Several years ago, there was a stage production of "The Elephant Man", in which the actor portraying John Merrick did not wear any make-up. The audience had to imagine that this actor was actual a person with severe deformities. Now, imagine what would happen if a group of thespians decided to make a movie in which several plain-looking actors portrayed monsters. That's what we get with the bizarre and confusing "Fiancee of Dracula" from French director Jean Rollin.
(The following synopsis may sound unrealistic, but I promise that this is what the movie is about.)
The Professor (Jacques Regis) and his assistant Eric (Denis Tallaron) are on the trail of the infamous Count Dracula (Thomas Desfosse) (I think). Their search leads them to a sect of nuns who are housing an insane woman named Isabelle (Cyrille Iste), who is said to be Dracula's future bride. A dwarf named Thibault (Thomas Smith), who is in love with a female vampire (Sandrine Thoquet), takes Isabelle from the convent, so that she can meet with Dracula.
This forces The Professor and Eric to give chase, leading them into a strange land. Here, they an ogress (Magalie Aguado) and a she-wolf (Brigitte Lahaie), who are part of a group who are determined for Isabelle to become betrothed to the master. The Professor (who suddenly becomes psychic) realizes that he and Eric must save Isabelle from the Prince of Darkness.
"Fiancee of Dracula" is either a work of sheer genius or a low-budget mess. I'm leaning towards the latter. As alluded to above, none of the "monsters" in the film look any different from average people, save for the fact that the female vampire has on make-up to make her appear more pale. The ogress and the she-wolf are simply women in dresses. (Although, the ogress has a hard time keeping her top up.) It could argued that this is simply symbolism, but I say it has more to do with the fact that costumes and make-up weren't readily available. Maybe I'm jaded, but a woman saying "I'm an ogress!" isn't all that scary. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the local Halloween-time haunted house.
And then, we have the story. "Fiancee of Dracula" might be watchable if one approaches from a very surrealistic and dream-like perspective. If you're looking for a coherent story, you're going to be sorely disappointed. As with Argento's "Suspiria", the movie unfolds with the logic of a nightmare, and there are many images that don't necessarily contribute to a cohesive story, such as the random shots of a woman playing violin. But, unlike "Suspiria", nothing interesting really happens in "Fiancee of Dracula" and the mish-mash of classic monsters and fairy-tale creatures, combined with the wooden acting, makes the film laughably absurd at times.
Still, those who don't demand logic, story, or production values may enjoy "Fiancee of Dracula".
For this DVD release, "Fiancee of Dracula" has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Given the obvious low-budget nature of the film, this transfer looks pretty good, and the bitrate is consistently high throughout. The picture is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and some minor artifacting at times. Also, some scenes are somewhat dark. Otherwise, the colors are very good, most notably the green countryside, and there is little evidence of edge enhancement.
This disc features two audio tracks, both presented in Dolby Digital mono. Here we get the original French language track, as well as a newly created English dubbed track. The French track provides clear dialogue and shows little evidence of hissing or distortion. The English track suffers from a low-level hiss and there are noticable gaps in the audio. The film's orchestral music sounds fine on both tracks.
The "Fiancee of Dracula" features a 10-minute interview with director Jean Rollin where he basically discusses only the cast of "Fiancee of Dracula". He doesn't talk about the story (?!) or the making of the film. This interview is strangely lacking when compared to the much longer chat with the director found on the "Two Orphan Vampires" DVD. Also included in the extras is the trailer for "Fiancee of Dracula", which is letterboxed at about 1.70:1. There are also bonus trailers for "Zombi 3", Sweet House of Horrors", "House of Clocks", and "House on the Edge of the Park". (That's a lot of houses.)
Jean Rollin appears to have a natural talent for two things: taking advantage of the natural beauty of France and it's architecture, and convincing women to take their clothes off on film. Otherwise, his films are merely curiosity pieces, filled with bizarre characters and meandering stories.