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The Cinema of Jean Rollin: The Vampire Collection (US Blu-Ray Review)

Specs

Specs

Details

Director: Jean Rollin
Cast: Bernard Letrou, Jacqueline Sieger, Jean-Loup Philippe, Solange Pradel
Year: 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973
Length: 95, 80, 95, 87 min
Rating: NR
Region: NR
Disks: 4
Label: Kino Lorber
Release Date: February 18, 2014

Video

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Type: B&W and Color

Audio

Audio: French, English: LPCM 2.0
Subtitles: English

Extras

Le Viol du Vampire

  • Introduction by Jean Rollin
  • Two short films by Jean Rollin: Les Amours jaunes (The Yellow Loves, 1958, 9 min.) and Les Pays loin (The Far Country, 1965, 16 min.)
  • Alternate version of one scene (2 min.)
  • “Fragments of Pavements Under the Sand,” a documentary by Daniel Gouyette, featuring interviews with Jean Rollin, Jean-Denis Bonan, and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou
  • Interview with Jean Rollin
  • Interview with Jean-Loup Philippe
  • 16-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original theatrical trailers

La Vampire Nue

  • Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
  • Interview with Natalie Perrey (4 min.)
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • French and English theatrical trailers
  • Original trailers of four other Rollin films

Le Frisson des Vampires

  • Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
  • Interview with Jean Rollin by Dr. Patricia MacCormack (39 min.)
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original trailers of four other Rollin films

Requiem pour un Vampire

  • Introduction by Jean Rollin
  • “The Shiver of a Requiem,” a documentary featuring interviews with Natalie Perrey and Jean-Noël Delamarre
  • Interview with Louise Dhour, courtesy of Encore Filmed Entertainment
  • 16-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • Original trailers of seven other Rollin films

91675_frontJean Rollin, the maverick filmmaker responsible for single-handedly giving birth to a distinctly French brand of erotic vampire cinema, has seen a major boost in popularity in recent years — thanks largely to the efforts of Nigel Wingrove. Wingrove has been steadily releasing the filmmaker’s back catalog on blu-ray through his Redemption label and the discs are being distributed in the USA by Kino Lorber. Now, four of Rollin’s major vampire films are being released as a handy box set entitled “The Cinema of Jean Rollin: The Vampire Collection.” These come in four individual blu-ray cases inside a cardboard box. The films are: Le Viol du Vampire (The Rape of the Vampire) (1968); La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire) (1970); Le Frisson des Vampires (The Shiver of the Vampires) (1971); Vierges et Vampires (Requiem for a Vampire) (1973). NOTE: Our box set says “Vampire Collection” on the front, while the same box set on Amazon and other places is called, “Vampire Films.”

Le Viol du Vampire (The Rape of the Vampire) (1968) [Click to enlarge]

Le Viol du Vampire (The Rape of the Vampire) (1968) [Click to enlarge]

The Films

When Jean Rollin’s Le Viol du Vampire was released in Paris, in 1968 — the year that rioting students and workers forced the French government to flee for the hills — the film caused such a furor among French audiences that Rollin was chased out of the theater by an angry mob of filmgoers who were expecting to see the latest Hollywood import. Hammer Horror films were still big, with their, by then, standard Gothic tropes and linear storytelling, and no one seemed interested in Rollin’s unique mixture of vampires and surrealism, although the hordes of beautiful, nude, and semi-nude women that populated most of Rollin’s films certainly helped the director build an audience abroad.

Le Viol du Vampire was originally intended as a 45-minute vampire film to be used as the second part of a double-feature with an American horror film, according to an interview with Rollin conducted by French journalist, Caroline Vié. The film’s producer, Sam Selsky, was so perplexed by Rollin’s treatment that he would only agree to let him film it if Rollin inserted naked women into most of the shots. Rollin agreed, and a new subgenre of horror cinema came into being. It was a strange mixture of surrealism, Gothic tropes, soft-core erotica, vampire lore, and occasional bloody violence.

