Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Nude Vampire

1970, France, Directed by Jean Rollin
Colour, Running Time: 85 minutes
Review Source: Blu-ray, Region A, Kino Lorber; Video: 1.66:1 1080p 24fps, Audio: LPCM 2.0

It could be said that this was Rollin's first real debut feature film, seeing as it was that Rape of the Vampire really began life as a short and was later embellished with more material to transform it into a full length movie. Not only that, but The Nude Vampire (or La Vampire Nue) switched to colour (no doubt due to an increase in available funds) and seemed to really kick off some of the themes that cemented the road into Rollin's future directorial career. Following the discovery of an oddly mute woman pursued by mysterious animal-masked (à la The Wicker Man) individuals, a bored, bourgeois young man by the name of Pierre adopts a certain degree of interest in his snobbish father's covert nightly activities. His interest and cunning gains him access to the exclusive-entry mansion where the running female had escaped from earlier - inside he discovers groups of masked individuals indulging in strange nocturnal activities (sounds like my local council). The blood/death cult appear to be willingly sacrificing themselves to the very woman that Pierre came across earlier, and despite the fact that she was apparently shot dead before his rapid departure, she now walks around looking rather healthy and all too happy to feast on the life fluid of the recently despatched cult members.
Like the character of Pierre, we the viewers are confronted by a rather unhinged little world where people act in an unusual fashion, possibly oblivious to their own purpose in the greater good. In this sense, the nonchalant manner of many of the actors seems have been unwittingly suited to the characters they are portraying. Pierre's access to the mansion is gained in amusing fashion, and inside the world only becomes weirder. The collision of vampirism, eroticism, and pseudo-science clearly announces the developing idiosyncratic tendencies of the film's creator, and - leaning towards scientific territory aside - formed part of the legacy that would eventually result in viewers such as myself with niche tastes being able to enjoy his many cinematic excursions decades later. This film also marked the first of many whereby his staple concept of two united nubile females would remain attached throughout their journey within the story, albeit relegated to almost background status in this particular outing. This staple would fully manifest itself in the likes of Requiem for a Vampire. Furthermore the conclusion manages to find its way to the rough sea shore that would also play a significant part in so many of his stories. The Nude Vampire (incidentally, the titular character, whilst admittedly stunning to look at, is more often than not clothed, albeit in a translucent fashion) is not the best of Rollin's films but it boasts indellible stamps of his personality all over it, and it's nicely shot as a bonus (as were many of his best films) - recognition must go to Rollin's cinematographers (here Jean-Jacques Renon, who frequently lensed Rollin's seventies flicks) for their role in the recreation of an abundance of attractive images, and I would argue that they are too omnipresent to dismiss Rollin himself as an incompetent or occasionally lucky director (which most casual viewers would probably be all to happy to do).

The Blu-ray from Kino, in their collaboration with Redemption, is part of a very welcome series of the director's films, and it goes without saying that it's a notable improvement over older presentations. Having been watching this since the Redemption VHS days in the nineties it's pleasing to view these films recognising the kind of quality that I believe represents how they were meant to be viewed. Colour is bold, while sharpness is less consistent than the likes of Fascination but detail is pretty good nonetheless. However, I do feel that the transfer reveals limitations with the darker sequences in this earlier effort, not that that is to be considered a criticism in any way. Audio tracks are thoughtfully provided in both native French and English - fans will opt for the former without a doubt. Literate and clear English subtitles are of course present. Extras total around thirty minutes and include a long interview with the director, an introduction, some trailers, and a further interview with Natalie Perrey, who worked on a number of Rollin's films in various capacities, from script writing to acting to editing. The package also contains the same booklet that has made its way into the other Blu-rays from the first wave of releases from Kino. I'd also like to mention that I think the packaging design of these discs is very respectful and finally helps to acknowledge Rollin as the auteur that he really was. All in all, while mainstream viewers may find this film a little too inaccessible for conventional tastes, Rollin fans will want this straight away.

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