Rape of the Vampire (The) AKA Le Viol du vampire (1967)
R0 - Holland - Encore Filmed Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (15th August 2008).
The Film

French “gothic vampire”-auteur, director/writer/producer Jean Rollin started his career like many others before him: with a series of short films. This was originally also the case with his first feature film “The Rape of the Vampire AKA Le Viol du vampire (1967)”, shot in B&W. The first part of the film - “Le Viol du vampire: Mélodrame en deux parties” (…”two part melodrama”) runs approx. 31 minutes and was meant to be shown together with the American film “Dead Men Walk (1943)” in France (since also the American counterpart was relatively short, around an hour). With the help of producer Sam Selsky (who got interested in this new director, making films with pretty much nothing), the film eventually got its “second act” called “Deuxieme Partie - Les Femmes Vampires” (“The Vampire Women”). This second part is often referred as “La Reine Des Vampires” by Rollin, but that is not the on-screen title (both parts have their own credits).

Since the latter part of the film wasn´t originally “meant to be”, its connections to the “Le Viol du vampire” were rather vague and often silly. It´s not really a surprise that the audience - let alone the critics, didn´t really “get” the film. Many were even offended and angry in the theatres, since they felt cheated. What was a surprise was the fact that the film was still a minor success in France, partly due to the student riots and turmoil at that time in Paris (there weren´t that many films available). Experimental, incomprehensible and stupid? …or just refreshingly different, challenging and moody? Whatever the truth is, Rollin got his first feature film and didn´t really look back after that (at least through the 1970s).

In the first act “Le Viol du vampire”, the film (back-story is mostly told by the “lord of the castle”, along with confusing flashback sequences) introduces four vampire sisters in the old castle near the village (and sea, apparently). One of them (Nicole Romain) is blind due to events that happened 60 years ago. The sisters are now warned that three strangers are coming to the castle. These “strangers” are actually a young psychoanalyst Thomas (Bernard Letrou), with his friend Mark (Marco Pauly - also Rollin´s assistant in the film), along with Mark´s wife Brigitte (Catherine Deville). Thomas is a man of science, so he firmly believes that the “vampire sisters” (among Romain, including actresses Solange Pradel and Ursule Pauly) are only vampires in their own minds. They´re just mentally ill and with some time and care in the castle, he could cure them. Too bad that the idealistic Thomas has a complicated task ahead of him. What if the girls are really undead creatures? Who´s the mysterious lord of the castle, who seems to have some control over the women? Is Thomas about to fall in love with one of the sisters? Time is running out, since the hostile villagers are already quite restless and willing to destroy the infamous sisters - once and for all.

If the first part of the film has a subtle gothic atmosphere, visual eye-candy and lovely female vampires, the second act “Deuxieme Partie - Les Femmes Vampires” does a pretty good job of confusing the last remaining viewers still clinging on with the story. It still has some female vampires again, but this time added with all sorts of foolishness. “La Reine Des Vampires” - Vampire Queen (Jacqueline Sieger) - along with her diabolic servants (including a “funny bearded” Alain Yves Beaujour) are entering the scene and with the Queen, some already dead characters are not that dead anymore (like Rollin explains in the audio commentary, the Queen was partly created to “justify” certain issues in the story). We start off from the familiar Trouville beach shore, but soon the story moves to the bleak hospital clinic environment, where a certain doctor (Jean-Loup Philippe - billed at the credits as “Eric Yan”, since he was worried the film would harm his reputation) is trying to find the “secret of vampirism” - with the help of her dark haired and very beautiful “nurse” (Ariane Sapriel). These experiments includes cold hospital corridors, big jars of blood and of course some nude women on the operating table.

Due to the slightly increased budget (not much, but still), the “act two” gains some more variety and surprises - with a bit more “professionalism” (when it comes to e.g. set design and technical issues), but it mostly loses the atmosphere built in the first part of the film. “Act two” has a group of scenes that don´t blend very well together and they certainly don´t always make sense. The whole film just becomes odd and surrealistic, but not nearly always in a good way. Granted, the hospital scenes have some coldness and isolation to them and there are scenes (e.g. with the car and hearse) that feel almost like a unique “vampire road movie”, but adding some already dead characters from the “first act” just confuses the audience more than anything else (and it´s clear that Rollin didn´t always know what to do with them). The music will also change, since now the often cacophonic “free jazz” from François Tusques (one of the pioneers of the “genre” in France) and the band fills the movie. I have nothing against jazz, but I´m not entirely sure how well this type of music blends in with the general atmosphere of the film. During the wild ending sequence (like it was taken from a bad TV-series) it kind of “fits in”, though.

