Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Nude Vampire - Mad Scientist Suicide Cult A Go-Go

The Nude Vampire
Directed by Jean Rollin
Written by Jean Rollin & Serge Moati
 Maurice Lemaître, Caroline Cartier & Ly Lestrong.

Tag Lines:
NONE!  Couldn't find any...but if I missed something, let me know!

Alternate Titles:
La vampire nue (The Naked Vampire) France (Original Title)
Alaston vampyyri (The Nude Vampire) Finland
Das Lustschloss der grausamen Vampire (The Pleasure Palace of the Cruel Vampire) Germany
Die nackten Vampire (The Naked Vampires) West Germany
La vampira nuda (The Naked Vampire) Italy

Okay....well, really, it's more like scantily clad....but still....

Some call it Euro-Horror, Some call it Euro-Trash.....the French call it le cinema fantastique.  It's all in how you look at it.  We're in the dreamy, ethereal world of Rollin again and this, his second feature film, can be a bit difficult to get through at times.  It starts off with some truly impressive imagery.  A young woman with a ornate cloth hood/mask over her head is stripped nude and has blood taken by a lab coat clad man in a red cloth hood/mask while a man in a fucked up animal mask stands guard.  The camera zooms into some technicolor chemicals being drained into beakers and we're then watching as a young woman clad in nothing but see through gossamer.  (That's the material, not the Looney Tunes monster that Bugs runs into in the mad scientist's castle.)  She is running through darkened streets, while being stalked by more men in animal masks.  The use of shadow and light here is phenomenal and creates a real feeling of dread.

See, this is why I hate going to the doctor's office.....

This kind of iconic imagery runs rampant through the film

As she is pursued  she runs into our hero, Georges, who takes her hand and tries to help her escape.  They are cornered, however and she is shot by one of the animal guys.  This was odd, I thought.  Clearly these dudes are part of some sort of cult, and they've got these creepy fuckin' I'm expecting a ceremonial dagger, a sword....hell even a scythe would have been cool.  Nope.  Takes out a pistol and caps her ass.  Georges, goes all Tarzan and climbs up some girders and gets the hell out of dodge.  Being rather curious as to why he was almost killed he follows the masked killers as they carry her to his father's private club.  When he confronts his father about it, dear old Dad tells him to mind his own business.  Thus begins the mystery.  What is going on?  Who was that girl?  Was she the same girl getting blood drawn?

Georges sneaks into the club after cold cocking a guest arriving and stealing his invitation.  Turns out his father is hosting a suicide club and that mysterious girl is a vampire, who they are keeping captive.  The members who (cheerfully?!) kill themselves are used to feed her.  It's a strange and decadent scene.  As Georges delves deeper into the mystery, we discover that his father is keeping the poor vampire captive to run tests on her, trying to figure out the secrets to immortality.  All is not as it seems though as the movie goes from strange to weird to WTF territory pretty quickly.

Hi there, you may remember my hand from the opening credits.....

Trust me when I tell you that you will have NO idea what's coming next. There are those who say that there is next to no plot in this film, but I can't help but wonder if they are truly watching.  Sure, it's got more missing  logic than a can of Swiss Cheese Holes, but I'll be damned if that really matters.  As I said in my review of The Iron Rose, you shouldn't CANNOT watch these films without surrendering yourself to them.  Amusingly, this film maintains it's mystery for most of it's running time, and then in the final minutes, it lays on exposition so thick, you'll need a sturdy butter-knife to spread it.

Double your pleasure, double your fun!
Or not.  Oh who am I kidding..they're wearing SCHOOL GIRL OUTFITS!

This film works for me on multiple levels.  First off, it's Rollin, which means it's dripping with gorgeous cinematography and vibrant textures.  Trippy outfits galore, especially worn by the lovely twins....who sport some odd, abacus like tops that you simply have to see to believe.  Speaking of the twins, they are in my absolute favorite "So bad it's amazing" scene.  Towards the end of the film, bad girl Solange takes them both out with a pretty massive iron torch.  This is so fantastically awful it's hilarious.  First off, she swings the torch SO slowly, it looks more like she was trying out some weird interpretive dance move.  It is PAINFULLY obvious that the torch doesn't connect with either twin....especially since Twin #2 starts to fall before the snail paced torch even gets to her.  Then to put the icing on the cake, we're treated to one of the twins rolling herself down the stairs while screaming.  Okay....well, actually she rolls down partway, stops, turns herself around and then continues to roll again....naturally pushing herself away from the banister on the way down so as not to bonk her noggin.  It's priceless.  I laughed so hard, I cried.

Say....this beach looks awful familiar......any one seen an iron rose around here?


I could not help but wonder, as I watched Caroline Cartier portray the Vampire Girl, if Dan O'Bannon had taken inspiration from The Nude Vampire when writing the Lifeforce screenplay.  I just couldn't help but think about Mathilda May, strolling around in all her naked, vampiric glory.  Obviously Caroline was a little covered with her sheer robe and Mathilda left absolutely NOTHING to the imagination, but many other alien vampire chicks had there been before?  Okay...well, there was Queen of Blood....but still.  This sounds like a good excuse to watch Lifeforce again so that I can make a more informed comparison.  Strictly for academic purposes....has nothing to do with Mathilda'  I'll touch on this again in a future review of Lifeforce, fair enough?

Midnight Cinephile Tally:

Body Count:  It's tough to get an exact count in this one, because as usual, there are implied deaths.  So, we're gonna go with more than one and less than twenty.

Boob Count:  Well, we start out with the lovely hooded girl in the beginning, who I THINK is The Vampire Girl.....who then runs around the rest of the film in her flowing gossamer, constantly giving us just a peek at her.  There's also a model who strips and has some seriously funky metal nails....

Beast Count:  Well, there are vampires, but I really would be hesitant to call them monsters.  I'll put them animal mask wearing freaks in though.....they were fuggin' creepy!

Final Thoughts:
If you are already a Rollin fan, then you will no doubt dig this warped little oddity.  If you are new to his fever dream aesthetics, then you may want to start elsewhere....

Final Rating:

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