Requiem for a Vampire AKA Requiem pour un vampire (1971)
R0 - Holland - Encore Filmed Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (5th December 2005).
The Film

“Requiem for a Vampire” is the fourth movie by French director and writer Jean Rollin, and it focuses on his favourite themes, women and vampires (and better yet, women vampires). The basic story of the film is a quite straightforward, and Rollin admits that the script was basically written in two days. It started with a few images that came to Rollin's mind; Two clowns running in the countryside, and piano being played in the cemetery. Both images are indeed in the film, and the “clowns” are played by Marie-Pierre “Pony” Castel and Mireille Dargent.

The opening scene is quite memorable, like taken from the Italian police-films from the 70s. A car chase is in progress, a man is driving, and two girls are in the car. The other girl is shooting from the smashed window on the backseat. But there´s one strange thing: Both girls are dressed like a clowns. Why? Soon the man on the wheel is killed, but the girls escape to the countryside. After that the film follows the girls closely, when they wander in the forests, fields and cemeteries. A film that starts like a mysterious crime-movie, turns into a strange “road-movie” (on foot), and which finally turns into a strange gothic horror-movie. You´re in the world of Jean Rollin.

Perhaps Rollin's strongest point, the visual imagery is again rich. During roughly the first part of the film, there is basically no dialogue, so those visual images will “speak” to the viewer. Locations are real and places look beautiful but that “gothic”-feeling is present, and you´ll feel that something strange is about to happen to the girls. First hints of the “evil” comes when the girls see one tomb in the cemetery, with the skull on the top of it, and a bat flying around it. This is a turning point for the girls and the viewers also. Soon the girls find the old and deserted castle, and they are feeling quite safe there. Safe, until they´ll meet the “old” vampire (Philippe Gasté) and his vampire community, and they have some plans for the girls…

One thing that comes to mind while watching this movie is that several scenes happen in the daylight. Since this is still considered as being a “vampire-movie”, you could assume that this would take some effectiveness away from these scenes. Rollin uses his (often limited) resources quite well though, so his actors and images bring that “gothic”-feeling that is needed even when it´s daytime. He creates atmosphere from the small things, but often it works. Then when we get to the scenes at the end of the film where there´s almost pitch black (the action is lit well enough though, and that piano is in the cemetery), it gives a nice contrast to the film, since there are some important scenes in the end, and you´ll remember them partly because the visual imagery is different from the rest of the movie. Old, a bit of a tired vampire, adds a certain sadness to his character, and in the end is a very important factor for the film as a whole.

Certain erotic tones are also present, even some bondage and whipping, but Rollin's films are still not quite “exploitation” after all, since he has that certain, “dreamlike” style of filmmaking in many of his movies. In “Requiem for a Vampire” he also uses strong colors in selected scenes, which again make those scenes more memorable, and also haunting. Like Rollin had planned, one incident happens to the girls after another, and almost without the dialogue the story goes forward. Some scenes are not very well explained and a few scenes feel a bit silly, but in the end we have many of those elements that you´re used to seeing in a film by Rollin: a memorable pair of girls in the lead, haunting images, great looking locations, and vampires. You could do worse.

Oh, and why those clown-suits? This will be explained during the castle-scenes, so you better see the film for yourself to resolve this Rolllin-ish mystery..

Video

“Requiem for a Vampire” is a second CE-release by the Dutch company “Encore Filmed Entertainment”, and it´s a solid presentation for the Rollin-fans. Now it should be noted, that we´re talking about the small budget movie from the early 70s, so the comparison with the newer films and DVDs would be a bit pointless. So like many DVD-releases from these type of European films, image looks quite nice and has many advantages, but it could be better. This mainly means, that many times transfers are taken from a good source (also from the original negatives), but they lack that full restoration that bigger companies can do more easily. This is the case here also. Big question then is, that is the “great transfer” only the one that has been fully restorated, and how do you call a transfer that is clearly better than the previous releases, but not quite in that “great level”?

Babbling aside, image is Anamorphic 1.78:1, in a single layer disc. The strong colors and quite deep black levels welcome you to the transfer from the start, and grain is not a problem. What you´ll also see from the start is that the image has some film artifacts (dirt and such) basically throughout the transfer (there are also some very clean scenes). Further more if you look at the image closely, it´s a bit “restless”. Line shimmering is noticeable in some areas (good example is the shirt of the other girl, which has some horizontal lines) and black areas tend to “live” in some degree. These issues probably would´ve been a slightly better, if “Encore” would´ve used “Dual Layer”-disc to get the bitrate higher (maybe those improvements would´ve still been quite marginal, not sure). My 2 cents would be, that “Encore” could use Dual layer-discs in their future releases, since they´re kind of standard practice anyway these days.

Fair is still fair, and I have to say that e.g. the older US-release by “Image Entertainment” looked rather bad (also Non-anamorphic) compared to this transfer, and do I have to say that both UK-releases are badly cut by the BBFC. I can fully recommend this release for the fans of Jean Rollin, since in the end this is a good transfer of this film. Single Layer disc is R0, the film runs 83:17 minutes. It has 12 chapters.

