BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE

By • Jun 12th, 2012 •

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Who’s getting raped, the vampire or us?

I compared the Image release of several years ago with the brand new Hi-Def transfer out of Kino/Lorber.

When it comes to image quality, the BluRay is a bit better, particularly considering that the Image image was window-boxed, and the K/L image fills the 1.85:1 aspect ratio monitor screen. But as to negative debris – dirt, scratches, etc – they seemed about the same. So I’m guessing that a few hours of dirt-removal were not provided in the upgrade budget.

Sound is another story. The BluRay wins hands-down (not sure what ‘hands down’ really means – its first use was in 1967 – but I’m using it to mean by a clear margin). The Image DVD track was hesitant in its delivery, and marred by interference. The BluRay is lush – perhaps too lush at times – but noticeably stronger and clearer. And it’s a weird, eclectic score, but that leads to my main comments on the film itself.

At one point in the 1968 film I’m hearing a near-reiteration of the organ score from CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962). I’m also hearing (good) music reminiscent of BLOOD AND ROSES (1958) and other musical predecessors. The image borrowings are far more plentiful. Doug Pratt in his fun review mentions Cocteau’s ORPHEUS and Dreyer’s VAMPYR. The list is actually far more extensive. Harrington’s NIGHT TIDE, Browning’s DRACULA, the work of Ingmar Bergman and Arne Suksdorf, THEWORLD OF APU, etc., etc.

It’s shot in B&W (and the sub-titles are in B&W, unlike the Image release’s, which were yellow), and for me its saving grace is the speed of its pretentious, meaningless montage. Where Jess Franco might hold a shot until we fainted from boredom, Rollin here fills the same amount of screen time with three or four shots. In the case of both directors said shots are utterly vacuous on a narrative level, but at least Rollin has speed in his court. This comparison applies just to RAPE, as Rollin resorts to long takes as well, in films such as DEMONIACS, another Kino/Lorber/Redemption release. (The title music for that film, incidentally, was so wonderful I left the menu on for ten minutes and just let it play over and over.)

Performances are perhaps a short step up from posing. Some hambone work for possible comic relief offers no relief from the general histrionic tone. The Queen of the Vampires (Jacqueline Sieger) in the second story (Rollin had to film a second story to create enough running time to make the film feature-length — twice as much meaningless insanity) has a great look, and her look is enhanced when she partially disrobes. But an actor she is not. There’s also a freckled vampire lady among the cast, which is a first.

This release has a plethora of supplementals. There are two dalliances with Rollin himself, one in 1998 as he lounges almost horizontally on a couch while a companion sits next to him, unmoving, with a white mask pressed against his face. The other, a more extensive interview, was shot after the millennium. It’s a riot when he admits that within days the cast and crew had lost all copies of the screenplay and were just winging it. It makes one want to be generous when judging the end result of such a crazed venture. For sure, Rollin and his DP had a strong visual sense, if not an adequate narrative one to accompany it. So there is the look, the score, and the enjoyable extras to keep you from ditching this, his debut feature.

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