Release Date(s)1982 (May 29, 2012)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
Okay, so in case you don’t know, a “requiem” is defined as being either a Catholic mass for a dead person(s), or a musical composition (or hymn) conducted for said mass. Before you think that I’m talking down to you, or telling you something you already know, consider this: Of all the Redemption titles so far released on DVD, Requiem for a Vampire is the only one of Rollin’s films that has had more than two name changes here in the U.S. Fans of Eurosleaze (and Jean Rollin) know it best as Caged Virgins, a title given to the film by American schlock distributor Harry Novak. It’s a funny story, because Requiem was the name given the film by an American ex-patriot named Sam Selsky, who became a theater owner/importer/producer. The original shooting title for the film was Virgins and Vampires, a title Selsky hated, and ended up offering a prize to whomever could rename it. (Selsky eventually won his own prize – how did that work, do you suppose?) When he heard that Novak renamed the film Caged Virgins, he was said to mutter that he would kill Novak. Selsky then thought better of it, saying that Americans probably didn’t even know what Requiem meant anyway. So... now you know.
Requiem for a Vampire was an experiment for director/writer Jean Rollin. Remembering how (as a child) he marveled at the way campfire stories are told right on the spot, he decided that he would write a script that way. He sat down at a typewriter and started with his trademark: “Two girls named Marie and Michele…” The story started to flow, events popped into his mind and a climax was settled upon. This odd approach to screenwriting may explain why there is hardly any dialogue in the film. Although, I guess it matters little considering the dialogue isn’t very good, anyway.
The film follows the aforementioned two girls, virginal runaways, on the run from the law. We’re introduced to them dressed as clowns and in a shootout with another car that’s chasing them down. The girls end up in a castle (naturally), where they strip down and cuddle naked atop a purple fur rug. As they awake, they find themselves being chased by what must be vampires (must be, because they have two goofy fangs sticking down out of the corners of their mouths). It’s all very confusing and surreal – none of it goes anywhere, and the plot gets really silly from here. (Because the girls are virgins, they’re apparently the only ones who can save the vampires from extinction). Cheesy fun abounds as the beautiful virgins run from their tormentors (who eventually do find a torture chamber filled with buxom young victims to pillage), hang each other by chains and taunt young men in an attempt to get them to enter the castle and become food. Yes, it’s all very sexist (but it’s artfully done – though I don’t know if that redeems this flick or not). The movie itself isn’t very good in terms of horror cinema, and it’s a bit too surreal for you to walk away feeling like you enjoyed the film. Although, as a Rollin film it is Pure Rollin; full of his trademark alienation, castles, vampires and torture.
What’s exciting (for me at least) is that the film on Blu-ray is so friggin’ leaps and bounds better than the original DVD (which I believe I said in 1998 was “among the worst looking DVDs Image Entertainment has released”). And I still believe that: the original disc was horrid. This – this disc is pure magic compared to that. Showcased at 1.66:1 (encoded in 1080p) there is still some age issues present, but it’s quite similar to the age issues seen throughout these Redemption/Kino Blu-rays. There’s nice grain, no artifacts and the colors are really quite exquisite. Detail is spot-on and the blacks are solid and really pull you in. I really can’t thank Kino enough for presenting this quirky little film to us at this level of quality. Audio is a lossless mono presented both in French and an English dub – nothing to write home about, but they serve the film as best as can be expected.
The extras are also nice. We get (what is by now) the standard introduction by Jean Rollin, where he reveals his writing process. There’s a long and very informative documentary featurette entitled The Shiver of a Requiem, with interviews by Natalie Perrey and Jean-Noel Delamarre, where they discuss Rollin as a talent and friend, his work process and how grateful they are to have worked with him. There’s also an interview with actress Louise Dhour (shot before she passed away) where she talks about making the film and her first meeting with Rollin. You also get the trailer for this film, as well as the American Caged Virgins version and a handful of other Kino/Redemption Rollin releases. Plus there’s also the legendary liner notes from Video Watchdog editor-in-chief Tim Lucas, where he sheds some light on Requiem, Rape of the Vampire and The Demoniacs.
Requiem for a Vampire is a quirky film, and not for everyone – but by God it looks good. If you’re a Rollin fan, and you stayed away from the previous DVD release because you heard it looked of ass, never fear – this Blu-ray is a worthy purchase.
- Todd Doogan