Kino Lorber // 1973 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 12th, 2012
Two young girls...trapped...with no escape! Forced to submit to the Horrors of the Pit!
A man playing the piano alone in a cemetery to the dead -- that is apparently the only image that Jean Rollin had when he began filming Requiem for a Vampire. No script, no characters, only a single image and faith that his subconscious could be put to work in the service of that image. Of course having a four-week shooting schedule, a bunch of gorgeous actresses, and an obsession with vampires doesn't hurt. The result is a film the late lamented French filmmaker Jean Rollin considered his favorite precisely because he dredged it purely from his subconscious. Long a favorite of cult movie fans on DVD, Redemption has gone back the well to release Requiem for a Vampire (Blu-ray), offering the kind of upgrade fans are going to want to snap up.
Story is not so important to Jean Rollin, so it's no surprise that Requiem for a Vampire has a pretty simple one: a pair of thieves on the run from authorities hide out in a ruined chateau. A chateau that just happens to house the last of the vampires, where sexy and scary shenanigans ensue.
Why would anyone want to watch Requiem for a Vampire? It's a really good question. Those accustomed to mainstream cinema, with its plots and characters and things might wonder why anyone would want to watch a film where two thieves dressed (at least initially, and inexplicably) as clowns are eventually menaced by a vampire. Well, here are some reasons:
* It's just weird. I love the standard Hollywood film, with its linear development and satisfying ending, I really do. Sometimes it's nice to see something completely, totally unexpected. Requiem for a Vampire delivers. From the opening scenes with the clowns to their arrival at the chateau, to a scene in which a bat appears to molest a woman, nothing about this is expected. Rollin's films are often noted for their surreal, dreamlike quality, and it's that dream logic that makes the experience so compelling. As a viewer, I don't know what is going to happen next, but I know it's going to be weird and interesting.
* There's lots of nudity. If that's your thing, then Requiem for a Vampire offers it in spades. I don't know where Rollin did his casting, but he always manages to get young and attractive women to get naked for his movies. Though some of the nudity (especially the torture scene) was imposed on Rollin by the producers, there is no doubt that he loved to put naked women in his films.
* The schlock factor. This is a film where a bat appears to molest a woman in a basement dungeon. Though the clown makeup on the thieves is dreamlike and surreal, it's also pretty schlocky (and a bit cheesy for some, I'm sure). The exploitation touches along with the rampant nudity put this film firmly in the world of drive-in style cinema, even as the more surreal aspects place it in the context of European arthouse.
* This excellent Blu-ray. Requiem for a Vampire is one of a trio of Rollin films that Kino Lorber has restored (the other two being The Rape of the Vampire and Demoniacs, also out on Blu-ray from Redemption). The 1.66:1 AVC-encoded transfer is excellent. Taken from the 35mm negative, the source is in good shape, with only minimal damage. Grain is appropriate and well-handled, colors are perfectly saturated, and black levels are consistent and deep. This transfer might be a tad darker than previous DVD editions, but that's appropriate for the material. Audio is handled with a LPCM mono track that sounds fine for its age. The dubbed dialogue sounds fine, and the film's weird score is well-balanced. There's also an option for an English-dubbed version; skip it unless you want some comedy.
Jean Rollin provides a short introduction for the film, and we get both a documentary on the film primarily composed of interviews and a separate interview with Louise Dhour. Together they provide a solid background on the film and its production. The disc rounds out with the original theatrical trailers for the film, along with trailers for seven other Rollin films. The release also includes a booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas that covers all three of the films in this round of hi-def releases on the Redemption label. The essay provides more context for the films along with publicity stills.
Of course, it takes a particular kind of viewer to sit through, let alone appreciate, a Jean Rollin film. There's no real story, so-so acting, and lots of potentially offensive sex/horror combinations (including the aforementioned dungeon torture scene). It's not for everyone's taste, and sensitive viewers should avoid this flick.
Requiem for a Vampire is prime Rollin. It's a seductive mix of sexuality, horror, and surreal atmosphere. Rollin fans are going to want to upgrade their previous DVDs for the improved audiovisual presentation and extras. Those who've never seen a Rollin film would do well to start here and this disc is the perfect rental option.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Mono (English)
* PCM 2.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated R