Le frisson des vampires; AKA Sex and Vampires, Strange Things Happen at Night, Terror of the Vampires, Thrill of the Vampire, Vampire Thrills

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“A grandfather clock is of no interest – a vampire woman getting out of this clock at midnight, that’s me!”―Jean Rollin

DIRECTED BY: Jean Rollin

FEATURING: Sandra Julien, Jean-Marie Durand, Dominique, Marie-Pierre Castel (as Marie-Pierre Tricot), Kuelan Herce, Michel Delahaye, Jacques Robiolles, Nicole Nancel

PLOT: Newlyweds Isle and Antoine arrive at the castle of her beloved cousins, only to be told they died the day before. Isle soon discovers that the castle has become the domain of vampires, that her cousins were vampire hunters who were murdered and converted to the ranks of the undead, and that the lead vampire seeks to welcome the young newlywed into her coven. Antoine soon recognizes the threat to his bride, but he may be too late to prevent her from being seduced by the vampire’s call.

Still from shiver of the Vampires (1971)


  • This was the third of a quartet vampire movies that kicked off Rollin’s directorial career.
  • Marie-Pierre Castel, the blonde half of the pair of Renfield-like maids, is one of two cast members to return from Rollin’s previous feature, The Nude Vampire. She appeared in several of Rollin’s films, usually alongside her twin sister Catherine. (Catherine skipped this installment due to pregnancy).
  • Rollin shot the opening scene, in which the vampire slayers are entombed, in black-and-white as a nod to classic Universal horror films.
  • The director credited actors Delahaye (the other returning cast member) and Robiolles with improvising much of their dialogue, as they would often forget sections of their lengthy speeches during the extended takes.
  • Actress Nancel was widely disliked on the set, but she rose in the crew’s estimation when she volunteered to do a second take of a scene where her body is tossed into a moat, into water that was brackish and potentially toxic.
  • Explicit inserts were shot separately to turn this into a porno in some markets (a practice that was not infrequent in European horror movies in the early 70s).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Are you kidding? It can only be the clock. Isolde, the vampire queen with the ghastly pallor, has a knack for entrances, but none is grander or more surprising than her first appearance, climbing out from within a grandfather clock and immediately pawing at the naked young woman she finds standing there. Rollin himself was unable to shake the sight; he returned to it in later films. 

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Death by pointy pasties; cousins deliver exposition in-the-round

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Easily ranking among the most elegant grindhouse movies ever made, The Shiver of the Vampires is relentless in its pursuit of exceedingly tasteful presentations of tawdry material. Gothic fashions and decor coexist harmoniously with a summer-of-love psychedelic vibe, all for the ostensible purpose of setting up vignettes of softcore smut but really in pursuit of an air of erotic disquiet. The film knows what it wants, and does exactly what it intends to do to get there.

Scene from Shiver of the Vampires

COMMENTS: How frequently over the years have movies been called out for being “delivery systems” for whatever the real meat of the movie is? “It’s not a movie, it’s a just an excuse to show a lot of gunplay/jokes/action/sex scenes/dance numbers/what-have-you.” What makes The Shiver of the Vampires especially peculiar is that it seems primed to be one of those movies. One would imagine that this is either going to be a haunting Gothic horror or a playful sex romp. But while Jean Rollin absolutely has one thing on his mind, it isn’t scares and it isn’t titillation. No, he’s here for the vibes, man. The Shiver of the Vampires is a delivery system for mood.

You can tell this is what Rollin is after because many essential elements of drama do not interest him at all. Certainly not plot. There’s only the barest thread of a story here, and what little there is makes almost no sense and leaves much unexplained. What the vampires want is utterly irrelevant, and the nature of Isle’s attachment to cousins who appear to be twice her age isn’t even paid lip service. Even the moments when the film does seem to care about what’s going on, via exposition dumps from the two cursed vampire hunters, turn out to be word salads, delivering intensity without comprehensibility. (Rollin stages one such dialogue with the actors orbiting the camera in a dizzying spin, the other actors having been cast centrifugally to the outer edges of the set.) 

Characters, meanwhile, exist to be moved around like chess pieces, with barely the thinnest veneer of personality. Isolde is sinister and seductive. The cousins jabber on endlessly and pointlessly, while the possessed girls are naughty pranksters. (It’s a mark of how completely lacking in depth these characters are that so few of them have names.) Isle herself is an empty vessel, which perhaps explains why she’s so highly impressionable; her greatest moment of passion is her encounter with a dead bird. Probably the richest character is Isle’s groom, Antoine, whose defining trait is spectacular uselessness. He stands up to everyone (verbally, at least), but no one pays him the slightest heed. The lesbian maidens make an elaborate joke out of waking him up via sexual arousal, but immediately recoil from him the moment he slips into consciousness. Heck, he gets attacked by a library. With heroes like that, who needs villains?

But none of this matters, because Rollin is all about the vibe. He stages scenes like paintings, lavishing attention on framing, wild color, and harsh light that creates bold shadows but never permits anyone to hide in them. He patiently draws out scenes, staging Isle’s seduction and later her conversion as pageants, with each gesture and pause laden with import. Isle doesn’t need to have dialogue or excessive emotion because she has given herself over completely to the surreal goings-on. And when a big moment is called for, it’s delivered with over-the-top panache. Why else would Isolde choose to murder a troublesome rival with a breastpiece that sports dangerously sharp nipples? And all this is scored by the groovy sounds of the band Acanthus, with deep bass lines and flighty electric guitar passages that add to the sense of detachment and unsteadiness. 

The Shiver of the Vampires demands that you take seriously its refusal to be taken seriously. If you come to see bloodsuckers doing the horrific things that have made them legendary, you’ll get what you came for. If you come to see beautiful young women in all their naked splendor, you’ll be rewarded in spades. But the real prize inside the package is the unsettled, untethered feeling that Rollin crafts throughout, from the grim ritual of the opening funeral to the strange mix of love and doom that permeates the beachside finale. Rollin is looking for that unexpected blend of being simultaneously creeped-out and turned-on (the frisson of the French title), and everything else is in service to that almighty vibe.


“Even more deliriously absurd than most of Rollin’s low budget horror fantasies, this is a mad skin flick for surrealists where bad acting, slapdash effects, and narrative abstraction are transformed into an aesthetic.” – Sean Axmaker, Parallax View

“Jean Rollin’s The Shiver of the Vampires is a wonderfully strange, clever piece of B-movie trash/art, a film that revels in its nakedly exploitative eroticism and lurid atmosphere… This film is a celebration of the surreal, the strange, the sexually polymorphous…”–Ed Howard, Only the Cinema

IMDB LINK: The Shiver of the Vampires (1971)


Kinoeye: Clocks, seagulls, Romeo and Juliet – Andy Black interviews Rollin in 1996 about his influences and themes

The Lost Highway Hotel: Why I Love #155: The Shiver of the Vampires – As part of the “Why I Love…” series, Peter Cox explains why this is his favorite of Rollin’s oeuvre

Morbidly Beautiful: Sapphic Sunday – The Shiver of the Vampires (1971) – The film is featured as part of the site’s “LGBTQ Women in Horror” series

Goregirl’s Dungeon: THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES (1971) – The Dungeon Review! – 366 scribe Terri McSorley gives the film a perfect score, and shares a sizeable collection of stills (many NSFW)

LIST CANDIDATE: SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES [LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES] (1971)Gregory J. Smalley’s original List Candidate review

HOME VIDEO INFO: Shiver of the Vampires appeared on DVD (buy) and Blu-ray previously on the Redemption label, but these releases have been superseded in recent years by the Indicator 4K restorations. The Indicator versions may be purchased separately on regular Blu-ray (buy) or, if you can play them, on 4KUHD disc (buy). These are limited edition releases (10,000 total units between both formats.) In either format the bonus features are the same: an English dub or French original soundtrack; commentary tracks by Rollin himself or a newer one by author Jeremy Richey; a 4-minute Rollin introduction; a short “making of” documentary; a 41-minute Rollin interview; an 8 minute film essay; explicit (hardcore?) inserts used in some markets to turn Shivers into a true porn film; trailers, stills and publicity materials; and an 80-page booklet. It’s enough to make you shiver in anticipation.

You can catch Shivers free on Tubi or Kanopy (in the lower quality unrestored Redemption print), or for VOD rental or purchase (buy or rent) (again, in the unrestored version). The restored version of the film is not currently available streaming.

Where to watch Shiver of the Vampires

One thought on “48*. THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES (1971)”

  1. It’s about time a Rollin film was certified weird! Personally, I would have gone with Requiem, for the extended clown car getaway in the intro, but there’s honestly not that much difference between them. The scene with the clock is a true surrealist image though. I’m also partial to the bleeding window.

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