AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A SCIENTIST!
Strikes Back /
The Reel World /
It's A Disaster! /
Etc., Etc., Etc. /
Dialogue / Links
LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE (THE RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE) (1968)
[aka The Queen Of The Vampires]
|“I don’t feel any curse inside of me. I will find a cure. We are not damned, I promise you...”|
Director: Jean Rollin
Starring: Solange Pradel, Bernard Letrou, Catherine Deville, Ursulle Pauly, Nicole Romain, Marquis Polho, Louise Horn, Doc Moyle, Jacqueline Sieger, Ariane Sapriel, Eric Yan
Screenplay: Jean Rollin and Alain Yves Beaujour
Synopsis: A woman allows a bat to drink her blood. As she walks home, she pauses to genuflect before a demonic idol standing in a lonely patch of woodland. Nearby, a badly disfigured man gathers a group of peasants armed with pitchforks and other makeshift weapons... As a blind woman feels her way through the huge, crumbling mansion in which she lives, a man’s voice warns her that she and her sisters must be careful; that three strangers are approaching, whose presence could mean their destruction. In particular, the blind woman is warned against the one who will say he is there to cure them. A man emerges from the shadows. As he caresses the blind woman, he tells her that the strangers will first come to him, and that he will tell them all about the legend attaching to the four vampire sisters... The three strangers are Thomas, a psychiatrist, and his married friends, Marc and Bridgette; Thomas has heard about the so-called vampire sisters, and hopes to cure them of their delusion. Brigitte is an admirer of Thomas’s work and supports him, but Marc is deeply sceptical and rejects the idea that the mentally ill can be helped – except by locking them up. The three call upon the area’s most significant landowner, who tells them the local legend of the vampire sisters: how, during the 18th century, a gentleman succeeded in killing the leader of the four but, as he did not sever her head, she did not stay dead. Attempts to kill the sisters continued into the current century. Several decades earlier, a mob of peasants attacked the four; one of them was raped, another had her eyes gouged out. Thomas listens gravely to the story, while Marc finds it ridiculous. Brigitte leaves and goes for a walk, finding herself in the grounds of the sisters’ crumbling mansion, where the blind woman is playing skittles. She collapses when Bridgette speaks to her. Brigitte hurries into the mansion in search of help. Following a trail of dead birds, which have evidently been drained of their blood, she finds herself surrounded by the other three sisters. One of them begins to undress her---but she and one of her sisters flee when Marc appears, berating Brigitte angrily for going off on her own. Later, the three move into a single room in the sisters’ mansion. Thomas tells Marc that in his opinion, the sisters are neither vampires nor insane, but in the grip of a delusion that has been forced upon them by outside persecution. He is confident that he can cure them. Meanwhile, the sisters make their way to the woodland, where they prostrate themselves before the idol. When they return home, they see a torch burning in an upstairs window and know that the strangers have come. One of the four recoils, as one of her sisters cruelly reminds her of what a man once did to her, all those decades ago...
Comments: One of the most enjoyable aspects of our Roundtables is the opportunity they present for gap-plugging---for myself, in the present instance, offering a chance to take a much-belated look at the work of Jean Rollin. (And before you ask, no, Zombie Lake doesn’t count.) I have an enduring soft spot for film-makers like Rollin: those who eschew the mainstream and toil away on the fringes, persisting in the face of critical scorn, commercial failure and/or widespread indifference, doing whatever they have to in order to capture their personal vision---just because something compels them to do it. The idiosyncratic results of this---well, what do we call it? Dedication? Obstinacy? Insanity?---can generally be assured of a sympathetic reception here...and I think it might be fairly said that, in the case of Le Viol Du Vampire, it needs one.
Jean Rollin’s first feature film owes its existence jointly to Sam Selsky, the geologist turned UNESCO administrator turned cinema entrepreneur, and to the French film distributor, Jean Lavie. In perhaps the most bizarre detail in a generally bizarre story, Lavie had obtained the rights to the American horror movie, Dead Men Walk – from 1943 – and needed a short film to play with the hour-long B-movie, so as to be able to offer a “proper” theatrical program. Rollin by this time had made several short films, and Lavie was sufficiently impressed by them to offer him the chance to make the supporting feature he was after; insisting, however, that it be something thematically suitable (Dead Men Walk was known in France as Le Vampire, Créature Du Diable). Sam Selsky, meanwhile, agreed to back the project financially, but insisted that Rollin include some nudity in his short film. Thus, Lavie and Selsky between them managed to set Jean Rollin’s feet on a path from which they would seldom subsequently stray.
