Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vierges et vampires (1971)

... aka: Caged Vampires
... aka: Caged Virgins
... aka: Dungeon of Terror
... aka: Requiem for a Vampire
... aka: Requiem pour un vampire
... aka: Sex Vampires
... aka: Virgins and the Vampires

Directed by:
Jean Rollin


French director Jean Rollin achieved minor cult fame for a series of 'arty erotic horror' films he made in Europe from 1967 into the new millennium. I've not seen many of these, but I didn't particularly care for most of the ones I have, including the director's very first genre film THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE (1967), a jumbled mess that started as a short but was poorly bloated to feature length, and his best-circulated title ZOMBIE LAKE (1980), which is (deservedly) known as one of the worst zombie films ever produced. Requiem (one of the few Rollin films to be released theatrically in America [under the title Caged Virgins]) unfortunately does little to really change my opinion about him.





After a New Years party, Marie (Marie-Pierre Castel) and Michelle (Mireille Dargent), a pair of teenage, bisexual, pistol-packin' criminals dressed as clowns, and their male accomplice, try to evade another car during a gunfight. He suggests they turn down a dirt road before being shot and killed. The girls manage to get away, cover the car with gasoline and then set it on fire. They stop in a run-down home briefly to change into miniskirts and pigtails. One girl tempts a food truck worker with sex so she and her friend can get free french fries (?) before they head off to a graveyard to snuggle on top of a grave. When some men show up, one of the girls accidentally falls into an open grave and is almost buried alive. Some skulls and bats scare them away and they head out into the woods, eventually coming across a large, crumbling chateau. The girls locate a bed, get naked and start rubbing each other.





Upon further exploring the chateau, the girls discover skeletal monks, bloody hands protruding through the walls and a cult of aristrocratic bloodsuckers who plan on using the girls to carry on their race. Well, sort of. The sullen vampire leader (who doesn't leave the cemetery mausoleum) actually doesn't want to carry on the race, but the others do. There's one female helper (Louise Dhour) who plays the piano, can go out during the daytime and plots to use the girls to lure victims back to the chateau, as well as a female vampire (Dominique Toussaint) with plastic fangs and three thugish men who rape hairy-armpitted women chained up in a torture chamber. Rubber bats attached to victims can hypnotize them, and in one sequence a bat even attaches itself to a woman's vagina and drinks blood from there (!) The girls unsuccessfully try to escape three or four times and are eventually bitten, though it takes awhile for them to actually become vampires. Well actually, they never really do become vampires.

The film tries to establish some kind of rule about how one cannot be a vampire and a virgin simultaneously. Either way, Michelle (who takes to the vampires) and Marie (who doesn't) both seduce men wandering through the cemetery, though Marie quickly falls in love with her prey (Philippe Gasté) and doesn't want to kill him.





It's very slow-moving, thinly-plotted and often awkward, there's little dialogue and many long, unbroken takes of people walking around that last for minutes at a time. Almost nothing of note really happens during the first 40 minutes and the second half, the vampire portion, fails to provide much in the way of excitement, character insight or plot interest. Thanks to some simple red and green lighting effects, some lovely outdoor shooting locations and the occasional nice camera shot (the director does have a nice eye for framing shots and probably would have made a better still photographer than an actual filmmaker), some will undoubtedly refer to this as a work of art. Others will just see it as a flimsy, yawn-inducing, meandering excuse to feature naked, innocent-looking girls being chained up, whipped and abused. And in a way, both camps would be correct.





The DVD is from Redemption, which provides English audio or French audio with English subs options, as well as a few trailers and a stills gallery. The print quality is pretty mediocre.