Audio

This film is a rare one by Rollin, since it was dubbed in English. Disc includes both French and English tracks, and they´re Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Again, “Encore” has also included several foreign subtitles, 11 of them: English, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Polish. If this list of subtitles doesn´t help in some degree to get the Rollin-films more known to the foreign countries, then I don´t know what does. Very nice.

I listened the original French soundtrack, and sampled the English one. French-track is not as clean as it could´ve been, and you ´ve some “hiss” in the background. It´s not that annoying, and soon you probably won´t notice it, unless you really start to listen, but it´s clearly still there. English-track is cleaner in some ways, and it´s generally in a lower level than the French-track. Since there isn´t a huge amount of dialogue, the English-track holds up quite well, but the French-track is the one to go for in this one. Like is often the case in the older movies, the music seems to be in a higher level than dialogue, but this is probably how it was mixed in the first place. The audio does its job with this film, but nothing more.

Extras

Like the earlier “Demoniacs”-release, “Requiem for a Vampire” is a 3-disc set, packaged in a classy foldout Digi-pack, which is placed in a sturdy cardboard Slip cover. Along with the discs there´s a 64-page book in English. Again, why not release this as a 2-disc set (in “Dual layer”-discs, with extras on “Disc 2”), but I guess that additional disc won´t hurt.

Disc 1
First disc has the film in Anamorphic 1.78:1. Only extra is a film introduction by Jean Rollin, and it runs 7:18 minutes. Rollin speaks English (no subtitles), and this is basically a brief interview with Rollin about the film. Sound has some echo, which indicates that the mic choice was not quite correct during the recording of this interview.

Disc 2

Second disc starts with two interviews, both of which are in French, and with optional English subtitles. First interview -featurette is from the actress Louise Dhour, recorded in Paris, May 2005. It runs 10:06 minutes, and a bit of an eccentric Dhour speaks about her first film and all 3 films that she made with Rollin, and also about his pre-movie career as a pianist/singer. Dhour is often a bit brief with her comments, but you can tell that she is an artist, even if she doesn´t act anymore.

Other interview -featurette is from the actor Paul Bisciglia, recorded also in Paris, August 2005. It´s longer, 16:24 minutes, but a lot of time is focused on the “Demoniacs AKA Les Démoniaques”. Bisciglia is mainly talking about the plot of that film and is showing his photos from the set. You could say that he speaks a lot, but it felt that he didn´t remember that much from the “Requiem for a Vampire” (then again he did have a rather small part of the movie). Bisciglia has worked quite a lot in a movies and TV, so he probably have some better stories on his sleeve than the ones from Rollin-films. Still, nice addition.

Last featurette is about the Jean Rollin himself, and it´s in English, and with optional English subtitles (which come in handy, since Rollin´s accent is kind of thick). It runs 8:54 minutes, and it starts with a brief interview with Rollin, where he speaks about his writing-career, mainly about his novels and short stories. After a few minutes Rollin reads one of his own short stories called “Le Dernier Livre AKA The Last Book”. I did enjoy this featurette, since unlike the other featurettes, this one is actually edited, so you´ll have some nice cut away shots from the room (which always make the difference to me).

Lastly there are two Theatrical trailers, one in French (3:00 min), and the other in English (2:59 min). Both are basically identical, except that both have “tag lines” in their own languages.

Disc 3

This release also has a audio commentary with director/writer Jean Rollin and the moderator, in English (no subtitles). It covers only 22:42 minutes of the movie, and this includes roughly 8 scenes (or part of the scenes). Film is shown as non-Anamorphic. Rollin speaks about his original ideas that started the process of this film, tones of the film and he also gives a few interesting anecdotes (gravediggers in the film were real gravediggers, and that his producers always wanted some erotic scenes in the film). In the end this is not very essential extra, but well worth to listen..

For the different markets (to avoid the possible censorship), some alternate “clothed scenes” were filmed. Three Alternate scenes are included here (in Anamorphic 1.78:1, in French and no subtitles):
1) Girl in the bed, after they arrive in the castle (0:20 seconds).
2) Actor Paul Bisciglia is chasing the girl (1:28 minutes).
3) Whipping scene in the end (1:05 minutes).
Deleted and alternate-scenes are always great to have, and these are also interesting. Let´s hope that “Encore” will search these types of scenes to their future Rollin-releases also.

Last extra on the disc is a Photo gallery, which runs 8:15 minutes. This time some proper “Behind-The-Scenes” and location-photos are included, and even some lobby cards (where are the poster and video art, since those are always fun to have). Since the photos are presented in Anamorphic 1.78:1, I assume that some cropping have been done, but this is a minor issue.

64-page Book in English is also included, which includes color and b&w photos, along with an essay on the film by Rollin (June 2005) with interesting stories, and the short story “Le Dernier Livre AKA The Last Book” (same one which Rollin reads in the “Disc 2”). There´s also a bibliography of books and publications by Rollin. Like the last time, book is that icing on the cake with this release, and I hope that “Encore” will keep these books included in the following Rollin-releases also.

Overall

“Requiem for a Vampire” seems to be one of the Rollin´s favourite films, and like he says, it´s made with “no intellectual reflection, no intentional symbolism”, just a real “B-movie”. Well, I´m sure that fans don´t fully agree with this (since the film has plenty to offer), but you could say that this film is not a bad way to get to know Rollin, if you haven´t seen his films.

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

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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