Le Frisson des Vampires (1971)

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If reviewing bad films is difficult, then Jean Rollin’s films are damn near impossible. He’s less a director and more a painter using each frame as a canvas. Which sounds all cheesy and highfalutin until you see it. At which point everything starts to make sense.

Why doesn’t le Frisson des Vampires have a plot? Because it has beautiful vampires in it, and words would just get in the way. There’s a reason Mr. Rollin once released a book that featured nothing but photographs of clowns and topless vampires. Rollin knows what he likes, he knows what his audience wants, and so he delivers it with style.

Seriously. One suspects Mario Bava would’ve just thrown his hands in the air, muttered, “Che cosa è il punto?,” before completely giving up if he had begun making films after Rollin had started.

In honor of this, I’m just going to showcase some of my favorite shots from les Frisson des Vampires, along with the occasional blurb about what I like about it.

Le Frisson des Vampires - Blue Doorway

Like this one! “Hey [photographer] Jean-Jacques Renon, I want the interior to have a warm, cozy coloration to it, but outside I want a beautiful baby blue. Can you do that for me?”

Le Frisson des Vampires - Red Staircase

And they say giallos have all the color!

Le Frisson des Vampires - Castle Ruins at Night

Le Frisson des Vampires - Honeymoon to Hell

Le Frisson des Vampires - Undressing

What could have caused Ilsa (Sandra Julien) such shock?…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Le Frisson des Vampires - Vampire in a Clock!

That’s right, a vampire in a clock!

Le Frisson des Vampires - More Blues

Le Frisson des Vampires - Swoon

Le Frisson des Vampires - Heaven

A telling conversation:

Isabelle (Nicole Nancel): “Now I’m the one wearing the widow’s veils.”
Isle: “Who for?”
Isabelle: “For them.”
Isle: “For them?”
Isabelle: “We were to be married, but I was already their bride.”
Isle: “Whose bride?”
Isabelle: “Who knows? Maybe both of them.”

Not even the characters know what was going on!

Le Frisson des Vampires - Purple Road

One really wonders if le Frisson des Vampires was Jean Rollin’s attempt to make a minimalist Dracula. Here we have Lucy’s damnation subplot sliced out of the main tale; with cinema’s magnifying gaze stretching it out on the screen.

It’s not for no reason that le Frisson des Vampires’ wiki entry calls the two maids “Renfields.”

Le Frisson des Vampires - Peep

If not a Dracula experiment, then le Frisson des Vampires would serve almost as a proper precursor to Rollins’ later “hit” Fascination. The girls (the aforementioned “Renfields”) are instructed to take the stake out of a suicidal vampire’s corpse and use it to kill the rest of his clan. Or serve them; as they’ll need to provide blood donors to prevent becoming food themselves. Which is essentially what Eva (Brigitte Lahaie) and Elizabeth (Franca Mai) are tasked with doing in Fascination.

Le Frisson des Vampires - like a landscape paiting

Le Frisson des Vampires - Swoon Again

Not to be slept on either is the stunningly hit-or-miss soundtrack. Which bounces between sub-par “Sounds of a Haunted House” whoo-ing to what sounds to be France’s greatest unheard rock album. Seriously, start worshipping the slim fragments of Acanthus greatness here and now, before Death Waltz remasters it and sells it back to you at twice the (imported) price.

Le Frisson des Vampires - Compositions

Le Frisson des Vampires - Drinking Her Own Blood!

Let’s face it, any film that concludes with a trapped vampire consoling herself as she waits for the sun to rise by drinking her own blood is a classic. No questions asked.

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