The Nude Vampire:
Ahh, Eurotrash, the pejorative that ruffles no feathers (at least where movies are concerned); fans love it, sane folks have never heard of it. For those not in the know, Eurotrash movies flourished from the '60s to the '80s, made on The Continent, these films were generally concerned with sex and death in various configurations. A lot of nominal auteurs flexed oodles of style (and little sense) with impunity by littering (or promising to) litter the screen with blood and breasts. Jean Rollin is a chief exemplar of the Eurotrash brand, and his 1969 effort The Nude Vampire is a shiny example of all that is good and bad in that sullied cinematic land.
It's nearly beside the point to lay out any sort of plot for The Nude Vampire. There really isn't any. Near as I can tell, a wealthy man and a few of his bored pals cook up a bogus suicide cult to amuse themselves while trying to scientifically explain vampirism. Bored man's son Pierre gets mixed up in things, falling in love with the titular vampire and forcing his dad's hand, before everyone walks through the curtain into an alternate reality to learn the truth. Or something.
As a Eurotrash purveyor, Rollin's weakness is that he hasn't an interesting story to tell, and if he does, he buries it under such an avalanche of faux-debauched, somnambulistic style that any dream-like state you might wind up in is entirely unintentional. At least that's the case with The Nude Vampire. Story-wise, Rollin ultimately gives his own game away at the end in a scene strongly reminiscent of the ending of Casablanca. As two vamp-sci conspirators stagger into the forest, one asks the other "did you understand any of this?" "No, not really," the other replies as they then go on to try to explain the movie to each other. While appreciated, such explicatory asides shouldn't be necessary.
No mistake, Rollin concocts, a lush, decadent experience rife with striking, expressionist imagery, miles of red velvet and gorgeous locations. Opening scenes of a young couple stalked through shadowy alleys by creepy dudes with masks and antlers have a primordial power. However the boggled 'story' then gets played out with alternating scenes of weird looking chicks dancing in spiked pasties, or the dad and his two goofy cohorts placing red hoods on people or being chased around by a vampiric dork and his silent, torch-wielding crew of goons through lovely castles and countryside - all at a very slow pace. Everything looks great (assured and well framed) and drips style, but the slow pace, dearth of plot, boobs and blood (far less than one would hope for in a movie of this ilk) ultimately ranks The Nude Vampire as one of Rollin's lesser efforts.
Salvation / Redemption films gives us a mixed bag with The Nude Vampire. It's nice to see it on DVD - presented in the billed 'widescreen aspect ratio.' This ratio appears to be in the neighborhood of 1.48:1 or thereabouts. Not fullscreen, but not really widescreen - it didn't cooperate nicely with my 16 x 9 screen and had to be viewed with side bars to see the full image, which was otherwise quite nice. Clear, clean and sharp for a movie almost 40-years old, Nude Vampire sports nice bold colors, (dig that red velvet) deep shadows and very little film grain or damage. Pity the flesh on display doesn't do this transfer justice.
Digital Audio processing is a mystery, with no information given on the package. The audio is clear, highlighting the spooky avant-garde soundtrack (a high point of the film actually) and dialogue, which is dubbed - no French dialogue or subtitles are available. The dubbed gunshots are a real low point.
Salvation / Redemption have gone to lengths to make this look like a special-edition release, but other than the fact that The Nude Vampire is on DVD, not much makes this disc stand out. Primarily, the inclusion of a Jean Rollin Short Film (of about 10-minutes) titled Les Amours Jaunes is included, with original French Audio and subtitles. This short subject is almost like a poem, with a voice over telling an abstract tale of a lonely man who is seen hanging out on Rollin's favorite desolate beach - a dramatic landscape that features in The Nude Vampire as well as other Rollin features. Additionally, two versions of the Original Trailer (French and English) accompany Trailers for three other Salvation / Redemption releases. A paper-thin still-shots Satanic Sluts Book Teaser accompanies a four-shot Stills Gallery for The Nude Vampire, and a seven-shot Stills Gallery for the short feature. Considering the fact that the stills galleries and book teaser are essentially non-existent, and that the trailers are pretty much standard equipment, it's a pretty light set of extras.
Jean Rollin's The Nude Vampire is slow, stylish, stingy with the Eurotrash goods and largely incomprehensible - not one of his better movies. Combined with few extras, and a brief 80-minute running time that's inflated to almost 90-minutes on the DVD box, this is a good genre effort to pass on. Only hardcore Rollin fans will even be interested in seeking this out, and even they would be better off renting rather than buying this edition. Considering its limited universal appeal, even this Eurotrash enjoyer must advise the general populace to Skip It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com