Also well known 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, 1973's Requiem For A Vampire is the story of two female thieves named Marie and Michelle (Marie-Pierre Castel and Mireille Dargent). When we first meet them they're decked out in clown garb and on the run from the local police who are keen to catch for reason explained later in the plot. When their male driver gets shot and dies, 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, the last of the vampires, and his loyal cult members. Strange imagery and gratuitous nudity ensues, followed by some reasonably well executed violence and of course, some requisite 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 makes 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, scenes 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 surreal 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 particular film may not be the best 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.
Notable also is the cast which Rollin assembled for this particular picture. The two female thieves were originally intended to be played by Marie-Pierre Castel and her twin sister Catharine Castel but Catharine had to back out when she got pregnant, and Mireille Dargent was cast in her place. This doesn't hurt the film in the least as Mireille turns out to be just as doe eyed and fascinating to watch as Catharine Castel was when Rollin used the two sisters in The Nude Vampire three years earlier. The ladies wander through the film in an almost trance like state, stopping for a brief Sapphic rendezvous in the middle of the castle when they come across an empty bed. When they're later captured by the vampires and taken into their coven, eventually tortured and raped in the basement dungeon, they respond in kind and act out accordingly but for the most part, there's a dreamlike playfulness to their work here that fits in really well with everything else that is going on visually and tonally.
As a narrative piece, Requiem For A Vampire falls pretty flat on its face, but those accustomed to Rollin's unique style will definitely still enjoy the film on a purely visual level - it simply looks beautiful. Shot almost entirely in the French countryside the movie makes great use of the old castle where most of the action is staged and also does a great job capturing some interesting imagery in an old cemetery. 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.
Requiem For A Vampire looks quite good on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Presented in 1.66.1 widescreen and mastered from the original 35mm negative, there are some minor specks here and there but no seriously distracting print damage. Grain is present, as it should be, but never overpowering and the increase in detail over previous DVD issues of the film is quite impressive. Colors look excellent, you'll notice it right away when you see the two girls in their clown suits as Marie's sequin covered outfit really looks quite good but this carries throughout the movie. Black levels are generally nice and strong, and there are no issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction.
Audio options are provided in LPCM Mono tracks in your choice of French or English with optional subtitles provided in English only. Both tracks sound quite good for what they are - older mono mixes. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and follow and there weren't any noticeable issues with hiss or distortion. Pierre Raph's score also sounds very good here, really doing a great job of enhancing the mood throughout the movie. It's properly balanced so that it never overshadows the dialogue and comes through nice and clearly. The French track tends to suit the movie a little better than the (obviously) dubbed English track does but both options sound fine.
The most substantial extra on the disc is a seventeen minute featurette entitled The Shiver Of A Requiem which is a documentary that features interviews with the late Natalie Perrey and Jean-Noel Delamarre. Both interviewees come off as quite grateful to have worked with Rollin on the film, discussing with some noticeable affection the low budget shoot and how Rollin liked to surround himself with people he knew while working on this and other pictures. There's some discussion of the female leads, as well as the locations and a good bit of time talking about Rollin's directorial efforts on the picture. It's quite a good featurette and one certainly worth watching.
Also included here is a ten minute interview with actress Louise Dhour 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. Included on that Encore release but not carried over to this Blu-ray disc 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 as well as the alternate Caged Virgins trailer that Box Office International created for the movie and trailers for the other seven Rollin films that Kino/Redemption have offered up on Blu-ray so far. Rollin himself provides a quick video introduction for the film and inside the keepcase is a booklet of liner notes from Video Watchdog editor in chief Tim Lucas, which provide some welcome background information on this picture as well as for Rape Of The Vampire and The Demoniacs.
Requiem For A Vampire is in some ways the consummate Rollin film, a dream like picture loaded with macabre imagery and strange set pieces and more concerned with those qualities than its narrative. The film features some interesting performances and some stunning visuals, a fairly fascinating mix of sex, death and surrealism. Kino's Blu-ray treatment is solid across the board and while it should have included the deleted scenes it otherwise offers up some great extras with a very impressive audio and video representation. As such, it comes highly 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.