Le Viol du Vampire (The Rape of the Vampire) (1968) [Click to enlarge]

Le Viol du Vampire (The Rape of the Vampire) (1968) [Click to enlarge]

The quintessentially French preoccupation with memory and time displacement also features high in Rollin’s filmmaking. His characters and even some of the storylines can float freely through time and space, adhering to no particular logic except the director’s imagination. Since his youth, Rollin was friendly with novelist Marguerite Duras, a member of the Left Bank Cinema movement — a group that also included André Bazin, Henri Langlois, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Alain Resnais, and Chris Marker. It is perhaps Marker’s literally timeless sci-fi classic, La Jetée, that provides the most famous example of French cinema’s concern with time and memory, but where Marker uses these concepts as plot devices, Rollin uses them to alter our perception of reality itself. In that sense, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s mesmerizing Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974), with its rich colors, Gothic trappings, and ample nudity, provides a closer bedfellow to what Rollin was doing.

Influences from an older generation of French filmmakers, especially Jean Cocteau and Georges Franju, can be spotted here and there as well. In Le Frisson des Vampires, a vampire woman emerges out of a grandfather clock and steps into the bedroom of lusty Sandra Julien, much the same way that death enters Orpheus’s room through a mirror in Cocteau’s Orphée. In La Vampire Nue (1970), a surreal scene where a group of strange people wearing animal heads terrorize a semi-nude Caroline Cartier invokes images from Franju’s Judex (1963), and Cocteau’s The Testament of Orpheus (1960).

La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire) (1970) [Click to enlarge]

La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire) (1970) [Click to enlarge]

But, the most obvious thing Jean Rollin films are known for are the bevy of gorgeous women that inhabit his kaleidoscopic universe of Gothic crypts, ancient castles, fairy tale forests, and ocean beaches. Though some of his erotic scenes may seem dated, even naive by today’s standards, they fit perfectly within Rollin’s fantasy world. His films were made in a time — long before the internet made hardcore porn accessible at the click of a mouse — when there was still genuine curiosity over the visual of sex. That time may be gone, but Rollin’s art remains valid on it’s own terms, for those willing to take the plunge and explore.

La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire) (1970) [Click to enlarge]

La Vampire Nue (The Nude Vampire) (1970) [Click to enlarge]

Video

For many years, the only way to see Jean Rollin’s films, at least in the USA, was through badly washed-out bootleg VHS tapes that one obtained at rather high prices from dubious mail order companies. Then, in the late 1990’s Redemption released their Jean Rollin collection on DVD for the first time, with reasonably good video and audio. But the recent batch of blu-ray releases from Redemption, transferred in 1080p, is a dramatic improvement over anything else we’ve ever seen since these films were projected in theaters. Of course the quality of the cinematography varies somewhat from film to film, but what we have here from Redemption and Kino are very truthful presentations of original film elements, with little or no sharpening or filtering. Fortunately, the actual prints are in very good condition, so white specks and scratches are very minimal indeed. Color is very natural and well-saturated; image depth and contrast are also excellent. No complaints on technical grounds whatsoever.

Le Frisson des Vampires (The Shiver of the Vampires) (1971) [Click to enlarge]

Le Frisson des Vampires (The Shiver of the Vampires) (1971) [Click to enlarge]

Audio

For Le Viol du Vampire we are given only a French LPCM 2.0 track, with optional English subtitles. For the other three films, we are given both French and English dubbed LPCM 2.0 tracks. Personally, I think all fairy tale films in general should be seen in French, but others may disagree. Much like the video, Kino and Redemption’s audio presentation is truthful to the source material, without any attempt to create hi-fi effects. The actual sound quality varies from film to film, much dependent on the original recording conditions, but generally, hiss is minimal, and so are the occasional pops and crackles.

