The Rape of the Vampire
D V D   R E V I E W   B Y   J A M E S   N E W M A N

When Image Entertainment released a spate of Jean Rollin movies in 2000, at least one essential Rollin movie was missing. That oversight has now been addressed with the release of The Rape of the Vampire (French title: "Le Viol du vampire"). It's hard to really comprehend the impact this movie had back in 1968 when it was released in Europe. According to Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs in Immoral Tales, audiences rioted. To be sure, the movie's heady mixture of art-house stylistics, amateurish acting, frequent nudity, and bloody violence is still surprising and shocking over 30 years later. But riots?

The movie started as a 30-minute short, but after watching the short film, producer Samuel S. Selsky urged Rollin to expand the film into feature length. Rollin accepted the offer but a problem was immediately apparent: several of the main characters had been killed at the end of the original film. How could the film continue? Well, this is a vampire movie, and no one is ever dead for long in a vampire movie.

The original film involved a quartet of female vampires living in a deteriorating chateau in the French countryside. They spend their time playing skittles, fencing, and walking about in flimsy gowns. Eventually, they're discovered. Villagers grab torches and weapons and kill the vampires.

I'm not quite sure what Selsky saw in this original short film. As a horror film, it moves like molasses and is only notable for its pretentious artistic designs. And the skin content isn't sufficiently salacious to satisfy the raincoat crowd. I found the opening section of The Rape of the Vampire to be such an utter bore that it took me several weeks to build up enough willpower before I could try and watch the remainder of the film, but once the movie's second section begins, something unusual happens. The same amateurish action is still on display, but the storytelling becomes more outrageous, both in terms of the quantity of naked female flesh and the wanton brutality. Things perk up immediately when the Queen of the Vampires shows up (she sports naked breasts and bikini briefs), brandishing a long knife, which she uses to slit the throat of a Van Helsing type. She licks the blade clean. Throughout the rest of the film, the visuals are so outrageous that it's hard to stop watching the movie.

The second part of The Rape of the Vampire makes little sense. Like the first part, Rollin exhibits absolutely no interest whatsoever in coaxing believable performances out of his actors, and the mise-en-scene occasionally becomes stilted. But the movie also contains inspired surrealism and a striking artistic eye. These sights include a near-naked female vampire lounging on tiger skins in the back of a convertible, a strange laboratory where vampires suck blood from water coolers, and a vampire theater production interrupted by machine gun fire. Once you get past the movie's awkward first 30 minutes, The Rape of the Vampire becomes an amazing work of perverse pleasures.

Image Entertainment's disc includes a modest collection of extras, including a theatrical trailer and a stills gallery (which includes posters and advertising materials). Strangely enough, considering the wealth of visual delights contained in this film, the DVD cover contains an image that has nothing to do with the movie.


The Rape of the Vampire (French title: "Le Viol du vampire") is now available on DVD from Salvation Films and Image Entertainment. The movie is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1, in French with optional English subtitles. Special features include a theatrical trailer, a stills gallery, posters, and advertising materials. Suggested retail price: $24.99. For more information, check out the Salvation Films Web site and the Image Entertainment Web site.




Reviews of several additional Jean Rollin movies released on DVD by Image Entertainment
(reviews by James Newman)