Generally the melancholy and almost sad vampires (who are not that bloodthirsty after all), with the intriguing story from the “first part” are replaced with non-interesting vampires, stereotypical characters, confusing scenes and needless nudity. After all this, it´s easy to forget that the first part was actually pretty good in its own way. History has also shown us that its themes and the visual imagery was what Rollin loved and continued to cherish in his later films. Sad vampires, gothic castles and doomed, yet everlasting love. What could be better?

Video

Dutch company “Encore Filmed Entertainment” presents the film in Anamorphic 1.78.1. Whilst I´m fully aware that we´re talking about the low budget film from the late 1960s, the transfer ultimately looks restless. It´s from a decent source, but still not fully “remastered”. There is some print damage, along with some odd film artifacts and dirt. Some edge enhancement, line shimmering and compression issues are also sadly present. The film is shot in B&W, looking slightly “washed” and grainy in places, but the black levels are generally still pretty good. Again, it´s hard to tell how much actually originates from the low budget filmmaking (e.g. issues of softness) and I doubt that “The Rape of the Vampire” is a film that looks fully pristine in the first place. It´s also good to remember that this seems to be one of the few anamorphic-transfers of the film so far and it looks fairly good when no artifacts are presents. Good, but hardly perfect.

Based on the screencaps found from the DVDBeaver-site, the 1.78:1-transfer is slightly “stretched” from the 1.66:1 aspect ratio (still adding a sliver more information on the sides compared to 1.66:1), but quite frankly you probably need this type of comparison to fully tell. At least I didn´t really notice it during the film, probably also because the transfer has minor other issues as well. Some sources list 1.66:1 (e.g. IMDB) as OAR.

The DVD includes a fully uncut version of the film, running 90:46 minutes (PAL). This means that a few scenes of nudity are intact, as well as the “torture scene” (some minor “whipping” and such) with the tied and naked actress Ariane Sapriel (Rollin calls it a “big scene” for her in the audio commentary). Some DVDs apparently include “clothed takes” on certain scenes (at least the “scalpel scene”, where the woman rises from the operation table with her upper stomach “open”) and French censors required some cuts to the film when it came out (apparently the uncut-version was still shown in several theatres).

Note that sadly the “censored scenes” in the extras don´t include any alternate “clothed takes”, since they´re merely a few scenes after minor censorship (don´t show those “bare bottoms”, Jean!). “Dual layer” disc (barely, 4.81gb) is coded “R0” and has 8 chapters.

Audio

The film includes the original French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and optional English, Dutch and German subtitles (less than in the earlier Rollin-releases from the company). As is probably expected, the track has some background hiss, but the dialogue is clear and e.g. the music can be quite powerful (even with some distortion in some of the scenes). Acceptable track - nothing more and nothing less.

Extras

The 2-disc set is packaged in a foldout digi-pack, which is placed in a cardboard slip cover. Along with the discs, there´s a 32-page book in English. Apparently the release is limited to 2 000 copies (based on some sources).

DISC 1

Along with the film, the first disc includes also audio commentary with director/writer/producer Jean Rollin (in French, with optional English subtitles). Rollin is always a pleasure to listen in his commentaries, especially since “Encore” has made a wise decision and recorded the track in his native language. It´s also true that you understand the story much better after this commentary, since Rollin is shedding some (needed) light to many of the scenes. Basically you can find many similar anecdotes from the liner notes in the booklet, but I can still very much recommend listening to this commentary. There´s only one Rollin.

