Studio:Kino Year: 1997 Cast: Alexandra Pic, Isabelle Teboul, Bernard Charnacé, Natalie Perrey, Nathalie Karsenty, Véronique Djaouti, Tina Aumont, Anissa Berkani-Rohmer, Anne Duguël
Director: Jean Rollin Release Date: August 28, 2012 Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity, violence) Run Time: 01h:47m:33s Genre(s): horror
"Henriette, I don't believe that we're only a dream. Two orphans who incarnate into reality." - Louise (Alexandra Pic)
This surreal vampire project from Jean Rollin never quite achieves the existential heft it tries so hard to deliver.
Movie Grade: C+
DVD Grade: B-
Two Orphan Vampires (Les Deux Orphelines Vampires) was a very late entry in the career of writer/director Jean Rollin, released in 1997. The unfortunate thing is that it reveals a filmmaker faltering dramatically, shackled to an adaptation of his own novel series that wants to be a deep exploration of life and death and life. Instead it all stagnates, becoming a rambling arty discourse decorated with some of the expected Rollin visual queues and far too little vampire horror. Also absent is the abundant sexuality/nudity he was known for, preferring here to play the carnal undertones with much more subtlety, and that also derails what could have made Two Orphan Vampires ultimately more daring.
Rollin centers on a pair of blind teenage girls living at a Catholic orphanage. But the girls - Henriette (Isabelle Teboul) and Louise (Alexandra Pic) - have a secret they've been keeping from the good sisters who care for them, in that they are vampires who can only see (albeit with a blue tint) at night. Apparently they have been living and dying for centuries, always suffering a "mishap" that leads to their violent death, only to be reborn again. They are adopted by a kindly ophthalmologist (Bernard Charnacé), only that relationship seems doomed to fail once the girls find the need for blood too compelling. While that description may also seem genre compelling, the film itself is glacial in its pacing, with Rollin content to give us shot after shot of Henriette and Louise walking. They walk everywhere. And often.
From a visual standpoint the imagery of Two Orphan Vampires has a number of the trademark Rollin flourishes, from an eerie midnight cemetery stroll by Henriette and Louise to an understated moment involving nudity and blood licking that is almost downright beautiful in its sensuality. Even a lengthy discussion of their wish to have been Aztec goddesses - framed tightly on both girls - is commanding in its presentation, to say nothing of the spot-on deliveries of Teboul and Pic. But unfortunately there is too little of that here, and it is when we are introduced to other outcasts of the night (including a "midnight lady" with huge black wings and spandex pants) it seems that Rollin is trying to give Two Orphan Vampires a confounding veneer of arthouse weirdness. It's just a bad mix that Rollin doesn't seem capable of juggling effectively.
There is much potential in Two Orphan Vampires that Rollin fails to execute cleanly. The day-for-night shots are frequent and distracting, there's too much of philosophical chattering, and the story is threadbare, with just glimmers of the directorial touches that have made Rollin popular in the genre.
The new AVC-encoded 1.78:1 1080p transfer has been culled from an original 16mm negative, and if you were to compare this to the 2002 Media Blasters SD release the improvements are huge. But that doesn't make this one necessarily pristine, which is not necessarily an issue. Kino/Redemption remains true to presenting the film without any major restoration/clean-up, so while print imperfections (nicks, specking, etc) are evident throughout it is a more natural upfront color balance that is the biggest plus. Image detail may be a bit on the soft side for much of the runtime, but certain sequences - primarily closeups of the girls - almost seem like they're from another disc entirely.
A pair of thin PCM audio options are available, in original French or a laughable English dub. Audio quality is serviceable without any measurable negatives, though the occasional scream tends to sound rather tinny. Easy-to-read English subs are included, so opt for the French track.
Extras consist of the same 12-page insert booklet found in The Living Dead Girl release, with a lengthy article from the always informative Tim Lucas entitled The Depth of a Sister's Love: Jean Rollin's The Living Dead Girl and Two Orphan Vampires. As expected from Lucas the material is educational without being dull, providing a wealth of background info on the director and his work on both The Living Dead Girl and Two Orphan Vampires. Also included is a "making of" piece called Memories of a Blue World (42m:30s) from Daniel Gouyette, with present day interviews with actors Isabelle Teboul, Bernard Charnacé, Nathalie Karsenty, production assistant/actor Véronique Djaouti, assistant director Jean-Noel Delamarre and composer Philippe D'Aram, as well as an Interview with Jean Rollin (20m:19s).
A big batch of ten Rollin trailers rounds out the bonus content, with previews for The Living Dead Girl, The Rape of the Vampire, The Nude Vampire, The Shiver of the Vampire, Requiem for a Vampire, The Iron Rose, The Demoniacs, Lips of Blood, Fascination and Two Orphan Vampires.