Directed by Jean Rollin
Starring Marie-Pierre Castel, Mireille Dargent, Philiipe Gaste, Dominique, Louise Dhour, Paul Bisciglia
Kino Lorber (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Salvation (US R0 NTSC), Encore (Holland R0 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Image (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)
Escaping from a robbery they have just committed, two pigtailed girls (Castel and Dargent) are forced to flee through the countryside after their car breaks down. Decked in clown costumes (?), the girls wind up at a desolate castle presided over by a cult of vampires. Bloodsucking, copulations, and dreamy encounters in graveyards ensue.
Jean Rollin's most mainstream effort at the time of its release, Requiem for a Vampire nevertheless displays his obsessions as clearly as his most experimental work. Devoid of any spoken dialogue for most of its running time, the film introduces for the first time the beguiling "twin" girl protagonists who would later appear in such films as The Demoniacs and, most blatantly, Two Orphan Vampires. Originally conceived and occasionally screened under the title of Vierges et Vampires (Virgins and Vampires), the film has remained most strongly associated with the Requiem title due most likely to its slow, somber pace and palpable sense of enchanted, erotic dread. Unfortunately, this impression was pretty much blasted to pieces when Harry Novak trimmed it down for a U.S. grindhouse release as Caged Virgins, though it did sport a fairly nifty poster.
Essentially a reprise of the plot from Shiver of the Vampires, this film further removes the tethers of standard narrative as the girls undergo a serious of sensual, hallucinatory encounters, the most notorious of which features a vampire bat dining on menstrual blood. The free-form pacing eventually disintegrates into a noctural horrific montage as the girls find themselves succumbing completely to the will of the creatures of the night. Steadily paced and obviously personal, this "naive" film (to use Rollin's term) resembles an elegent jazz session played out in a twilight dreamworld. All of the actors function as visual elements, not recognizable human characters, though the girls make a fetching pair (Castel went on to do hardcore porn films with her twin sister.) While American horror fans unaccustomed to Rollin's recurring visual images and bizarre symbolism may find the entire brew offputting, followers of European film will be rejoicing at yet another fragile little masterpiece from Monsieur Rollin.
The image on every DVD and the much-needed Blu-Ray edition is accurately letterboxed at 1.66:1; the transfer from the negative reveals countless layers of colour and visual texture completely invisible on all other editions, with the Blu-Ray obviously surpassing its predecessors in every way with far better fidelity to the red costumes and lighting which tended to become soft in standard def. The craggy edges of stones in the castle walls, the delicate sheen of fabric and cloaks sliding over bare skin, and the warm glow of sunlight over a country field look beguiling and realistic. All versions include the original French soundtrack with optional English subtitles, with the Blu-Ray and some of its DVD counterparts also offering the US dubbed track (it frankly doesn't matter, given the rarity of spoken words in the film).
British horror magazine The Dark Side issued a heavily-cut version of the film as part of an otherwise excellent double-bill disc, which also featured Rollin's Fascination and the documentary "Virgins and Vampires," made by the team who went on to form cult DVD label Mondo Macabro. The earlier American release from Image was problematic in a different way as many players caused it to display with rampant combing issues and constant color shimmering, while the US Redemption reisssue was struck from the same master and only looked marginally better. A stunning triple-disc box set of Requiem was issued by Dutch company Encore Filmed Entertainment in October 2005. The film itself is presented as a digitally-remastered anamorphic widescreen print, and along with a host of DVD extras, the package is rounded out by an exclusive 64-page book. Following on from a similarly impressive edition of Rollin's The Demoniacs, this was the second release in an on-going series of definitive Jean Rollin DVD releases from Encore, in association with Britain's Redemption label. That set includes interviews with Louise Dhour and Paul Bisciglia, an excerpt of Rollin reading one of his books, three alternate softer versions of scenes from the film, a photo gallery, and a video intro by Rollin. The Blu-Ray features a different, later, and shorter Rollin intro, along with the French and English trailers as well as the wild Caged Virgins one. The Dhor interview is carried over here along with Tim Lucas' set of insightful liner notes written for the second wave of Rollin Blu-Ray releases.
Updated review on June 1, 2012.