Color, 1999, 91 mins.
Directed by Jean Rollin
Starring Cyrille Iste, Thomas Smith
Shriek Show (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
A virtual catalog of the images and themes which marked his 1970s vampire films, Rollin's La Fiancée de Dracula (The Bride of Dracula, regrettably translated for DVD as Fiancée of Dracula) is a more confident and typical outing for the director than the intensely personal Two Orphan Vampires. The grandfather clock from Shiver of the Vampires, those omnipresent beach and cliffside scenes, copious nudity, and a romantic sense of melancholy clearly indicate Rollin has lost none of his artistic obsessions over the years, and while it's strange to see his trademark imagery carried over into a milieu outside of the '70s, his surrealist sensibility remains a force to be reckoned with.
The film opens in a graveyard, of course, where a vampire expert professor (Jacques Régis) instructs young Thibault (Thomas Smith) in the ways of bloodsucker surveillance and destruction. In a serial-style narrative, the disciples of the presumably deceased Count Dracula lead the mean to a nearby convent where the sultry Isabelle (Cyrille Iste) seems to be held in the sway of a diabolical power related to the still-living Dracula (Thomas Desfossé), Meanwhile a number of other supernatural entities roam the countryside. Scheming, devilish nuns hold sway at the convent, while a man-eating ogress (Magalie Aguado) scarfs down her prey in a nearby cave. And let's not forget the malefic jester dwarf, a horseback-riding vampiric aide (Brigitte Lahaie), and a handful of witches for good measure. The smitten Thibault attempts to stop Isabelle for going to meet her betrothed, who pops from one location to another through a magical clock, before the characters finally face off at dawn for a beachside finale.
Guaranteed to provoke bewilderment from newcomers, this film is best recommended to those already well-versed in all things Rollin. The actors behave in a typically somnambulist fashion, and while the story produces an occasional romantic frisson, this isn't meant to be a particularly terrifying film. The low budget shooting is more of an inconvenience than usual in Rollin's films; the glossy sheen present in even his earliest, unpolished efforts has been dulled somewhat by flat, 1990s-style cinematography. However, his eye for unusual and psychologically piercing visuals remains intact, with the melancholy finale offering a nice updated twist on his aquatic resolutions from Shiver of the Vampires, Lips of Blood and The Demoniacs.
Shriek Show's transfer is a considerable improvement over the misfire of Two Orphan Vampires, though the limited lighting and filming conditions don't result in the most ravishing visual experience. Some compression artifacts are visible in dark scenes but overall it's a pleasant enough presentation. Mercifully the only option is the original French soundtrack with optional English subtitles. Apart from the usual gallery of Shriek Show trailers, the only extra is a nine-minute interview with Rollin in which he discusses his influence and the casting procedure for the film.
Color, 1999, 91 mins.