The director picks up the speed right away, since he´s talking about the improvised opening sequence before the actual credits (all the copies of the script were lost at that time!), then the “erotic scene” (blind vampire and unknown man caressing her) after the opening credits (it was added later to the film) and about the “first” duel sequence (from the medieval times) of the film (it was part of the back story of the vampires). He talks about the story, characters and of course actors (he points out several names). In the first story, the location was a real, rundown castle and most of the exterior scenes were just shot around it (it had great landscapes). Most actors and also technicians were just beginners and amateurs (Rollin uses the term “acting students”) and many scenes were improvised. There are also a few “tracking shots” in the movie and those were also made via improvising (no proper “dolly tracks” or anything). Generally Rollin seems to be quite at peace with his debut film, accepting (and admitting) that it can be confusing and difficult, but still a “bizarre blend” of the storylines, themes, and images that he used many times in his later movies. He also tells that dividing the film in two “parts” gave it a “serial film”-feel, which was Rollin´s intention with it.

The second part of the film starts from his beloved beach at Trouville-sur-Mer, France (again the place where Rollin shot many scenes during his career). The conditions were quite windy, which made the shooting difficult and producer Selsky wanted some “naked women” to the movie every once in a while (full nudity was forbidden at that time, though). It´s no surprise that the scenes at the beach look a bit chaotic. The story then moves to the hospital environment, and we learn that those scenes were shot in the real mental hospital (where they also found the “lead” actress Jacqueline Sieger, since she had an administrative job at the hospital). Again, Rollin shares some interesting anecdotes for this 2-day shooting period. He also tells that Jean-Loup Philippe (playing the “doctor”) was the only “real actor” in the movie, who got very suspicious when seeing the unprofessional crew and odd scenes he had to do (eventually he pulled his real name from the credits). Often the crew shot everything on “one take”, since they didn´t have that much film stock. At one time Rollin had to leave the set for a few days to collect his unemployment benefits (that anecdote already tells quite a lot about the low budget-nature of the production). Eventually the director also talks about the music of the film by “free jazz”, avant-garde musician François Tusques, dealing with the censors (they cut a few scenes originally, but the “uncut”-version was still shown in several theatres) and also about the premiere of the film, with extreme audience reactions (there were riots even), probably leading to the student and factory worker “uprising” in 1968´s Paris.

DISC 2

-French theatrical trailer (4:23 minutes) has no subtitles, but then again it doesn´t include any narration (some dialogue, though).

-“L'histoire de La Nuit des horloges” -featurette (22:29 minutes) is basically an interview with Rollin (in French, with optional English subtitles), where the French director talks about his latest (and apparently last) film. “La Nuit des horloges (2007)” is closing a circle, since it´s a blend of the new and the old material (from his previous films). It´s also a film Rollin produced and financed on his own. He shot some of the scenes in the “Museum of Zoology and Natural History - La Specola" in Florence, Italy in one camera and also e.g. in the “burnt forest” near Paris and in Limoges, France. He also talks about some of the problems of the look of his leading actress (ex-porn star Ovidie), who had a child during the project, changed her hair color, etc. As expected, Rollin shot the film over a period time in sections (he had to gather more money every once in a while), and it took some time before the film was actually finished. We see some excerpts from the movie.

-Photo gallery (divided to two “chapters” - 6:23 min/9:29 min) includes “behind-the-scenes” photos and stills from the film in B&W. Haunting jazz music plays in the background. Great collection of photos.

-“Interview - Jacqueline Sieger - La Reine Des Vampires” -featurette runs 14:07 minutes and is in French (with optional English subtitles). In this interview (conducted in spring, 2007 in Paris), good spirited Sieger tells about her background (movie critic and journalist for some years, then working at the psychiatric hospital during the film), the general atmosphere at the time (people wanted to experiment in the fields of art, so that´s why even the shy woman like Sieger got involved in acting) and of course her experience of playing the “evil queen” in the film (she was “attracted” to the powerful role, remembers the “knife licking”-scene and created her own costumes from the flea markets). Rollin is also in the room and chimes in every once in a while. Sieger reveals that Rollin didn´t direct that much of her character and talks about those riots outside the cinema. In the end, Sieger was more interested in literature and other things, not that much on cinema after all.

-“Interview - Alain Yves Beaujour” -featurette runs 20:04 minutes (in French, with optional English subtitles) and it´s also conducted in spring, 2007 in Paris. Beaujour (who plays the bearded servant of the Vampire Queen) already worked with Rollin in his early “Les Pays Loins (1965)" -short film and had also done some work as an assistant cameraman. He also says that he wasn´t really an “actor” in the strongest sense of the word, since he was merely there to make “a few small appearances” when Rollin needed help (in “The Rape of the Vampire”, he did many bits and pieces, including writing - and re-writing some dialogue, directing the “vampire duel” in the first part of the film and being the “set dresser/designer”). It generally wasn´t any “traditional filmmaking”; since they had very little money, they were always behind schedule, shooting days and nights with very little sleep and finding solutions to small problems all the time. He now says that he has “no career” and that he mainly does some writing and directing in the documentary field. Again, Rollin gives some comments from the background. My favourite interview on the disc.

