Also well know as Virgins And Vampires and released on VHS in the U.S. by Something Weird Video under the far more exploitative Caged Virgins moniker, this earlier effort from French filmmaker Jean Rollin is high on powerful imagery, but short on linear storytelling. Basically a series of well executed dream like set pieces, Requiem For A Vampire is the story of two female thieves decked out in clown garb, on the run from the local police who are keen to catch for reason explained later in the plot. The girls end up burning their car and hiding out in a nearby French chateau (much like the character in Fascination) where they soon encounter its primary resident and his loyal cult members, who happen to be vampires. Strange imagery and gratuitous nudity ensues, followed by some reasonably well executed violence and of course, quality lesbian antics.
As it is with many of Rollin's films, there isn't a whole lot of dialogue in this movie, especially the first third, and while some might be put off by that, in a strange sort of way it enhances the experience and made it all the more surreal. Those expecting the more traditional vampire movie trappings like rampant neck biting and the like will be disappointed, as Rollin's focus here is on more macabre and erotic atmosphere than on flat out horror but there are still plenty of memorable set pieces and images to capture our imagination. While to some, scene like the one in which an obviously phony rubber bat lands on a naked woman's crotch might be laughable, somehow it fits in with the tone and unearthly vibe that Rollin manages to evoke from the rural locations and unorthodox cast.
An interesting mix between the horror films that Rollin made out of love and the sex films that he made out of financial necessity, Requiem For A Vampire aptly demonstrates his talent at filming both the horrific and the erotic. Slow moving, bizarre and at times rather ridiculous, it's an acquired taste, maybe, but definitely a unique and original work of horror/erotica blended with that odd art-house sensibility that Rollin has used to make so many of his films. This is not a good starting point for those unfamiliar with his films, but for seasoned fans of his output, it's rich with imagery and leaves itself open for much interpretation.
As a narrative piece, Requiem For A Vampire falls pretty flat on it's face, but those accustomed to Rollin's unique style will definitely still enjoy the film on a purely visual level - it simply looks beautiful. Rollin always does a good job behind the camera and while not all of his films make a lot of sense, they're always dependably well shot with excellent cinematography and moody atmospheric locations. Requiem For A Vampire illustrates these characteristics of his work very well and for that reason, comes recommended.
Noticeably cut upon its first UK home video release in 1993 by Redemption (after being flat out refused a certificate by the BBFC in 1972), this North American DVD presents the film full strength with the entire cellar scene intact (just as it was on the previous Redemption DVD distributed through Image released in .
Requiem For A Vampire is presented in a decent 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation though it is not properly flagged for progressive scan playback (a completely annoying and all too common problem with Redemption's DVDs). The image shows some minor print damage and grain throughout though color reproduction does look nice and natural. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement but the image is periodically a little bit jittery and there are some scenes with fast motion that suffer from mild motion blurring.
Requiem For A Vampire is presented in a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track with nice, easy to read English subtitles. The track is free or distortion and is quite clean. It's not reference quality but it serves the film just fine and the score has some nice resonance to it.
The biggest and best extra on this disc is an interview with actress Louise Dhour (10:06) where the actresses discusses her role in this film (her first), how she got the part, what it was like to work with Jean Rollin and the benefits of a night's worth of free champagne! Her memories are sharp, and pretty much all pleasant ones, and it's refreshing to see her discuss her love of 'fantastic films' and show some sincere appreciation for the films that she appeared in during her career. The interview, which previously appeared on the Encore special edition release of the film in Europe, is in French with optional English subtitles. Also taken from the Encore release is a collection of three alternate scenes which are essentially just clothed versions of some of the nude scenes that appear in the feature version of the film.
Rounding out the extras are English and French theatrical trailers, a still gallery of promotional photographs, Redemption contact info, and trailers for two completely unrelated Redemption DVD releases. The other extras that appeared on the Encore release, including the interview with Paul Biscigilia and the commentary from Rollin himself among others, have not been ported over to this NTSC Region 0 release.
Those who already own the Encore release aren't given any reason to bother with this NTSC re-release from Redemption but for Rollin fans who don't already own this trippy little atmospheric gem of a film, this is a considerably more affordable and likely more format friendly disc. There aren't as many extras but the transfer is an upgrade over the last North American release and the movie itself holds up very well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.