When Jean Rollin screened for him the thirty-minute work he was calling Le Viol Du Vampire, Sam Selsky was startled and impressed by what the young film-maker had managed to achieve on his limited budget---so much so that instead of sending it out as a short supporting feature, he gave Rollin the chance to expand it into a feature-film.
Timing is everything, of course, and Le Viol Du Vampire was ready for cinematic release in May of 1968, at the height of the Paris riots. In one respect this presented a rare opportunity: other French film distributors were withholding their new material from release. When Viol Du Vampire opened in four Parisian cinemas, it was the only new release for several weeks, and people flocked to see it---only to react with fury and even violence as the bizarre, low-budget production played out before their bewildered eyes. The critics unanimously hated the film; the public hated it too, yet people kept pouring in to see it---and hate it. Le Viol Du Vampire was, as they say, un succès de scandale.
We should probably be cautious in how we interpret contemporary reaction to Le Viol Du Vampire. While it is a commonplace to say that the film by itself provoked rioting, it is far more likely that the prevailing mood of the Parisian streets simply spilled into the cinemas. Years later, Jean Rollin admitted misjudging that mood. With so much craziness in the air, he thought that people would be open to a little craziness in their films, too---only to realise too late that what the people were looking for was a brief escape from the craziness.
On the other hand, it is impossible to imagine that mainstream cinema-goers would ever have reacted well to Le Viol Du Vampire. As Jean Rollin later explained, at the time he was so unsure that he would ever be given the chance to direct another feature-film, he seized the opportunity to cram into his first effort every weird idea that ever crossed his cinematic imagination, whether they strictly belonged there or not. (It is noticeable that many of Rollin’s later films represent expansions of concepts appearing fleetingly here.)
But far more damaging than even Rollin’s kitchen-sink imagery is his approach to turning his short film into a feature-length production. Instead of expanding and deepening the existing story, the director went out and shot another short film, adding it onto the end of the existing footage and offering the completed work as “a melodrama in two parts”.
Two parts is right, inasmuch as the action of the second half of Le Viol Du Vampire – known in its own right as “Les Femmes Vampires” – completely contradicts the action of the first.
It is amusing to consider the range of opinions that exists with respect to Le Viol Du Vampire---which, if it isn’t causing riots any more, is still provoking some pretty strong reactions. There are those who consider it complete garbage; and there are those who consider it a work of art. There are those (including my colleague, El Santo) who admire the first half of the film for its complex psychology, and despise the second half as ruinous trash; and there are those who find the first half a complete bore, but the second half redeemingly entertaining.
I find myself sitting somewhere between the latter
two opinions. Both halves of Le
Viol Du Vampire offer any amount of arresting and powerful (and
occasionally thoroughly misguided) imagery. The first half is certainly
more intriguing in its implications; while the second half contains
quite enough bizarre ideas and general WTF-ery to keep me engaged.
Also, there’s SCIENCE!!
Le Viol Du Vampire is in many ways a frustrating film, not least on the fundamental level of not being sure of the identity of any given cast member. To an extent this is understandable: Rollin’s budget didn’t extend to actual actors, so instead he rounded up a cast of friends and acquaintances, supplemented by his film crew and several of the film’s financial backers, who were promised small roles by Sam Selsky in exchange for their money. Even where names have been tentatively put to faces, the information is unreliable and contradictory; hence the lack of attributions in my synopsis. From the point of a coherent discussion of the film, equally annoying is that only three of the characters have definite names. The rest I can only call by whatever designation popped into my head as I was watching the film.
One the other hand, Jean Rollin’s use of his settings, and the black-and-white cinematography of Guy LeBlond and Antoine Harispe, are two of Le Viol Du Vampire’s indisputable virtues. Most of the action takes place in two sites, an abandoned country estate in Claye-Souilly, to the north of Paris, and at what would become one of Rollin’s most recognisable trademarks, the beach at Pourville-lès-Dieppe in Normandy, which he had already used in one of his short films.
Le Viol Du Vampire opens in medias res, with one of the sisters, who I learned to think of as Curable Vampire (Solange Pradel, I think), standing out in the woodlands and allowing a bat to suck her blood. She then crosses to a fanged, demonic idol, and genuflects. All this plays out in daylight, even though Curable Vampire is later presented to us as being afraid of the daylight.
think it plays
out in the daylight.
