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.


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