Even after some forty years of filmmaking, French director Jean Rollin still remains a relatively small player on the world cinema map. But, he is one of those directors that inspires a true split amongst those who have seen his films. Some consider him to be an artistic genius, while others accuse him of being a talentless hack. Having now seen two of his films, I think that I on my way to join the hack crowd. And "Two Orphan Vampires" is a great representation of everything that I feel is wrong with Rollin's films.
"Two Orphan Vampires" is about...well, two orphan vampires. Louise (Alexandra Pic) and Henriette (Isabelle Teboul) are two teenage girls (sisters?) who live in an orphanage which is run by nuns. To the outside world, the girls are particularly pitiful, as they are blind. In reality, the girls are only blind during the day. At night, they can see, although the world takes on a blue tone. This is their time to roam cemeteries, seeking out helpless victims. This is also when they discuss their past, where they have been killed and reborn many times.
Once the girls are adopted by Dr. Dennary (Bernard Charnace), they have more freedom to roam Paris at will. But this newfound freedom also makes the duo reckless, increasing the odds that their macabre secret will be revealed.
I'm sure that Rollin's fans would call "Two Orphan Vampires" haunting and lyrical, but here's the truth: it's boring. In fact, it's incredibly boring. Now, there's nothing wrong with making an artsy film, but for me, at some point, something has to happen, and a story has to kick in. We could very little of that in "Two Orphan Vampires". The film is filled with long passages in which we simply watch the girls walk, typically through a cemetery. At first, the image of the two young vampires strolling through a garden of the dead is creepy, but by the end of the film it has simply been done to death. Rollin has made a name for himself by making films that at the very least contained striking images, but there are few to those to be found here.
Along those same lines, it's perfectly acceptable for a movie's storyline to be ambiguous, but it should give the audience something to work with. Here, even the two girls don't know how/why they are vampires, and we are given no clues on which to latch. All these two like to do is walk and kill people. And while I understand that's what vampires do, I wasn't exactly expecting a documentary. Silly me, I actually wanted a story.
And despite the fact that "Two Orphan Vampires" is one of Rollin's most recent films (it was released in 1997), at times, it has the amateurish feel of a first-time filmmaker. The dialogue is often stilted and silly. Themes in the film are often presented in a heavy-handed manner. In one scene, the girls describe themselves as wild animals, and then in the next scene, they stalk their victim in a circus tent. And, while I understand that the Rollin was working with a very limited budget, the fact that the vampire queen is wearing disco-pants really put a damper on the film.
Even the most patient fan of EuroHorror will most likely find themselves reaching for the fast-forward button while watching "Two Orphan Vampires".
"Two Orphan Vampires" arrives on DVD courtesy of Media Blasters/Shriek Show. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and has been letterboxed at 1.78:1. The image is sharp, but there is some noticeable grain at times. Also, there are some minor defects from the source print. Some scenes have a definite softness to them. On the plus side, the colors are good, and the subtle differences between light and darkness look good here. Despite some problems, this is an acceptable transfer.
This DVD features both the original French language track and a new English dubbed track. Both are in Dolby Digital Mono. The French track sounds good, offering clear dialogue with no hissing or distortion. The dubbing on the English track is fairly lackluster, with the voice actors adding little emotion to their performances. I noticed that if one switches back and forth between the two tracks, the music didn't match -- I'm not sure what that means, but I found it to be odd. Overall, the French track is superior, but once again, there is very little dialogue in the film.
It's clear that Media Blasters always tries to add some extras to their discs, and this one is no exception. We start with a 42-minuted interview with writer/director Jean Rollin. Here, Rollin discusses his career, and the specifics of making "Two Orphan Vampires". It's interesting to note that he was ill during the making of the film and directed some scenes while lying down! We next have interviews with the film's two stars. The interview with Alexandra Pic is 18-minutes long. She chats about the making of the film and how she got the part. In a surprising move, she refuses to answer when asked what her favorite Rollin film is. (The implication is that she doesn't like any of them.) Isabella Teboul talks for 11-minutes about the movie, and how her personality fit in perfectly with her character.
The other extras include a still gallery which has 25 images, and bonus trailers. In a unique move, the viewer can access all 20 tracks from the film's soundtrack via a bonus feature.
Those who like their vampires to have a little "bite" will be bored "stiff" by "Two Orphan Vampires". The DVD presentation is good, but you'd be better off not adopting this movie.