Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shiver of the Vampires (1971)

 A newlywed couple stop at a spooky castle to visit the bride's eccentric cousins. Only, they are dead. Well, kinda. Either it's gossip from the villagers, or they are vampires (shuush ... they're vampires!) Anyhow, there are lots of story and character details that are quite boring, and nobody wants me to go into any serious detail anyhow. Let's hit the highlights.

There's a meh-looking travelling vampire chick that killed the foppish cousins (who in life were vampire hunters!) and now has control over them. There's the two servants which I was never sure were vampires or not. They walk around with stupid looks on their faces and say little. There's a woman who was in love with both cousins who gets killed Austin Powers fembot style. And much of the story consists of bride disappearing, husband witnessing a strange and disturbing ceremony, then finds wifey asleep in bed. He seems to need a lot of clues before he catches on.

Anyhow, what made this movie tolerable is that whenever it would slow and tedious, someone would take their blouse off and interest would perk back up. I'm sure the original French version was cut down. It took seven years for it to reach the Americas and as some of the scenes contained unexplained characters or made no sense whatsoever. I'm not so sure the directors cut would have been worth a longer run time. It was over 90 minutes as it was.

The French title was Le Frisson des Vampires which google tells me means something like the Thrill of the vampires, which makes more sense than Shiver, but I just don't feel like being the title-nazi today. Having a title that made sense wouldn't seem to fit here anyhow. Note that there's a fair amount of nudity here, if you are into such things (I am into such things). Director Jean Rollin made a living making such stuff and is revered in some circles.

The surrealist style gives it an art house appeal as well as providing a plausible excuse why the characters behave in a completely unrealistic manner. But that, and the language barrier, does make it hard to relate with the characters. Jean Rollin fans need not offense if I don't care for his style, but I don't care for his style. This was fairly early in his career and will keep an open mind if another crawls across my screen at some point.

File this sucker under soft-core surrealist horror. Story, dialog, acting, all terrible. Some of the visual elements were at least interesting, what with vampire chick climbing out of a clock. And it also had one bona fide startle moment. However, remove the nudity and you remove almost all appeal. AMRU 2.5.

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