(Or I think it plays out in the daylight.It always seems to be the middle of the day, although the sisters take lit torches with them wherever they go.)
Elsewhere, an individual we might call Disfigured Henchman – though exactly whose henchman remains a point in doubt – seems to be rounding up a mob of peasants. Disfigured Henchman is played by one of the film’s backers, and he is one of the worst things about the first half of this film. Whereas all the other non-actors are deadpan to the point of being almost invisible, Disfigured Henchman resorts to hammy overacting in his wordless role.
In the dilapidated mansion of the sisters, Blind Vampire (Nicole Romain?) is listening to the warnings offered by an unseen man, who tells her that if she does not heed him, the sisters’ misfortunes will begin all over again. The man progresses to caressing and then groping Blind Vampire (with Le Viol Du Vampire offering its first nudity at the 3:10 mark); she doesn’t seem to mind...
We then get a bewildering cut to a sword-fight by candlelight in the 18th century. One of the masked combatants is quickly disarmed, and her – her – disguise stripped away: it is Curable Vampire. Her assailant uses his sword to force her back against an iron cross, and then impales her through the heart. She falls with a cry of agony...
This turns out be a recounting of the “legend” of the vampire sisters by The Lord Of The Manor (another backer, a doctor, so I’m guessing Doc Moyle) in whom, since he promised to tell the strangers the sisters’ story, we may now recognise Blind Vampire’s unseen groper. The Lord explains to his listeners that because the swordsman did not decapitate the vampire – who is noted here to be the leader of the group – she did not die, but was rescued by her sisters. The battle against the vampires persisted into the present century: some fifty years ago the sisters were attacked by the local peasantry; one of them was raped, another had her eyes gouged out. Intriguingly, it is suggested that her injuries saved the latter’s life: she was not destroyed by the coming daylight, because she could not see it.
The three listeners are Thomas (Bernard Letrou, about our only confident attribution), a psychiatrist; his open-minded friend, Brigitte (Catherine Deville?); and her anything but open-minded husband, Marc (Marquis Polho?), who sneers and fidgets through the recitation. It is never explained how Thomas came to hear of the sisters, or how he got permission to stay in their house, or what role The Lord Of The Manor has played in these arrangements; although Thomas quickly points the finger of blame at him for the sisters’ circumstances.
As The Lord tells his story, Brigitte abruptly walks out and soon finds herself in the grounds of the sisters’ mansion, where – also in broad daylight – Blind Vampire plays a solitary game of skittles (she can only tell how she is doing by feeling how many targets are still standing). When Brigitte speaks to her, she collapses. Running into the house, Brigitte encounters first a number of dead birds, then the other three sisters, who surround her. One of them – who I don’t really want to call Raped Vampire, but that’s who she is – strokes Brigitte’s hair and kisses her, then begins to undress her. As with Blind Vampire earlier, Brigitte doesn’t seem to mind...but Marc’s abrupt arrival puts an end to it. Marc berates Brigitte for coming to the mansion alone, while she responds, “They’re crazy, Marc, crazy!” Hey, you’re the one who was just standing there. As all this goes on, the fourth sister, Loyal Vampire (Ursulle Pauly, one of the cast’s few professionals) sits quietly sipping a glass of blood, and pays no attention at all.
Thomas and his friends take up their curious residence in the house. Under questioning from Marc, Thomas offers his opinion about the sisters’ mental state; and it is here that Le Viol Du Vampire reveals its unexpectedly complex premise. Thomas opines that the girls are neither vampires nor insane, but the victims of a mass delusion perpetuated, for some inscrutable reason, by The Lord of The Manor, who encourages the local peasants to persecute the sisters. They, in turn, have adopted the persona of vampires as an expression of the various neuroses brought to the surface by their situation.
And certainly they believe themselves to be the four “devil sisters”---so much so that Blind Vampire is actually blind, though there is nothing overt wrong with her eyes; the eyes that were supposedly gouged out some fifty years earlier, but which numerous close-ups show us to be unharmed. And if she was not blinded, then it is likely that Raped Vampire was not raped---at least, not fifty years ago: from her behaviour, it is not hard to imagine her the victim of a recent assault.
