Directed by Jean Rollin
Starring Bernard Musson
Marie-Pierre Castel Maurice Lemaître
Jean Rollin's first color film, this surely must have blown away audiences when it hit screens in 1970. Dubbed in English, I'm not sure whether or how much of a release it got in the U.S. or U.K. But in addition to its native France, it did receive a release in Finland in 1974, and showed up there again for a horror film festival in 2006. It finally made its way to DVD in the U.S. in 2007. It was one of Rollin's first films, but ironically one of the last to make it to DVD in the U.S.
It was worth the wait. "The Nude Vampire" is one of Rollins' best, although it shows that he was still learning his craft. There are some unintentionally laughable scenes with pistols that sound like cap guns and one pretty hilarious scene where two twins scream ridiculously after being pushed down some stairs. But, all in all, the film is Rollin at his atmospheric best. In fact, it's fair to say this film probably influence Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," which shares many similarities with it, and "Hellraiser: Deader."
The film opens with a powerful and surreal night-time scene involving the woman we would later learn is the "nude vampire" -- Caroline Cartier, actually not nude, but wearing a see-through orange cloak that she keeps on throughout the film – is pursued by mysterious followers wearing animal masks. She runs into a tuxedo-wearing stranger that happens not to be wearing a mask – Oliver Martin – and after feeling an apparently instant connection with him, she is kidnapped by the group of masked men, and taken to a nearby chateau. Our hero, Martin, follows her, and eventually crashes a cult gathering where people commit suicide by shooting themselves in the head. When it eventually becomes his turn to do himself in, he turns the gun on the cult. To make matters more complicated, his own father is somehow involved in the group. His Dad is strange enough already, employing two silent servant twins – gorgeous Catherine Castel and Marie-Pierre Castel, who would frequently turn up in Rollin's films in later years – that dutifully tend to his every need, typically while wearing body art.
Obsessed with the girl he had seen, the son defies his father and investigates the cult, learning that the girl is in fact a vampire worshipped like a God by the cult, while his father is apparently attempting to use science to unlock the woman's secret to eternal life.
His father moves into a torch-lit chateau for a final confrontation with the cult over who controls the vampire girl, while the cult vies for his son's loyalty as well. In the end, the film's plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it doesn't matter much. Rollin's films – at least his good ones – are beautiful and deliver an atmosphere only he is capable of. This is one of his best. Even dubbed in English (the U.S. DVD doesn't give you the option of listing to the French soundtrack), the film is a classic. Granted, the pace is slow in parts, but that isn't uncommon in Rollin's films. This is not his most accessible movie – that honor probably goes to both "Lips of Blood" and "Grapes of Death" – but it is one of his best.
Like I said earlier, the film's arrival has been well worth the wait.
-- Review by Lucius Gore
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