Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Clowning around… Requiem for a Vampire (1971)

Mireille Dargen and Marie-Pierre Castel
This is one of those films I hesitate to write about… there are a couple of sections of unpleasant sexual violence that are beyond a joke. But there’s also a good deal of craft in the film which I would say rescues it from the sleaze-fest dump-bin.

The first half hour of the film passes with virtually no dialogue as we follow a couple of girls dressed as clowns, on the run from unknown assailants. They fire bullets from a car driven by a male accomplice, at their nameless pursuers and, when their driver is fatally wounded, they manage to evade their enemies and drive into a forest. They say farewell to their friend then torch both him and the car before starting a relentless run through the woods.

The women are Michelle (Mireille Dargent) and her un-named blonde friend (Marie-Pierre Castel) who it later transpires have run away from school – whether this is a reform school is not specified although the two certainly know how to handle guns.

Marie tricks an off-road vendor into following her for “favours” so that Michelle can steal them some food. Then they take a motorbike and head off further into the country. Ditching the bike they head into a cemetery for rest. Here, bizarrely, Michelle almost gets buried by two grave diggers… you wonder why she doesn’t resist or even get noticed?

This is all part of Director Jean Rollin’s intent to disorientate, and he certainly succeeds in creating a strange atmosphere that persists as the two find their way to a ruined chateau. They explore the walls of this mysterious edifice and eventually lie down on a conveniently well-made bed to demonstrate that they are more than just friends.

Disturbed by a noise elsewhere in the castle they go off to investigate, finding a group of skeletons amongst which a gaunt woman (Fiona) is playing the organ… she turns around to reveal a pair of long and unconvincing canine extensions…

It is at this point that the film descends into straight-ahead “horrotica” and euro-trashy exploitation.
The first section is mysterious with the clown costumes, the ceaseless movement and with nothing really revealed...

Now the girls are assailed not only by the lady vampire but a couple of uncouth, sex-starved acolytes who paw at them repeatedly. The girls managed to escape but only get as far as the cemetery where their way is barred by a tall greying man who, barely smiling, reveals another set of vampiric chompers.

They are taken into the crypt where the big fella bites them and renders them both in a trance whilst the men ravage two young women chained to the walls… it’s an unpleasant scene and one that goes on far too long to have any real purpose other than to titillate the lazy minded cine-perve. Any-way… turns out that this is all part of the process of degradation and transformation of the innocent into vampires.

Yet, confusingly, the old Vampire later claims that as his powers are on their final waning; only Fiona can make the ultimate transition. Never-the-less, he tries to initiate the girls and sends them off to be instructed. They are to tempt two young men into the crypt as food for the vampires and set off to entrap the young men. Michelle succeeds but Marie decides on rebellion, the vampire requires virgins for his mojo to work and so she deliberately relieves herself of this status with the help of a handsome passer-by called Frederic.

Insert "hanging around" joke here...
Now it gets confusing as Michelle’s “interview” with the vampire goes to plan but he soon realises that Marie has betrayed him. He orders Michelle to torture her into telling them where the young man is… there follows a gratuitous scene of girl-on-girl whipping which culminates in Michelle fending off Fiona and helping Marie to escape…

Frederic is captured in the crypt, the girls get their guns and set off to finish things, they gun down the animalistic men – who seem to be multiplying - but no matter, the guns have many rounds! Finally, the old vampire has had enough and orders his last remaining acolytes to let them go… the game is up and there has been too much blood-shed.

Scarier in shadow
He takes Fiona with him into the crypt and will there remain until they have both perished, at which point his legacy and enduring power over his followers will be ended… Hmm, maybe he needed some better henchmen who were given to more constructive pursuits than  puerile degradation? Just a thought…

Requiem for a Vampire is worth watching for Rollin’s stylish first half hour but it never really gets going and the story feels convoluted and very thin. The running girls are good and the atmosphere well maintained but the motivations of the vampire are hard to credit…

Dusty verdict: if it’s on late night TV give it a go… or video and FFWD through the OTT bits like I did. 

1 comment:

  1. I picked this up in the WORLD CINEMA section of my local CEX because I loved the haunting cover .. I've since discovered multiple alternate covers, all quite sleazy and some seemingly unrelated to the actual content of the movie. The movie was just as you described and I agree with your points. I did like the idea of a failing vampire struggling with the shreds of his power .. longing to continue his line, but knowing it will end in failure.