*. Getting right to the point: most of the original audience for this movie were interested, primarily, in seeing breasts and bush (the latter still a long way from extinction in 1971). In the case of Requiem for a Vampire you even got some light S&M thrown in as part of the general debauchery.
*. But no, this is not meant as exploitation but is instead an art film. Kind of. Which means the kinky stuff had to be put in there just to get the film made. Or at least that’s what Jean Rollin (who Kim Newman evasively describes as “actually a sort of artist”) said. Apparently Rollin only included the red dungeon scene at the insistence of his funders. So now highbrow cineastes can go back and overlook the tits and bums and concentrate on Rollin as auteur.
*. Except . . . exactly what is there in Requiem for a Vampire, often regarded as one of Rollin’s better films, for us to admire?
*. I can make a long list of what’s not to like. For starters it was shot on a micro-budget and looks it. The production values are very poor. I can understand the two girls not knowing how to torch a car, but it seems Rollin was clueless as well. There’s a rotting corpse hanging in the crypt that would have embarrassed the effects crew on a third-rate Italian splatter pic. The editing and sound are both atrocious. There’s little in the way of a script, with almost no dialogue or even plot beyond the basic (and somewhat trite) scenario. Instead we have a bunch of semi-professional actors running around a French chateau, having kinky sex and wearing very silly-looking fake vampire teeth.
*. What fans of the movie usually point to is its sense of style. I think this is overrated. The most striking thing about it is the use of colour, which is indeed both brilliant and effective. It’s not just the crazy clown costumes but the green of the woods and fields and the Bava-like blocks of colour that light the chateau. Aside from this, however, I didn’t think the locations were very well used and there’s nothing notable about the photography, which most of the time is just as crude as every other part of the film.
*. Another point that’s often made in its defence is its “surrealism.” Again, I don’t see much of this. I guess it refers to those fake-looking hands sticking out of the walls. There is an explanation for the girls being dressed up as clowns (they’re coming from a New Year’s party). Otherwise, it all seems pretty conventional, if sleazy. When weird things happen I just assumed it was on the grounds of expedience, like the gravediggers filling in half a grave and then deciding they’ll come back tomorrow and fill in the rest. This makes no sense, but I reckoned they had to do it that way so that the girl could crawl out from under a manageable layer of dirt.
*. That said, it’s obvious that this is a movie that’s meant to be looked at and not thought about too much. In this way it is typical of most porn. I can’t figure out any kind of message about innocence being lost. The party girls, despite being a pair of wild things, are remarkably still virgins. They are not, however, babes in the woods. I suppose it can be taken as an allegory of girls coming of age, with Marie finding herself a boy while Michelle wants to stay girlfriends just a bit longer. The vampires are their parents: Marie breaks free of their authority by eloping with Frédéric while Michelle elects to stay at home, which is embracing the cold sterility of the grave.
*. This may be a stretch, but even if it’s a correct reading I don’t think it’s a very profound or original theme. This is a fun little movie that has some quirky charm, but that’s as far as it goes. If you really want to watch a great erotic thriller from 1971 featuring lesbian vampires I’d direct you to Daughters of Darkness.