Jean Rollin's first feature was originally conceived as a short film that ran about 30 minutes. In order to extend the film to a feature length, another hour was added to the short after the fact (more on this later). The end result of this cinematic hodge podge is The Rape of the Vampire. Although this film is not an example of Rollin's finest hour (he had a lot to learn as a director) there is a lot to like about this film. Needless to say that this DVD is a must have for all Rollin fans, period.
Our story begins with a bunch of beautiful French women (would we expect any less from Rollin?) being held up in a seaside chateau (again, would we expect any less?). These women are being led to believe that they are vampires (are they indeed vampires?) until they are meticulously murdered one by one, mostly by the nervous and unsure townsfolk, roll end credits. This completes the first 1/2 hour of the film. Immediately after, the second half of the film begins as these fine young ladies are resurrected (in some mighty fine new robes mind you) to wreak some more havoc. Why do the credits roll mid way through, rather than just at the end? Your guess is as good as mine. It seems as if they're trying to lead us to believe that this film was conceived in two parts, but we all know better than that.
The Rape of the Vampire, shot in glorious black and white is all Jean Rollin from start to finish. There's some incredible photography within the chateau, and the rhythmic dreamlike beauty of Jean Rollin's storytelling is like no other. Jean Rollin is a unique storyteller; nobody does it quite like him. Expect the normal amounts of Vampire erotica you'd normally get from the average Rollin film. The violence on the other hand is really not all that violent. Nobody really enters a Rollin film expecting a splatter-fest, so no big surprise here. The film itself is certainly not one of Rollin's best, and how could it be considering its history? The two scenarios really play off like 2 separate films and it definitely feels forced. Independent of one another they play off fine. I'm willing to forgive and forget considering the films history. It really stands as a rare treat to have this little gem of cinematic history on DVD at all, and it makes a mighty fine addition to any Rollin collection.
The film itself looks about as good as one could expect. The Black and White photography looks incredible with some nice deep blacks. The print used is in fine shape with some wear and tear that seems to creep up every now and then. Considering the age, rarity, and obviously no budget of this film, one can hardly complain. In addition to the mild print damage that appears, there are also some instances of grain. Some scenes fare worse than others, but once again, there is very little room for complaint. Sound is presented in Dolby Mono and is quite acceptable. There is really no distortion to speak of with nice clear dialogue. The music sounds fine, but unfortunately the choice of what sounds like stock library music was a poor one on Rollin's part. The DVD is encoded with what appear to be well translated readable (and removable) yellow subs.
Extras include a theatrical trailer that's in pretty sad shape with no subtitles. Even if you understood the language you'd be hard pressed to figure out what the hell was going on in this thing. There's also a still gallery that runs for about a minute and a half. It's mainly comprised of production and advertising stills. I also have to take this moment to once again reprimand Image entertainment. What is up with these hipster Goth chicks gracing the covers of these Jean Rollin DVDs? The original poster artwork for these films is beautiful, why waste them? Are you trying to trick people into buying these DVDs or what? I guess it's a bit late now considering that most of Rollin's films have been re-released but I beg of you, on any future releases, please ditch these photo shoot covers, they're simply terrible!
Overall this is a solid presentation of an early work by the master Jean Rollin. As I stated earlier, if you're a fan of this man's work, you really have no excuse for not picking up this DVD. If you're not familiar with Rollin's films, this is probably not the best place to start. You may want to start with Fascination, Living Dead Girl or Grapes of Death (all of which I have reviewed on Monsters at Play). As for true fans, it's worth a purchase based on its historical significance alone. However, I suspect that you'll derive more enjoyment out of it than just that.