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The Shiver of the Vampires

Year: 1971
Production Co: Les Films ABC
Director: Jean Rollin
Writer: Monique Natan/Jean Rollin
Cast: Sandra Julien

Strongly influenced by the hippie era filmmaking aesthetic and moving and feeling like a European Corman jam (ie cheap), most of this film looks like the kind of thing the fake trailers in the middle of Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse were homaging/parodying.

It says almost everything you need to know when the title card some American distributor apparently affixed ('Sexual Terror') comes up – the original French title being Le Frisson des Vampires. Immediately after, we're into a sequence of a black guy shagging two nymphettes lounging around on huge pillows – including full frontal dick shots – who then bares his vampire fangs and bites them.

But it wasn't until reading a description of the plot I figured out who the two girls even were (and I'm still not sure). I think they're two cousins of Isle, a newlywed bride who stops at a medieval castle somewhere in France to visit them after her wedding to new husband Antoine.

After being told their cousins evidently died the day before, two silent young servant girls show the couple to their room and leave them to it, Isle too upset to consummate the marriage and sleeping alone.

But halfway through the night a woman, Isolde, emerges from the grandfather clock in the room, one of a coven of vampires who live in the castle and who takes Isle to the local cemetery and bites her, starting to turn her. Lonely and at loose ends, Antoine wanders around, stumbling upon a sacrificial ceremony in the chapel where Isle's very-much alive cousins explain to him that the woman at the centre of the ceremony has to die or she'll end up a vampire like everyone else there.

When he stumbles back to bed he isn't sure whether it was all a nightmare, but with Isolde taking Isle away to bite her again it turns out the danger is real. When Antoine finally convinces himself they have to get out or suffer the same fate, Isle has become aware her cousins are alive and wants to stay with them, vampire or not.

There are a lot of long tracking shots of the two servant women walking around the castle and grounds carrying candlesticks to light their way in semi-dressed states, emoting little more than a raised eyebrow when confronted with something horrible, and it's just one example of the pacing that will put a lot of modern viewers off.

To some it will appear just bad editing, to others it will fit in perfectly with early 70s filmmaking conventions. It might have even been an effective art film but co-writer/director Jean Rollin apparently doesn't have the money or talent to pull that off here.

It's all badly dubbed, badly acted, the music is trippy and weird, there's plenty of nudity with strong lesbian overtones, including a quick blast of sexual violence.

The effects are dodgy off-screen smoke machine cheap – in one unwittingly hilarious sequence Antoine is 'trapped' in a small library and 'attacked' by books falling off the shelves on top of him. The lurid design and cinematography are ripped straight from the Giallo playbook (in fact, owing to the release year, it might have inspired it).

It's an aesthetic Xan Cassevetes' 2013 film Kiss of the Damned referenced but did a much better job with, but it's worth seeing to see what tastes were like in the era.

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