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The Shiver of the Vampires
When it was released in 1970, Jean Rollin's third feature film, The Shiver of the Vampires (original title Le frisson des vampires), was Rollin's most successful film to date. It was even released in the UK, retitled Sex and the Vampire and minus about 18 minutes. It tells the story of a newlywed couple who stop at a castle to visit the childhood friends of the wife. However, the castle's inhabitants emerge as hippie vampires who take an instant liking to the wife (the strikingly beautiful Sandra Julien). Progressive rock music by a band named Acanthus forms the backdrop as the husband watches his wife become further and further entrenched in the vampires' plans.

Unfortunately, however, The Shiver of the Vampires contains some of the most banal imagery in the Rollin catalog. Virtually all the scenes are brightly lit, destroying any potential for an eerie atmosphere. Even the much ballyhooed scene where a female vampire emerges from a grandfather clock is clumsy and ludicrous. Vampire movies traditionally avoid showing vampires rise from coffins--because the sight of a vampire scrambling to its feet tends to negate the creature's supernatural allure (so some movies give us vampires who swing up from their coffins as if spring-loaded and hinged at their feet). The sight of the female vampire awkwardly swinging her shoulders out of the clock's interior creates the same problem as vampires faced with coffins.

Newcomers to Rollin's cinematic universe should not begin with The Shiver of the Vampires. It contains occasional visual flourishes--a naked lesbian couple caressing on a fur blanket, a female vampire using spiked breast plates to kill a troublesome woman, a naked unconscious woman draped over a cemetery vault, etc.--but the flourishes work like autonomous fragments. Rollin draws upon a litany of lurid developments, but he fails to make the most of the connections he draws between vampirism and sex. For example, Rollin takes pains to set up the allure cast over the wife: she is mesmerized by the female vampire. But when she is led to a cemetery and the vampire bites her neck, the wife instantly collapses. The act of vampirism is reduced to a nano-second event with no eroticism other than the naked bodies on display. Rollin would not make this mistake again. His subsequent vampire movies effectively draw delirious connections between sex and vampirism.


Go to:
The Shiver of the Vampires
Requiem for a Vampire
The Demoniacs
Lips of Blood
The Night of the Hunted
The Living Dead Girl