Le Frisson des Vampires (The Shiver of the Vampires) (1971) [Click to enlarge]

Le Frisson des Vampires (The Shiver of the Vampires) (1971) [Click to enlarge]

Extras

The extra features vary quite a bit over the 4 discs, but there is a very nice collection of them here, with much rare production insights from Rollin and others who’ve worked with him, all presented in a series of interviews. Each disc also contains a written essay by Video Watchdog editor, Tim Lucas, which are very good indeed and reveal his usual expertise. Personally, I think it would have been more fun to have Lucas do audio commentaries, as was recorded for Kino’s recent Jess Franco blu-rays. Here is how the extra features break down:

Le Frisson des Vampires (The Shiver of the Vampires) (1971) [Click to enlarge]

Le Frisson des Vampires (The Shiver of the Vampires) (1971) [Click to enlarge]

Le Viol du Vampire

  • Introduction by Jean Rollin
  • Two short films by Jean Rollin: Les Amours jaunes (The Yellow Loves, 1958, 9 min.) and Les Pays loin (The Far Country, 1965, 16 min.)
  • Alternate version of one scene (2 min.)
  • “Fragments of Pavements Under the Sand,” a documentary by Daniel Gouyette, featuring interviews with Jean Rollin, Jean-Denis Bonan, and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou
  • Interview with Jean Rollin
  • Interview with Jean-Loup Philippe
  • 16-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original theatrical trailers

La Vampire Nue

  • Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
  • Interview with Natalie Perrey (4 min.)
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • French and English theatrical trailers
  • Original trailers of four other Rollin films

Le Frisson des Vampires

  • Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
  • Interview with Jean Rollin by Dr. Patricia MacCormack (39 min.)
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original trailers of four other Rollin films

Requiem pour un Vampire

  • Introduction by Jean Rollin
  • “The Shiver of a Requiem,” a documentary featuring interviews with Natalie Perrey and Jean-Noël Delamarre
  • Interview with Louise Dhour, courtesy of Encore Filmed Entertainment
  • 16-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • Original trailers of seven other Rollin films
Vierges et Vampires (Requiem for a Vampire) (1973) [Click to enlarge]

Vierges et Vampires (Requiem for a Vampire) (1973) [Click to enlarge]

Bottom Line

Many horror fans who are accustomed to seeing more conventionally structured, more linear films may find Jean Rollin an acquired taste at best; someone to approach with caution and to absorb in small doses. The more adventurous viewer, however, especially if they have grown weary of film strictly as a commercial product and have an “appreciation for filmmakers (and any artists) whose work is driven by their own compulsions and personalities, and have seemingly no consideration for the marketplace or convention,” (as a friend of mine recently put it), then a generous dip into Jean Rollin’s Vampire Collection might feel like a breath of fresh air.

Recommended with enthusiasm!

Vierges et Vampires (Requiem for a Vampire) (1973) [Click to enlarge]

Vierges et Vampires (Requiem for a Vampire) (1973) [Click to enlarge]

Details Director: Jean Rollin Cast: Bernard Letrou, Jacqueline Sieger, Jean-Loup Philippe, Solange Pradel Year: 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973 Length: 95, 80, 95, 87 min Rating: NR Region: NR Disks: 4 Label: Kino Lorber Release Date: February 18, 2014 Video Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Resolution: 1080p Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Type: B&W and Color Audio Audio: French, English: LPCM 2.0 Subtitles: English Extras Le Viol du Vampire Introduction by Jean Rollin Two short films by Jean Rollin: Les Amours jaunes (The Yellow Loves, 1958, 9 min.) and Les Pays loin (The Far Country, 1965, 16 min.) Alternate version…

Review Overview

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Extras

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About Dima Ballin

Dima is the founder and publisher of Diabolique Magazine and the co-founder of the Boston Underground Film Festival. He is currently working on several screenplays and trying to attain enlightenment through Buddhism.

One comment

  1. Hi!
    How are you?
    I love soundtrack of The Shiver of the Vampires of Jean Rollin.
    It’s Psychedelic Rock sound.

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