Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Shiver of the Vampires (4½ Stars)

What a way to spend a honeymoon! Antoine and his wife Isle intend to travel to Italy, but they spontaneously decide to stay at the castle that belongs to Isle's cousins, who she hasn't seen since she was young. The two cousins (who aren't named in the film) used to be vampire hunters. They claim to have been the most ferocious vampire hunters in France, but they were no match for a powerful vampiress called Isolde. She captured them and turned them into vampires like herself. Now they live in their rundown castle, cut off from the world, with two female servants who offer them blood whenever they're thirsty. The cousins hate what they've become, but they accept eternal life as a compensation for their bad conscience.

But what good is eternal life if you don't have a woman? The poor cousins are surrounded by lesbians. Isolde is a lesbian and the two servants are lesbians. They find a lover in the nearby village, Isabelle, who has an affair with both of them, but Isolde doesn't approve and kills her. Isolde is a hardcore lesbian who doesn't approve of sexual relationships between men and women. Disgusting!

Isle is a good girl who has remained a virgin till her wedding night, her first night in the castle, but Isolde interrupts the occasion. She seduces Isle and the two spend the night together while Antoine has to sleep alone. Isolde tells the cousins that she will make Isle a vampire as a replacement for Isabelle, but they see through her. They know Isolde will keep Isle for herself.

The only person capable of fighting against the vampires is Antoine, but can he succeed when France's most ferocious vampire hunters failed?

This is Jean Rollin's third vampire film, and it's one of the most beautiful vampire films ever made. The cinematography and the music are amazing. Every scene is like a beautiful painting. Some scenes are absurd in the clash of images, but they are nevertheless beautiful. For instance, when we see Isle, still in her wedding dress, entering the dilapidated  castle.

Then she visits the cemetery. Even more eerie.

The film's music amazes me. It's credited to a group called Acanthus, that I was never able to locate. Today I've finally found an interview with Jean Rollin in which he talks about the band. They were a group of schoolboys, influenced by German psychedelic music. They recorded the soundtrack for the film, then they split up, finished school and went their separate ways. The music used in the film is the only recording of their collaboration. That's a shame. Considering they were still teenagers they showed a lot of promise. Their music strongly reminds me of "Yeti", recorded by Amon Düül II in 1970.

The Blu-ray release of "Shiver of the Vampires" has only been given a minimal remastering. Not much has been attempted to clean the scratches and pops on the picture. For an old, poorly stored film like this it would have cost too much. However, it's slightly better than the DVD release, so it's worth buying the Blu-ray. If you live in Europe, don't be put off by Amazon claiming it's a Region A release. I can guarantee you that all films released by Redemption Films are region free.

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