The Living Dead Girl (La Morte Vivante)

A small van pulls up outside a recently vacated Château. The occupants carry barrels of industrial waste down into the catacombs beneath to dump. While down there, two of the men decide to rob the coffins of the houses former occupants, the recently deceased Catherine Valmont and her mother. While they pry jewels from the bodies a barrel of the waste tips over and the contents run towards the body of Catherine, releasing gas as it does so. The waste it seems has the unexpected effect of resurrecting the dead, now Catherine is back and she is terribly hungry!

Jean Rollin’s (Les Demoniaques, Requiem pour un Vampire), 1982 cult classic La Morte Vivante (The Living Dead Girl) finds him firmly in territory he loves, with yet another tale of lesbian vampires. This film how ever lacks some of the visual style and inventive locations of some of his other work. How ever the story itself is slightly tighter and more controlled, so while it loses in some area’s it gains in others.

Perhaps Rollins most visceral film, as it’s more definable as straight horror than his other more expressionistic, surreal, dark erotica. With simple yet fairly effective gory effects from Benoît Lestang who would go on to work on films such as Christophe Gans Brotherhood of the Wolf and Lars von Trier's Manderlay. The gore effect here are actually quite nasty as Catherine’s vampiric tendencies are surprisingly for a Rollin film anything but erotic (Unless you’re the kind of person that likes fried penis in garlic butter). No discrete puncture wounds in the neck here, Catherine’s blood lust has her desperately chewing and ripping you to bits to get at your blood.

The tale is a simple one taking place for the most part in and around the Châteaux which was Catherine’s former home. On awakening from the dead disorientated Catherine instantly falls upon the men dumping the waste chewing out there blood. She then wanders upstairs driven partly by memories of her former life and partly in need of a snack. Finding a young female estate agent and her lover sexually compromised Catherine one again indulges her new found taste for blood. It’s not long before Barbara, Catherine’s childhood friend, turns up and after getting over the mild surprise of finding freshly chomped bodies in the house she quickly renews their friendship. Barbara quickly decides to help Catherine live on by luring victims for her to poke to death with her very long fingernails and them munch on. Meanwhile a couple of meddling Americans (mainly the wife) decide in true 80’s cheesy style to investigate the strange girl they catch a glimpse of.

The Château itself is an imposing building, although Rollin refers to it as a castle, its more akin to what we in England would call a stately home or large manor house. The interior decor which is forms the majority of the films backdrop, looks like the kind of place where many and 80’s pornographic magazine shoot would have taken place. The acting is pretty reasonable for a Rollin outing with the lovely Francoise Blanchard adding and outstanding performance in the films final scenes. The one jarring downside in the way the special effects are edited in, with a drastic cut to special effect each time, but the effects themselves while very low tech practical make-up stuff are really fun.

While I did miss some of Rollins more stylish touches from some of his other work, the film itself is one of, if not his most enjoyable and you have to love those fingernails of death.

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Requiem Pour Un Vampire

A car flees from pursuers through the narrow roads of the French countryside. Close on it's tail are unknown occupants in a second vehicle. Shots are fired from both cars, the fleeing car escapes down a hidden track and the pursuers are lost, but the male driver is fatally wounded. The cars remaining occupants step out of the vehicle, set it on fire and the leave the scene dressed as clowns.

Welcome to the world of cult French exploitation director Jean Rollin (Les Demoniaques, Levres de Sang, La Morte Vivante). A world seemingly populated by an endless supply of lesbians, piano players, cannibals, vampires, clowns, twins and very pretty young woman who feel restricted by having to wear clothing.

Marie-Pierre Castel stars as Marie and with twin sister Catherine not available; Mireille Dargent co-stars as her friend Michelle. The two girls who flee the car dressed as clowns at the start of the movie. So with his two young nubile female leads in place Rollin sets off on making a surreal Gothic sexploitation movie with an artistic edge.

With a run time of two hours the plot is surprisingly thin (or not when you consider it’s a Rollin film). The story sees the girls wander the country side, stealing food, a motorbike and being accidentally buried in a fresh grave. Finally after about 25 minutes (but seems like an eternity) of dialogue free "action" the girls stumble upon a seemingly deserted castle and the fun begins ...

Unfortunately for the girls the castle is not as deserted as it seems, in fact it is the home of an ancient vampire and his acolytes. After slipping out of their clown suits for some naked action the girls are disturbed by a noise and go to investigate. Its not long before they cross paths with the vampire's minions who naturally decide the best course of action is to strip the girls naked and abuse them (Well this is a sexploitation film, it’s not like they where going to offer them a cup of tea). After witnessing the drawn out abuse of two other unfortunate girls Marie and Michelle decide to flee. The problem is Marie has been bitten by a female ghoul and which ever way they run it takes them back to the castle. It appears there is no escape, at least not until more firm bosoms have been squeezed to bruising point anyway.

