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DIRECTED BY: Jean Rollin
FEATURING: Alexandra Pic, Isabelle Teboul, Bernard Charnacé
PLOT: Two eternally reborn vampire girls who are blind during the day but see at night pose a sorphans and are adopted by an eye doctor who believes he can cure them.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Two Orphan Vampires is a very odd, low key movie, but it won’t be confused for Jean Rollin’s best.
COMMENTS: After having some mild success with his unusual, surreal erotic vampire movies in the early 1970s, Jean Rollin fell out of fashion later in the decade and increasingly turned to grinding out hardcore porn films to pay the bills, directing his beloved horrors only sporadically. Although it’s not his final fright film, Two Orphan Vampires feels like a swan song, an old man returning to the themes that haunted him in his youth. Adapted from his own graphic novel, the director’s usual obsessions are all back, undiluted after almost 30 years: Sapphic heroines, world weary vampires struggling with existential burdens of near-immortality, indifference to pacing. The film was obviously made on the cheap, adorned with a poor music score that’s 1/2 funk, 1/2 80s synth-pop and shot on low quality film stock that gives it a direct-to-video look. The cheapness is not helped by the fact that almost half the movie is tinted ultramarine, which is Rollin’s realization of the vampires’ night vision but also unfortunately brings to mind the low-budget trick of using a blue filter in order to shoot day for night.
The concept of vampires being blind during the day is novel—more, it’s practically inexplicable, one of many strangely conceived features of this movie that could only have come from this particular director and his skewed view of the Gothic. Orphan Vampires is also unusually talky, even for Rollin, with the girls expressing angst, filling us in on their backstory, and remembering (perhaps imagining) their various reincarnations in lengthy dialogues. Still, the core scenario of these two eternal child-women wandering through the human world as if in a dream is appealing. In their travels they stumble upon other immortal monsters—werewolves, ghouls—all women, all wanderers like themselves. Never has the correspondence between blood and sexual fluids been as pronounced as in this film: lines like “it’s good to be sticky from the lifeblood of this woman,” “I adore you—smear me with some blood” and “you think we could drink each other?” reinforce the connection none too subtly. Other oddities include an strangely staged stalking and slaying taking place in a circus tent conveniently set up in the middle of a Paris street, the vampire girls taking time out to experiment with alcohol and cigarettes like typical teenagers, and the orphans’ continual insistence that they are actually Aztec gods. Two Orphan Vampires is slow, cheap, badly dubbed, and the vampire-vision blue filters get old, true, but there is an almost endearing strangeness and obsessiveness to the movie’s eccentric conceptions. Unfortunately, it goes on too long and wears out its welcome even for those who are attuned to this director’s plodding style, making it yet another of Rollin’s noble failures.
A couple of actresses from the past show up in Two Orphan Vampires, reinforcing the notion of this film as a Rollin retrospective piece. Natalie Perrey from Lips of Blood appears as a nun, and porn actress/topless Grim Reaper Brigitte Lahaie is an orphan vampire victim. An even more obscure cameo comes in the Midnight Lady’s choice of bedside reading: Pete Tombs and Cathal Tohill’s “Immoral Tales,” an influential survey of seventies Eurohorror that included an appreciative chapter on Rollin.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Though the two orphans are beautiful to look at and their condition tragic, there’s nothing else to hold onto as a viewer. I’m sure some viewers hold on and glean something from this bizarre film, but it never quite gets as weird as [Rollin’s] best work.”–Gordon Sullivan, DVD Verdict
2 thoughts on “CAPSULE: TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES (1997)”
Just saw this and loved it. Maybe the dubbing put you off? I just saw it in French on ‘Kino-Cult’ streaming service (c’est gratuit!). I think it’s his best – certainly the best lead actresses – who have a great kind of Heavenly Creatures / Ghost World / Don’t Deliver Us from Evil chemistry. The fact that the villains who pursue them are usually men, and they keep running into immortal lonely single women and they then relay each other’s story and identity like mythic encounters in Greek or Brechtian dramedies. It’s pure Rollin and –as one of his latter more mature work — seems free of the sexual demands of distributors. The presence of Immoral Tales on the altar shows we’re at elder statesman outsider, with enough age and class that he’d no doubt feel like a pedophile to drag these youngsters through the sexual mud and is, perhaps, to paraphrase Socrates, at last unchained to the insane lunatic of carnal desire. I relate. And also like that these girls are front and center the whole time, no side plots or jewel thief men and romantic hangups getting between them like we’d get in Requiem for a Vampire or that Polish film ‘The Lure’ (2015) or Ginger Snaps, yet neither are they obnoxious like the pair in Daisies. All in all, his best since Shiver of the Vampires (in mon opinion humble),
First off, big fan of Acidemic here.
Secondly, I haven’t seen the movie since 2012, but I think that the production values as a whole—which includes the dubbing—put me off. I agree that the actresses are better here (better than the Castel sisters, though I do love them), and the script takes some intriguing turns and is one of Rollin’s best screenplays. But to me, in the end, it’s just another snakebitten Rollin film: he finally gets good actors and a decent script, and now no longer has those luxurious visuals which were the main draw of his 70s films. To me, this movie has the same general shape as all of Rollin’s work: two or three brilliant moments, surrounded by a great emptiness that he tries to fill with pure atmosphere. I think he was never able to put together that one film where everything in his vision came together. I still find Rollin’s catalogue of work as a whole is somehow great, despite the fact that I find none of the individual movies great on their own. You give a great insight on his late-career de-sexualization of the vampire here, which just goes to show how he continues to build the vampire as a personal existential symbol over time, creating a whole that’s better than the sum of his parts. I understand that true Rollin fans are more forgiving of his slow pace and low budgets than I am–maybe they even see them as virtues–and to them, Two Orphan Vampires is highly recommended.