★★

Thrill Killer (1965)

... aka: Follow That Skirt

Directed by:
Richard W. Bomont

Herschell Gordon Lewis began his film career making silly, harmless nudie movies before hitting upon another profitable idea - the gore film. The result was Blood Feast (1963), which (despite being awful) raked in a ton of money at drive-ins and had audiences clamoring for more gross-out flicks. Many of Lewis' films (both the nudies and his earlier gore films) were produced by a man named David A. Friedman, who also worked in other capacities (he has credits for writing and sound) on these. Though I originally had this film incorrectly credited to Lewis and Friedman because it is similar in many ways to films both were involved in around this same time, it's recently been pointed out to me that neither had a hand in the creation of this one (thanks to Casey for pointing this out!). Unlike the Lewis / Friedman films of the early 60s, which were either gore OR nudie films, this one went a step further by blending the bloodshed with the gratuitous nudity; something the initial "gore trilogy" didn't do, though Lewis would eventually mix sex 'n' violence in later films like THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972). Either way, this title doesn't appear to have been finished. It runs just under half-an-hour and there is no sound. There were probably plans of dubbing it all in later but, as is, there's a non-stop lounge music soundtrack that isn't very appropriate for the material plus some highly ridiculous and schizophrenic narration told from the point of view of the killer.



Opening with brief flashes of the killings we're about to see, plus some news headlines ("Thrill Killer!"), we meet a suit-and-sunglasses-wearing voyeuristic psycho named Dale (Dale West), who gets off on stalking and murdering attractive large-breasted women. Red-head Helen Rogers picks up her dry-cleaning, Dale sneaks a peak at her address from the receipt slip and then decides to pay poor Helen a visit. After she changes out of her clothes, she's stabbed to death. Next up is a nameless brunette, who sunbathes and is strangled after stripping down to her granny panties and changing bras. After her is a blonde. The narrator adds: "This is Betty Watson, model. She will change her clothes and lay in the sun as she's always done. Only today she will have company; a man who hates woman. Because he wants to be one himself." Yes, she does change clothes. Three different times. Finally, she gets stabbed to death in her bathtub.





Dale then returns home, where we learn he's a catty schizophrenic cross-dresser who kills women because he's jealous of how pretty they are ("Now I'll show them they're not the only ones with beauty!"). He puts on make-up, panties, a bra, stockings, a dress, a wig and wraps his head in a scarf and gets ready to head out ("There, who can tell the difference? Now I'll leave and show the world!"). As he opens the door, a cop is there waiting for him. The end. While there's the germ of a fun movie here, nudity from three decent-looking ladies and a couple of amusing moments, it's not nearly as much fun as it sounds and somehow manages to seriously drag at just 30 minutes. I couldn't imagine how grueling it would be as a full-length feature!





It's available as one of four short subjects on Something Weird's compilation DVD The Weird World of Weird. One of the other shorts is a hilariously awful 60s sitcom pilot called Rosie, which features a talking dog entering the lives of a Leave It to Beaver-style family. So why didn't it catch on? Probably because "Rosie" is played by a human (Phil Leeds) dressed in a dog costume and the costume looks like... a horrifying werewolf! Seeing a man in a shaggy suit looking through peep holes and crawling around on all fours is actually pretty damn creepy, so it's a shame this one didn't catch on. We also get a look at The Weird World of Weird, a pilot for series exploring psychic phenomena, astrology, witchcraft and the occult. It's hosted by Ralph Story and featuring special appearances by Linda Kaye Henning, Pamela Mason, Terry Moore, Criswell, Ann Francis, author Jean Rejaunier, Tige Andrews and Anton LaVey. The DVD concludes with twenty-minutes worth of footage from The Smut Peddler, a film which gained some notoriety for its trailer but is missing in its entirety.




And no, that above isn't an official poster. I just threw it together because there are no promotional materials for this one. I've read claims that the film played in only one theater in San Francisco before being stuck on a shelf somewhere. The credits also add a bit of confusion. The opening title card calls it Follow That Skirt but the closing credits call it Thrill Killer. Since Follow That Skirt reminds me too much of the Sesame Street Movie Follow That Bird, I decided to go ahead and used the other option.

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