The plot is far too threadbare to sustain the running time, even with the sweet flesh on display (Weird to think those cute young actresses are in their 50’s now), the film drags. Normally that would be a nail in the coffin for an exploitation film, they can be crap yes, but boring is a step too far. How ever Rollin has a fantastic knack for finding brilliant locations to shoot, a great eye for the artistic and a wonderful ear for music to fit his films. Requiem Pour Un Vampire is undoubtedly a film atheistic pleasing way beyond it limited budget should allow. Rollin's surrealist and expressionist cinematic touches lift it above the dross it could have been. With great touches like moving from the outside of a castle on a beautiful French summer day to the contrastingly dark and gloomy interior where Michelle is forced to whip her friend Marie into submission. For many fans one of the most memorable scenes features Louise Dhour (Les Demoniaques) playing a grand piano in the middle of a remote graveyard.

Requiem Pour Un Vampire is both artistic and exploitative in equal measure, but there’s just not enough going on to justify its length.

Trailer | youtube.com

www.encore-films.com

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More sexy stills from Requiem Pour Un Vampire ...

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The Review

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Les Demoniaques: Un film expressionniste de Jean Rollin

On the coasts of Northern Europe at the end of the 1800's a small group of wreckers make their living by enticing ships to their destruction on the rocky coastline. After a successful wrecking two beautiful young women are washed ashore and encounter the four deadly wreckers. The girls find themselves raped and beaten to death, how ever they return from the beyond to seek out their revenge.

Les Demaoniaques carries the sub title "Un film expressioniste de Jean Rollin" and it certainly does tip it hats towards expressionist era cinema as much as it does the adventure serials shown at the cinema in times before television proliferated the homes of the majority. As with allot of low budget cinema from the late 60's and 70's the backers put the money forward under the proviso that the film contained a certain amount of nude and sex scenes so it could be sold to an "International" audience, something which Rollins cinema is famous for. Rollins actually was accused of then selling on his young female starlets into "White slavery" for the North African market. As with many of the director’s films the plot plays second fiddle to the visuals, both sexual and surreal, Rollin is one of those directors who is maybe more about hamaging and experimenting with cinema as he is about producing cohesive well told stories. That said there is an interesting if simplistic ghost story at the heart of Les Démoniaques.

The actors are of as you would expect in exploitation cinema of varying competence, but all make interesting visual impact even if their acting skills are questionable to say the least. The four wreckers in particular do manage to camp up the serial inspired pirate roles to wonderful levels. John Rico (A gay Mexican actor I think), plays the character known as captain in his only starring role and he does a great job as the open shirted macho leader of the wreckers. Rollins long time friends Willy Braque (Le Jouisseur, Lèvres de sang ) and Paul Bisciglia (Les Raisins de la mort) play Bosco and Paul respectively and both make great characters. The stand out character in their deadly crew though has to be Tina played by the very attractive Joëlle Coeur (Jeunes filles impudiques), who manages to camp up the stereotypical pirate body movements while in various states of dress and undress to the point of genius. Lieva Lone and Patricia Hermenier who play the wronged girls (the Demoniac’s from the title) both do a competent job in their only film appearances, not that they have to do much more than wander about getting in and out of their clothes without speaking.

When Encore Filmed Entertainment sent me out this DVD to review I let it sit for a week or two, knowing that Rollin films tend to be the kind of cinema I need to be in the mood to watch, this is a world away from the popcorn munching brainlessness of modern cinema. Les Démoniaques contains some great imagery, locations and surrealism and these are things you really need to be able to appreciate to enjoy this film. if you where to come at this looking for a linier story with tight editing and high production values that makes quickly digestible entertainment you will be left no doubt feeling like some of the negative commentors on the IMDB.

For me the film is certainly one of the better Rollin films I have seen, the high camp mixed with the stark gothic imagery works well, certainly you have to accept things which are down right silly like the Magus and clown who live together in an old ruin. Well the magus maybe you can accept to be keeping an eye on the imprisoned devil there, but the clown you just have to write off as being one of the directors screen fetishes.

Les Démoniaques is certainly a movie worth seeking out for fans of the cult director Jean Rollin, sexploitation, French cinema and of course those who just want to experience something a bit different.

7/10

TRIALER

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