Two Orphan Vampires
Director - Jean Rollin
Cast - Alexandra Pic, Isabelle Teboul
Country of Origin - France
MSRP - $24.95
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4/5)
About 2 years 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.
Jean Rollin's films are known for their dreamlike narratives, and unrestricted sexuality. The director also used vampires as his primary characters in a good many of his most popular films. From his first film Rape of the Vampire in 1967 all the way through to 1975's Lips of Blood, Vampires were the most frequently used monsters in the Rollin universe. Maybe he felt like he had done all he could with the fanged bloodsuckers, but he would not turn a camera to them again for 22 years, and this film Two Orphan Vampires.
Two Orphan Vampires offers a marked departure not just for the director in general, but also for his vampire films. Over the years I have heard of many fans being disappointed by this entry into Rollin's canon, and one can see why. It is much different from what came before, it does not contain the unhinged sexuality that Rollin was known for with his 70's vampire film, nor does it contain the gore one might have come to expect with his late 70's/early 80's works such as the Grapes of Death and Living Dead Girl. However, when watched on it's own terms, as a new direction in Rollin's oeuvre it is a wonderful film in it's own right.
Two Orphan Vampires follows Louise and Henriette, a pair of orphan girls who are blind by day, but are full-seeing vampires once night falls. Each night the two escape the supervision of the nuns, and their orphanage to run amok in a cemetery. The are soon adopted by a Dr. who believes their condition may be in their mind, and attempts to cure them. The girls, however, have other plans and continue stalking the night from their new abode.
When I started watching the film, I at first found myself at odds with the material. I found that it's reputation had indeed preceeded it, and then as the running time continued I began to connect to it's wavelength. This isn't Jean Rollin 1975, this is Jean Rollin 1997, and he is telling a story about blind children.
Now the film itself can be viewed any number of ways, but I choose to view at as the childhood fantasies of two blind girls that are attempting to cope with their handicap, and the situation of living in an orphanage under the supervision of the nuns, and later Doctor Dennery. Two Orphan Vampires mainly exemplifies to me a genre of filmmaking that could be described as films regarding children, but made for adults. I find that films like Francois Truffaut's Les Mistons and 400 Blows, all the way through to Guillermo Del Toro's Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth are fine examples of this genre. When viewing scenes such as the Midnight Lady sequence with the woman in her very unbelievable bat wings, I had to remember that this film could be from the perspective of the children, and thus their interpretation of that character.
With Two Orphan Vampires Jean Rollin has managed to continue his tradition of bringing fine undead creature features to the big screen. He has managed to do this while evolving his extremely well-known style. Some viewers may not agree with the choices the director, and cast have made with this film, but it is certainly a welcome and very interesting addition to the Rollin canon.
Kino Lorber/Redemption have restored Jean Rollin's Two Orphan Vampires, and have presented it in a truly fantastic 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. This transfer is grainy as Hell, just the way I like it. The entire time I felt like I was watching a theatrical presentation of a Jean Rollin film rather than another home video release. The level of detail is fantastic, black levels are nice, and flesh tones are accurate. There is quite a bit of print damage, but that is to expected as this probably comes directly from the negative or the closest approximation to, and is the only available quality source to transfer the film from. That being said the presence of those white specs, and scratches does nothing but add to the film like ambiance of the transfer.
Redemption and Kino have presented two audio options for their release of Two Orphan Vampires an LPCM 2.0 mix in both English (badly dubbed) and French. I didn't bother with the English dub, sorry just won't do it. I stuck to the French track for my viewing, and it is quite a good track befitting the work done to the video. The dialogue is clear throughout, and the music comes through nice and loudly. Everything is mixed clearly, and I could not hear any sort of audio defects present on the track.
Kino/Redemption have put together a nice slate of Extras for their release of Two Orphan Vampires. The disc kicks off with the 42 minute long Memories of a Blue World documentary that interviews the cast and crew of the film about their experiences making it. We then get a 20 minute interview with Rollin from 2008, and 10 trailers from the entire Rollin series. We also get the third volume of "The Cinema of Jean Rollin" liner notes from Video Watchdog head honcho Tim Lucas, who once again offers a fascinating insight to the films included here.
This was my first viewing of Two Orphan Vampires, having avoided the film due to it's poor release from Media Blasters in the early 2000's. I had spent the better part of a decade hearing mixed things about this film, only to discover a wonderful addition to the Rollin canon. Kino/Redemption have kept up their tradition of quality Blu-ray restorations with this release, and the extras really help sell this one. Highly Recommended.