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REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE
DVD region 0. Redemption.

Requiem for a VampireIt’s one of the tragedies of cinema that Jean Rollin’s remarkable early Seventies work remains either unknown or dismissed outside cult film circles. Sold as sexploitation horror films, the movies were relegated to the grindhouse circuit – if they played at all – when in fact they have more in common with strange, slightly scary, playful films like Jacques Rivette’s Julie and Celine Go Boating or Vera Chytilova’s Daisies than Hammer’s Vampire Lovers or any other vaguely erotic vampire film of the period. Nowhere is this more true than in Requiem for a Vampire, the best of his vampire movies and a welcome reissue on DVD.

Rollin doesn’t really sully his film with a plot – opening with the bizarre image of two young girls dressed as clowns in mid-car chase / shoot-out, the film is more interested in creating an atmosphere than telling a story. But briefly – our two heroines (played with blank expressions and impossible cuteness by Marie-Pierre Castel and Mireille Dargent) fins themselves lost in the countryside and stumble upon a crumbling chateau and nearby cemetery, where things are clearly not right, as the dead bodies, arms sticking out of walls and skulls as decoration would confirm. They are chased and captured by the servants of the last vampire, who intends to make the two young virgins into converts, using them to seduce locals – but Castel is in turn seduced by a passing man.

All of this sounds like a typically crude exploitation film, admittedly, but Rollin uses this weak plot as an excuse for a series of amazing visuals, whether they make sense or not. There is probably no more than five minutes of dialogue in total, and most things happen without any explanation. There are exploitation elements, but not as many as you’d expect – if you watch this expecting erotic thrills, you’ll probably be disappointed. Instead, it’s a beautiful and ultimately quite melancholy exercise on creative freedom.

Requiem for a VampireIt’s not all great – the final half hour tends to drag somewhat, and it’s pointless to pretend that many viewers won’t find this laughably ridiculous – the over-the-top vampire fangs, some dodgy effects and the very, very strange acting styles won’t be for everyone. But if you can get past that, this has much to offer, and it’s a pity that Rollin was unable to break out of the low budget ghetto to show just how good he could have been.

Unfortunately, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Redemption’s DVD, which has been cut by 7 minutes. This is the version submitted in 1993 (checking the BBFC website confirms that it hasn’t been resubmitted) and given the changes that have taken place in UK censorship since then, it’s hard to believe that those cuts would still be made now. I’ve no idea why the uncut version wasn’t resubmitted (and giveb how frequently Redemption suffered at the hands of the censors, I hope this isn't setting a precedent for future reissues), but these huge cuts are a real problem. The film still works without the missing footage (all from one section), but there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a major problem for most likely viewers, especially in a world where the uncut version is easily available online.

If you can deal with that, the DVD also has a lively trailer, stills and poster galleries and a fairly pointless music video by fetish band The Nuns that is a promo for Redemption’s Triple Silence music label – a label that doesn’t seem to have released anything in about seven years, suggesting that this whole thing is simply a repackaged version of the previous DVD release.

UPDATE: Billy Chainsaw has been in touch with more information about the cuts, courtesy of Redemption's Nigel Wingrove and his PR company. From Nigel: "The scene that is cut is unlikely to be reinstated by the BBFC which is why it wasn't resubmitted. The director, Jean Rollin, also told us when this scene was originally cut that he only filmed the scene as the producer wanted more sex in the film, and in actual fact the scene had just been inserted at the producers behest so its removal actually improved the film."

DAVID FLINT

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