Reviews & Commentary

The Nude Vampire (1970)

Also known as
La vampire nue (original)
Jean Rollin, S.H. Mosti
Jean Rollin
Olivier Rollin (as Olivier Martin), Maurice Lemaître, Michel Delahaye, Caroline Cartier, Ursule Pauly, Bernard Musson, Jean Aron
Jean-Jacques Renon

This review contains spoilers.

So, The Nude Vampire: Dr Radamante (Maurice Lemaître) and his colleagues (Bernard Musson, Jean Aron) are evil scientists (is there any other kind), holding a young woman they believe to be a vampire (Caroline Cartier) hostage. For some reason, their plan involves a suicide cult, people in animal masks, interpretive dance, and girls in strange costumes. I’m sure it would have all played into their master plan, except before it can come to fruition, the vampire girl escapes, right into the arms of Radamante’s son, Pierre (Olivier Rollin). She’s recaptured, but not before piquing young Pierre’s curiosity.

Dr Radamante tries to convince Pierre that the murders, kidnapping, and general rudeness are all justified by their end-goal: finding the secret to immortality. Pierre will have none of it, though, and gets in league with a bunch of vampires who aren’t really vampires—and who seem to have infiltrated Radamente’s organization so thoroughly that there are only about four non-infiltrators in the entire group—to free the vampire girl. (Who isn’t really a vampire, either.) Finally, the girl is freed, Radamante’s project destroyed, and Pierre passes behind a theatre curtain that leads to another dimension.

I wish the movie had ended there, as that is really the most interesting part of the film: Before the not-vampires attack the scientists, the head not-vampire (Michel Delahaye) says that none of what’s happening is real; Dr Radamante sees vampires because he expects to see vampires. And when Pierre disappeared behind the curtain, I thought I saw it all come together, and said to myself: “Of course they’re not vampires, they’re fictional characters: they live forever because they are ideas, not flesh and blood”—much like how the director’s characters haunt Ovidie in La nuit des horloges, which also quotes heavily from The Nude Vampire. This reading is strengthened by a scene were the characters hear music that previously seemed to be extra-diegetic. But Rollin keeps the film going (to his favourite beach in Dieppe), and has Delahaye give a monologue about being a mutant and about how mutants will replace regular humans, spoiling my reading.

Of course, the mutants do carry a black flag and their symbol is a circled ‘A’, so could easily read the film, and given the time period in France, Rollin probably intended it as a political statement: anarchy, represented by the mutants, overthrowing hierarchy, represented by Dr Radamante and his cohorts. An interesting reading, sure, but I tend to prefer meta-filmic subtexts to political ones.

The score has some fairly interesting free-jazzy, atonal music, and I quite like Lemaître as Dr Radamante, but overall, the film is pretty dull. Rollin focuses too much on trying to tell his, rather convoluted, story, instead of on his strong suit: composing weird and pretty shots. Though there are quite a few of those also: the animal-masked goons at the beginning of the film bring to mind David Lynch’s Rabbits, and there are quite a few shots in Rollin’s signature style, where he places characters in scenes as if they were props and pans from one to another. The film is worth seeing for those tableaux vivants, but otherwise pretty forgettable.

Written by Kalle on Thursday April 28, 2011
Permalink - Tags: 1970s, vampire, jean-rollin

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