Friday, July 8, 2016

#2,136. The Nude Vampire (1970)

Directed By: Jean Rollin

Starring: Caroline Cartier, Olivier Rollin, Maurice Lemaître

Alt. Title: When released on DVD in Germany, this film's title was changed to The Pleasure Palace of the Cruel Vampire

Trivia: Jean Rollin's first film in color.

When discussing his 1970 movie The Nude Vampire, director Jean Rollin said his intention was to make a “mysterious” film, and for the majority of its runtime that’s exactly what it is. But Rollin takes his time unveiling the mystery, shrouding it in a plethora of “WTF” moments that grow more bizarre as the movie progresses.

While walking along the street one night, Pierre Radamante (Olivier Rollin) spots a beautiful young woman (Caroline Cartier) attempting to outrun a trio of men wearing animal masks. Pierre does his best to assist her, but to no avail; she is shot down in the street and her body is carried away by the three assailants. As it turns out, the house that the girl was trying to escape is co-owned by Pierre’s father Georges (Maurice Lemaitre), who is reluctant to discuss what happened when Pierre confronts him later that evening. So Pierre decides to investigate on his own and sneaks into the house the next night, where, to his shock and horror, a woman commits suicide before his very eyes. Even weirder than this, though, is the revelation that the girl he saw killed 24 hours earlier is, in fact, still alive, and what’s more she enjoys feasting on human blood!

Over time Pierre will learn the truth: the girl is a vampire, and is being studied by his father and two associates, Voringe (Bernard Musson) and Fredor (Jean Aron), in the hopes she will help them unlock the secrets of eternal life. Pierre, who is strangely drawn to the young woman, does what he can to help her, only to find that a group of others, led by a man known as the Grandmaster (Michel Delahaye), is already on the case, and has a plan to free the girl from her captivity while also ensuring that Georges and his cohorts will never bother another of her kind.

The early moments of The Nude Vampire will have you scratching your head, wondering what the hell is going on; following a brief sequence in which a woman, wearing nothing but a bag on her head, has blood drawn from her arm (by another person wearing a bag), we witness the chase (outlined above) that first draws Pierre into this most unusual situation. The story eventually expands to include suicide cults, erotic dancing, and a pair of gorgeous twins (played by Catherine and Mary-Pierre Castel) who know more than they let on at first. In time, these mystifying early scenes will begin to make sense, culminating in a finale that’s actually quite intriguing.

Only his second film as a director (and the first he ever shot in color), The Nude Vampire nonetheless features a style that is unmistakably Jean Rollin’s; along with shooting most of it on-location (the last half is set almost exclusively at a near-deserted French villa), the director throws some nudity into the mix, as well as a very baffling masturbation sequence (involving Georges and one of the twins). In addition, the musical score is quite jarring, with lots of abrasive jazz that brings an air of tension to each and every scene.

Though not as engaging as The Iron Rose or The Living Dead Girl, The Nude Vampire moves along at a nice pace, with just enough of that Rollin charm to keep you entertained.

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