Casual Jean Rollin fans will be up to their elbows in WTF dealing with this, the director's first full-length feature. Though containing many of Rollin's themes and obsessions - basically naked vampires - the movie goes so far beyond crackpot that it's almost impossible to dig into for most viewers. Serious scholars, or those suffering from an overdose of cold medication, will find their money's worth in this melodramatic tale of naked vampires. Others might become lost and aggravated.
With plenty of black-and-white ambience and style, Rollin starts on a strong note. Four comely, scantily clad lasses wander around the French countryside, claiming to be vampires. They shuffle slowly through a field, often pausing to genuflect in front of a creepy statue. Soon enough, disbelieving psychiatrist Thomas (Bernard Letrou) and compatriots arrive to settle the girls' hash. But will he sort things out before the fed up villagers go on a rampage that's apparently been a long time coming? It's hard to say, hard to tell, and hard to really care too much, either, due in large part to narrative techniques and editing choices that put the 'frack' in fractured. (Helpful background information reveals that the movie was expanded from a previously shot half-hour short, for what it's worth.)
Rollin's eye for heavily symbolic and ultra-stylish imagery is in effect. Oddly, this particular penchant integrates more seamlessly with the movie in this early effort (perhaps because Rollin's constantly trying to keep up with the plot) than it does in later works, where continuity and comprehensibility often suffer at the hands of a beautifully composed shot. A weird-beard mishmash of soundtrack elements only adds to the movie's overall schizophrenic atmosphere, though there are always those naked ladies to bring things back into focus.
Lastly, it wouldn't be a Jean Rollin film if we didn't end up on a cold, desolate beach, on which nude vampires promenade about with all the sensuality of one of those 'Polar Bear' swimming events. A sacrifice is made, blood is spilled, and viewers wonder what the heck just happened. Jean Rollin happened, that's what! His oeuvre would evolve into more pleasing forms as his career went on, but there's no mistaking this for anybody else's work. If you're a fan, and a hardcore fan you'll have to be to appreciate The Rape of the Vampire, then it's for you, fan, and you alone, that this is Recommended.