Wealthy and decadent industrialist Georges Radamante rules over a strange secret suicide cult and wants to achieve immortality by figuring out a way to share the biochemistry of a young ... See full summary »
Early slice of oddball wonderment from the wondrous Jean Rollin
Shiver of The Vampires is a pivotal Rollin work, imperfect but clearly building to his later greatest work. The film lacks a tad in the beauty of his later classics, but is still finely spun, compelling in its images and characters, with intriguing plotting and dialogue. The story tells of two newlyweds who head to a castle, hoping to find the cousins of the young brides. Instead they arrive to hear the news of her cousins death, and then come across vampires, two unnamed gentlemen of the night and the strangely seductive Isolde, who provides several memorable scenes with her powers of teleportation. And things go on from here, I won't say any more. Though the direction isn't especially dynamic the film has much aesthetic appeal, good use of primary colors in nighttime scenes and some inspired set decoration, as well as cool garments for the characters (with the two vampire gentlemen especially dapper and a couple of thin and flimsy gowned servant girls). And while there are a few too many static shots some of the camera moves are somewhat sweet, some nice tracking shots and a cool swinging motion between two faces as the two male vampires talk of their history. The score works very nicely with the direction for the most part, an ever active prog rock marvel from a band called Acanthus, sweetly tailored to fit every scene and quintessentially early 70's. The film gets good mileage out of some delving into its mythology, explanations and explanation are still pretty thin, but present in just the right portions to provoke delightfully tantalising interest. There is an effective quantity of nudity and lesbianism, though it tends not to be erotic due the dislocated atmosphere. Next to nil in the arena of blood and gore but it doesn't really matter. In its capacity as a fascinating and potent trip though, the film does a bang up job. Sandra Julien is gracefully appealing as the young heroine, whilst Jacques Robiolles and Michel Delahaye strike a perfect note of offbeat comic eccentricity as the two vampire gents. Jean Marie Durand hits the spot as a typical helpless male, two delightful maids are essayed by Marie-Pierre Castel and Kuelan Herce, while perhaps most interesting of all is the simply named Dominique (whose sole other credit is another Rollin film) as the imperious, sinister yet engaging Isolde, made up to look cadaverous but nonetheless exerting a certain netherworld attraction. These characters rub together in ever watchable fashion and the film even achieves something of an actual meaning, a clear sense of purpose that gives the balmy surrealism all the more heft by the end. Though open to argument, the film seems concerned with issues of control on an intimate, personal level. Control both romantic and more simply sexual, control exerted by fate, by ones masters or by way of class division, its all about control, its shortcomings and its failure. Or one could just take it for a weird film, it doesn't force any interpretation but the potential is there. Altogether I found this film pretty darned great, if not my favorite from Rollin. Lacking in the morbid reverence of his later work, marginally less beauteously sensual and a little head scratching at times, its definitely a film for prior initiates to Rollin's realm rather than newcomers. It won't change the mind of anyone who dislikes him either, but if you don't like him and you're still reading this, don't you have better things to do? Unmissable for Rollin-philes, cautiously recommended to others then.
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