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Image Entertainment presents
The Rape of the Vampire (Le Viol du Vampire) (1968)

"Let the blood wedding begin. Die, so that you may live again."
- Queen of the Vampires (Jacqueline Sieger)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 19, 2002

Stars: Solange Pradel, Ursule Pauly, Bernard Letrou, Catherine Deville
Other Stars: Nicole Romain, Marquis Polho, Jacqueline Sieger
Director: Jean Rollin

Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, gore, violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:42s
Release Date: March 19, 2002
UPC: 014381563825
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-C+C- D+

DVD Review

One of the amazing things about the young format of DVD is the cult items that have made their way to the shiny disc. Although Jean Rollin has for some time been a notorious cult figure—primarily for numerous sex-tinged vampire films—none of his horror pictures except the infamous Zombie Lake ever made it to home video in the US. Today, nearly all of his horror output is readily available on region 1 discs, and now Rollin's notorious first feature, which made his reputation and to an extent typecast his subsequent career, comes to DVD.

The film is structured in two more or less discrete parts; Part I was intended to be a short film of its own, but the producer upon seeing it thought that it could be made into a feature. Instead of padding it out, however, Rollin tacked on a second, loosely-related half that bears a close relationship to serials of the silent and early sound eras. Part I tells a story for four vampire sisters and the three young people, Marc, Thomas and Brigitte, who attempt to cure them of what they see as delusional behavior. Although nearly everyone ends up dead at the end of Part I, they all manage to be brought back for Part II, which features the Queen of the Vampires (Jacqueline Sieger) as she attempts to rule the world through her vampire servants. The resurrection is really set up for the most part in the first section, where it's disclosed that the vampires can't really be killed without decapitation, so it's not really quite as jarring as the keepcase blurb makes it sound.

The keepcase also refers to the films as "incomprehensible," but that's being rather dismissive. Rather, they're not meant to be entirely coherent on a logical level. As a reactionary against the French New Wave, Rollin can be seen as reviving the poetic and disturbing imagery found in such pictures as Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. Part I in particular is filled with haunting imagery, for instance the sequence of two vampires fencing by torchlight while dressed in white gauze. Part II, while technically more accomplished, is less linear and tends to be somewhat disjointed and lacking in the evocative imagery that makes the first half so intriguing. There are some visceral moments, however, such as the draining of the blood of two women, still conscious, into a pair of massive glass jars. Another memorable segment is the funeral cortege that goes to a cemetery not to deposit, but to steal a body; to the eye they are given away only by the inverted crucifix held by the cleric.

The use of the camera is sometimes a drawback; it tends to draw attention to itself by being overtly flashy. For instance, as one of the men argues with the blind vampire sister, the camera begins spinning around them wildly in a 360-degree arc, resulting in a wildly disorienting and dizzying feeling, though the dialogue doesn't really call for such an attitude. More effective is the sequence where the dying Brigitte stumbles through a freshly plowed field as the camera rapidly cuts between shots of her from widely varying distances and angles.

Mostly amateur, the cast does a creditable enough job with the material. Much of the picture was improvised, which helps to provide a more natural performance. Amusingly, one of the financiers of the film has a small part as a grunting, drooling halfwit. The low budget is at times painfully obvious; the angry mob consists of about eight people. The first half uses inappropriate library music (the end of Beethoven's Egmont overture makes a completely out-of-place appearance near the end of Part I). However, it's easy to see how this picture made Rollin's reputation. It's definitely worth a look for Eurocult fans, though they shouldn't be demanding linearity or strict logic.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.66:1 black and white picture is not anamorphic. Considering the state of the film elements, however, that's probably not a big deal. The print is scratchy and full of speckles, and occasionally unstable in the first part; Part II looks much better, apparently as a result of having more money to work with. The video rate is between 5.5 and 6 Mbps, which is adequate to allow the soft compositions to come through without much artifacting. There are, however, a couple of sequences in chapter 2 where the camera pans and the resulting artifacts are quite unpleasant. Luckily this is only a brief problem. Some segments are overexposed, though that may or may not be an intentional effect. Other sections have good detail, particularly closeups, so I'm inclined to believe that these are not primarily transfer problems but issues with the film itself.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The French 2.0 mono audio sound marginal. It's quite hissy and noisy, and the music has a very tinny and highly distorted quality, regardless of whether it's canned library music or improvisational and cacophonic modern jazz. The dialogue can be made out well enough, though. Again, the low budget source material limits how much could be done without an expensive restoration.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: EastPack
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo galleryStills gallery
  2. Advertising materials
Extras Review: Other than the original French trailer, which loudly proclaims this as the first French vampire film (a claim that I don't think is quite right), the only extra is a set of 34 stills. A few of these are behind-the-scenes shots. But that's it. Considering the reputation and history of this picture, and its importance in the Eurocult field, some production notes would have been a natural to include. Alas, the disc is silent on these issues. Apparently Redemption figures that the only people likely to buy this movie will already know all about it.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

A poetic and somewhat disjointed piece important in the career of cult figure Jean Rollin. There are some issues with the transfer, and not much in the way of extras, but it's certainly nice to have Rollin's first picture on disc.


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