Virgins and Vampires (1971)

Also known as: Caged Vampires
Caged Virgins
Crazed Vampire, The
Crazed Virgins
Dungeon of Terror
Requiem for a Vampire
Requiem pour un vampire
Sex Vampires
Virgins and the Vampires

Jean Rollin's films are getting more viewing these days, thanks to specialist distribution companies like Salvation or Redemption. And they're really worth watching for fans of weirdo cinema. There's really nothing quite like them ... to start with, they're French, so they have an innate otherness which makes them intrinsically interesting. They usually have vampires in them, so you horror/vampire fans should get something out of them. There's sex and nudity, which nobody likes, but we'll just have to endure to get to the other bits. They have a strange pace, poetry and langour to them which is an acquired taste but once you're into it, you're in. They're certainly low budget, and have an amateurishness in the mounting (!) and acting that's kind of charming. So all in all, a Rollin epic is worth a look on a number of levels.

"Virgins and Vampires" has all of the qualities of the above. It's not his best work - "Lips of Blood" is my favorite so far - but certain elements within the film command the attention. We begin with three people on the run in the French countryside. It's a car chase, and the male of the three is shot dead. The two girls, both inexplicably in garish clown costumes, escape and after burning the getaway car, wander the picturesque countryside. They try to seduce a dullard for money, which succeeds without them having to do anything. It's funny how you can walk past a man in an ice-cream van, look seductive, and he'll immediately chase you into the woods. I love that scene.

Their wandering continues and goes on for ages, with no dialogue. An interesting approach. Finally, after shedding the clown getups, our friends take shelter in a ancient castle. After getting nude, cosy and intimate - as all girlfriends do, right girls? - the two realize the castle is not abandoned ...

They stumble into a skeleton-filled room. A female "vampire" in gothic costume and her fur-wearing henchman attack the girls, and hold them prisoner. They see that these fiends hold naked chained women for their supplies of blood, in a dungeon. After trying to escape again, they're recaptured in a graveyard, and made to learn of their fate. As virgins, they are prime fodder to perpetuate the vampire race as told by "The last vampire", a tired looking, middle-aged man in a Dracula cape and fangs. I can't really work out how these scantily-clad girls who are prepared to seduce strangers for money can still be virgins, but maybe they do it differently in Froggyland. The other vampires are only partially transformed, and can still tolerate sunlight, and only some have fangs. The last vampire bites the girls, condemning them to future vampire-hood. They will lure new victims entranced by their beauty, to the castle.

One of the girls lures a winking French buffon - who chases her ... what's with the chasing? - into being a victim of the Vampires. The blonde girl loses her virginity to a young man so that she can bypass her vampiric fate. She is then taken to a graveyard where a piano is being played by one of the female vampires, and told she will lose her virginity to the last vampire in a ceremony, and then become a vampire. As you do, she runs away.

She hides the young man but her friend finds her, and to avoid further suffering chains her up naked - as you do - and attempts to whip a confession about this potential victim's whereabouts. We're having a good time here, folks! I think you can see where Rollin's sensibilities lie. It's a visual experience, nonetheless, even if none of it makes any sense. Since we only hear the whipping and the screams, it's hard not to laugh at the overall ludicrousness of it all. But hey, I'll take my nude women hanging in chains being whipped where I can find them!

Finally the "last vampire" - the poor, tired old guy - explains some truths about their situation, and the true nature of their captors, which may solve our characters' problems. I might let you see this bit for yourself, it only adds to the enjoyable delirium that's gone before. I think this particular Rollin epic is best viewed as a light horror with some good visuals, an odd poetry, sexuality and humour. Ol' Jean certainly puts some oddball thought into his no-budget visuals and situations. If you're in the right mood, this one could hit the spot, as it were. Otherwise, you may be left scratching your head, in disbelief. The atrocious dubbing on my copy added to the lunacy - perhaps the original had a totally different storyline. Other Rollin films I've seen - standby for reviews - have been much more serious and comprehensible, even though they share some similarities. Still, you can have some fun with this one.

© Boris Lugosi 2002.


Review written: 05/20/2002 19:22:10