Based on their titles and descriptions, the films of Jean Rollin seem to belong firmly within the tradition of exploitative Euro-trash horror — flimsy stories and creaky effects cobbled together as an excuse for an abundance of blood and T&A. But Rollin’s films are infinitely more thoughtful and baffling than they may appear at first glance; in fact, his aesthetic is defined more by restraint than excess. The surreal trappings of Rollin’s films about vampires and cults are heightened by their deliberate pacing and poetic imagery.
In a move that will likely continue to enhance Rollin’s reputation among cinephiles, Redemption Films has teamed up with Kino Lorber for a line of Blu-ray releases under the banner The Cinema of Jean Rollin. Five of Rollin’s ’70s films have been released in this first wave and are available for purchase individually. The films are:
The Nude Vampire (1970)
The 20-something Pierre (Olivier Martin) stumbles upon a bizarre, unsavory secret society run by his industrialist father (Maurice Lemaitre), replete with a suicide cult, a captive woman and a series of experiments meant to extract the key to her immortality. Rollin’s first color film features some positively giddy uses of bright hues — the candy-colored liquids in the lab’s test tubes pop off the screen in this transfer — and some strikingly bizarre moments — an animal-head-wearing cadre chase an unfortunate woman as the film opens, plunging us into this alternate reality. Perhaps most interesting is the way the film subverts its own expected genre; The Nude Vampire seems pretty clearly to be about the powers of vampirism, but takes a turn toward science fiction in its final act.
All five releases present their films in 1080p, 1.66:1 transfers. The Nude Vampire features the aforementioned excellent colors — bright pinks, yellows and reds all are remarkably vibrant. The elements show some slight damage, and the image is not always the sharpest, but it has a pleasing, film-like look overall. All five films are afforded mono audio, and here, the quality is rather poor, with persistent hiss and the French dialogue coming off hollow. Effects and music register as overly sharp. An optional English dub is also presented.
Extras include an archival two-minute introduction by Rollin along with a 20-minute interview. Actress and long-time Rollin assistant Natalie Perrey is featured in a brief interview, and trailers for all five films are included. A substantial booklet with notes on Rollin’s career and the five films by Tim Lucas is included in each release.
The Shiver of the Vampires (1971)
Newlyweds Isla (Sandra Julien) and Antoine (Jean-Marie Durand) interrupt their honeymoon to stop by the castle home of two of Isla’s cousins, whom she hasn’t seen since they were children. Unfortunately, they’re a day late, as the caretakers inform them both died the night before. Isla is inconsolable, but she soon finds solace in the arms of a predatory lesbian vampire (Dominique). Antoine becomes desperate to leave the castle and get on with their honeymoon, but soon enough the cousins (Michel Delahaye and Jacques Robiolles) have returned, transformed from vampire hunters to vampires. The Shiver of the Vampires is often unabashedly campy, making it somewhat of an outlier compared to these other releases.