-“Interview - François Tusques - Music Composer La Reine Des Vampires” -featurette runs 13:30 minutes. It´s again in French (with optional English subtitles) and conducted in spring, 2007. It´s with the composer François Tusques, who provided the “free jazz” score to the second act of the film (his band also plays in one of the scenes near the end). He and Rollin met through a common friend, but during the production Tusques had very limited contact with the director (he mainly worked with the editor). The music was very much improvised and experimental (still mostly centering around one theme). Tusques doesn´t remember that much about the production, but seems to be quite passionate toward film music in general (so we hear his thoughts about various aspects). Now he has done some music for TV and documentaries. This same score was apparently later re-used in “The Nude Vampire AKA La Vampire nue (1970)”.

-Censored Scenes includes two scenes (no subtitles). I guess these are included to show two examples of French censorship at the time. There are no liner notes about them, though.

1 - This scene runs 1:14 minutes and happens when Mark, along with the “village idiot” and producer Sam Selsky (making a cameo as one of the villagers), enters the room (someone from the crew is also seeing briefly in the background). Thomas lies on the floor and one of the vampire sisters is watching. “Village idiot” then “rips” (well, mostly it just falls) part of the nightgown from the vampire woman (glimpse of nudity, along with one “jump cut”) and Selsky also attacks with his wooden club (he and the woman disappear out of the frame). Mark then helps Thomas to stand up and the latter one gives a brief monologue.

It seems that the version here omits (hence the “jump cut”) the brief shot of the bare bottom of the vampire woman (during the harassment from the village idiot) compared to the actual film.

2 - This scene runs 1:10 minutes and it´s the “torture scene” with the naked actress Ariane Sapriel, feeling the wrath of the Vampire Queen. First the vampire servants tie her up, place the hoods over their heads and then the bright light is aimed to Sapriel (who screams in terror). The scene then briefly cuts to the shore where Sapriel is whipped, then cuts back to the dungeon, then back to the shore, where the actor Alain Yves Beaujour is laughing and with the other girl, moves to whip Sapriel. The scene then cuts to the odd “glass house” where Sapriel still screams - and again, back to the shore and to the “glass house”. Finally, there´s a close up of silent Sapriel.

I didn´t made any “frame-to-frame”-comparison, but the version here at least omits the wide, “bare bottom”-shot of Sapriel during the whipping on the shore.

-Bonus trailers are including the following French Rollin-trailers (all available from “Encore” and recommended):
*”Demoniacs AKA Les Démoniaques (1973)” (2:57 min)
*”The Shiver of the Vampires AKA Le Frisson des vampires (1971)” (3:59 min)
*”The Night of the Hunted AKA La Nuit des traquées (1980)” (3:16 min)
*”The Living Dead Girl AKA La Morte vivante (1982)” (1:24 min)

-32-page booklet (in English) includes “Le Viol du vampire” liner notes by Jean Rollin, with B&W photos.

Overall

“The Rape of the Vampire” will probably leave the viewer a bit puzzled after the end credits in more ways than one: Was it any good? What was it? After the good and interesting first part, the film and the story get hopelessly lost, giving a fatal blow to the overall mood. Even the “second part” has its moments, but not enough to repair the damage. This reviewer´s advice is that it´s probably best to enjoy the first part of the film and then kind of switch your brain in another direction when the latter part begins. You only do harm for yourself trying to connect all the loose knots of the story between the two sections. It can´t be done. Like Rollin says, the film is a bit like a “serial”, having two stories, with vague connections to each other. It´s probably best to see them as a “two different films”. “Encore” has again delivered a great package of extras, only the transfer itself leaves something to be desired. That being said, this is still the best option to see the debut (feature) film of Jean Rollin and hear all the anecdotes behind it. Recommended.


For more info, please visit the homepage of Encore Filmed Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.