream, for while they contained the sex, violence, and undead creatures horror fans crave they were more about the atmosphere then the scares. This created as many fans of his films, as it did detractors as Rollin was truly a cinematic auteur with a true personal cinematic vision.
I had known about Rollin's work almost as long as I have been a fan of European horror films (15 or so years). After my eyes were opened by the films of Fulci, Argento, and Bava I began to notice the variety of horror films being released on DVD at the time, and horror magazines were carrying ads for Image/Redemption's line of Rollin DVD's such as Living Dead Girl and Shiver of the Vampires. Sadly, I was in college and on a limited budget, so it would be a good many years before I would catch up with his work, but when I finally did my mind would be completely blown. His dreamy cinematic landscape with virgins, vampires, violence, and all manners of oddities undead, and not quite was what I truly loved about Eurohorror, and what got my hooked to begin with.
Requiem for the Vampire can be considered Rollin at the peak of his narrative disregard. Which pretty much means, this film is freaking awesome! The thing about a lot of great European horror films of the 70's from notable works like Argento's Suspiria to Fulci's The Beyond, and well beyond, is their blatant disregard for narrative, and no one had a more blatant disregard for traditional narrative than Rollin, and the way he pulled it off is seriously glorious. I, and many critics have often described Rollin films as very dreamlike, and Requiem for a Vampire, may be his most dreamlike. It just begins, and while it does have a resolution, it is not a neatly tied up resolution as many would like from a traditional narrative film.
The film begins with 2 female thieves dressed like clowns. It appears they have just ended a failed chase, and their male driver now lays shot and dead. They pour gas on his corpse, and the car, and set it aflame before wandering off into the countryside. After a quick excursion to steal some food, and get almost buried in a cemetery, they end up in a chateau owned by the last vampire in existence, and his followers. He offers the pair of them eternal life as vampires, as a way to prolong his species. The two must decide where they fall do they want to live amongst the darkness of the dead, or a traditional mortal life.
A typical vampire film might use this as a springboard to its narrative. Requiem for a Vampire uses it as a simple background and nothing more. From this very simple premise comes some of Rollin's finest (and strangest) imagery, violence, and ample nudity. There are moments like the scene where a vampiress plays a sad dirge like sounding tune on a piano that are among the finest images in Rollin's filmography.
Also, interesting to note is that the film was originally written to star the Castel (Catharine and Marie-Pierre) twins who appear quite frequently through Rollin's work. However, Catharine got pregnant prior to the production and another Rollin mainstay Mireille Dargent was cast in her place. With the minor narrative construct of the two deciding whether or not to live as vampires or among the living, I can see why Rollin originally went with the twins, however, the casting as it stands in the film works wonderfully.
Overall, Requiem for the Vampire is a wonderful addition to Rollin's canon of moody atmospheric gothic horror pieces, and is quite possibly one of his very best. I will state it is my 2nd favorite directly behind the even less narrative based Iron Rose. It is an hypnotic, and enchanting film for those in the right frame of mind for it, and truly shows what Rollin could do at the height of his considerable directorial powers.
I thought the initial slate of Kino/Redemption Rollin Blu-ray's looked quite good, a bit rough, but Rollin's films were low-budget affairs, and they are never going to look absolutely perfect. That being said Kino and Redemption have really outdone themselves in every single way with their release of the Requiem for a Vampire. This transfer is absolutely glorious I have probably seen this film more than any film in Rollin's discography, which usually makes it more difficult for me (personally) to notice changes in a films look.
However, the 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer is nothing short of gorgeous. There is some minor print damage throughout the film, but that is to be expected knowing the history of the films, their production, and probably how they were stored in the intervening decades. There is grain present throughout, and it is nicely layered creating a true organic look to the film. The level of detail is excellent throughout, black levels are deep, flesh tones are accurate, and the colors are truly excellent.
Kino/Redemption have supplied 2 LPCM mono tracks one in the films native French, and another dubbed English track. There are optional English subtitles included. The dialogue, music, and effects are mixed well. Of course, this is not a movie that is heavy on the dialogue, but what there is there, is completely audible. There does not appear to be any issue with pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Kino/Redemption have put together a nice slate of extras for their release of Requiem for the Vampire, and while not entirely comprehensive what is here is definitely interesting. The disc kicks off with a 17 minute featurette entitled The Shiver of a Requiem which features interviews with Natalie Perrey and Jean-Noel Delamarre, frequent Rollin collaborators who offer a decent bit of information on this film, and working with Rollin in general. We have gave a 10 minute interview with actress Louise Dhour who talks about the film (it was her first). The disc is rounded off by 3 trailers the English, and French trailer, and also the trailer for "Caged Virgins" an edited version of the film made to play up it's more lurid aspects. The set is rounded off by Round 2 of Tim Lucasí excellent liner notes about the films of Jean Rollin, they cover this film, Rape of the Vampire and the Demoniacs.
One of Jean Rollin's most delightful films. It is a real joy to have Requiem for a Vampire out on Blu-ray. The transfer is glorious, and the extras interesting. Highly Recommended.