But so individual are the neuroses at work, the symptoms of vampirism manifest differently in each sister---as Thomas is swift to grasp. All of them recoil from crosses, but only Curable Vampire reacts violently to daylight. None of them sleep in coffins during the day. And while Loyal Vampire does drink blood, it is the blood of birds, not human beings.
In fact, it is soon evident that it isn’t the “devil sisters” we should be worried about. It is The Lord Of The Manor who has created this situation, either to maintain control of the peasantry, or to gain sexual access to the girls, or both. However, evidently he never stopped to consider that it a great deal easier to set a mob in motion than it is to stop it... But perhaps the most disturbing psychology is Marc’s, whose phobic hatred of the mentally ill is so intense that he actively interferes with Thomas’s efforts to help the girls, insisting angrily that the only way to handle the insane is to lock them up and subject them to abusive “therapy”. When push eventually comes to shove, Marc chooses to ally himself with the pitchfork-wielding mob.
As Thomas begins his attempted cure, Loyal Vampire flees the house to take counsel from Traybas---whose voice, the audience learns, is provided by The Lord Of The Manor. “Traybas” urges Loyal Vampire to kill the strangers, but her attempt to do so is thwarted by Curable Vampire. The two end up fighting with swords by the light of a bonfire – if you can’t say shrug and say, “Sure, why not?”, you won’t get very far with Le Viol Du Vampire – and Curable Vampire evidently kills her sister---to the frightened bewilderment of Blind Vampire, who knows that such a thing is impossible...
Thomas began his attempted cure by rooting up and burning the wooden crosses with which the peasants have surrounded the mansion, presumably at the behest of The Lord Of The Manor. The Lord gathers the peasants together and starts whipping them into a frenzy, insisting that the destruction of the crosses has “set the vampires free” and urging the men to strike first.
(Several members of the mob are hiding behind obvious fake moustaches, and the contrast between the visual silliness and the straight violence that follows is jarring and rather distasteful. This, however, is where more of those involved in the film’s production got their moment of glory: the mob consists predominantly of the film’s crew, but other participants were Sam Selsky, Jean Rollin himself, and the artist Philippe Druillet, who designed the poster for Le Viol Du Vampire. That’s Druillet in the back on the left; is that Rollin on the right?)
One might be tempted, during the following sequences, to try and decide exactly who has the worst timing amongst our characters. Brigitte, about to be taken away be the disgusted Marc, goes for a walk---and falls foul of Raped Vampire, who has taken advantage of the destruction of the crosses to venture beyond the grounds. Clubbed with a rock, Brigitte staggers away and dies in the middle of a ploughed field. Raped Vampire herself is then overtaken by the mob and fulfils her manifest destiny---as well as being subjected to a necrophilial mauling by Disfigured Henchmen. Meanwhile, Thomas succeeds in convincing Blind Vampire that she is not blind---and her first look at the world outside the mansion ends with a pitchfork to the face and blinding in good earnest. But this isn’t good enough for Marc, who by now has found Brigitte’s body, and he urges the mob to “destroy the monsters”.
(Hello, eye violence, my old friend... I am relieved to be able to report that this is a most unconvincing eye-gouging, with Now-Genuinely-Blind Vampire bleeding everywhere but her eyes.)
Now--- You’d better strap yourself in, people, or you might get whiplash.
For some reason, the discovery of Raped Vampire’s body convinces Thomas that he has been wrong all along. The girls are vampires---but vampirism isn’t a curse, it’s a disease – and therefore, ahem, curable. He assures Curable Vampire that whatever she is, she isn’t a monster---and then begs her to “turn” him, which she does with one good bite.
At this inauspicious moment, Marc arrives with one member of the mob and Disfigured Henchman, the latter of whom begins to molest Curable Vampire. However, she dispatches him with a knife between the ribs – his own knife, satisfyingly enough. Marc helps Thomas to his feet, and is appalled to discover that he has changed teams. Thomas insists that the girls never killed anyone (which isn’t true), and proceeds to expound his Vampirism-As-Disease theory, while showing off his sparkly new fangs.
And then Marc turns on him, blaming him for Brigitte’s death. Thomas wrestles his handgun away and ends up shooting the remaining mob member. He won’t shoot Marc, driving him out instead. Thomas tries to reassure Curable Vampire about their mutual condition. Like Blind Vampire before her, she decides to test herself by looking upon the world outside---and like Blind Vampire, this moment is almost her last. She turns triumphantly from looking unharmed upon the daylight, and Thomas draws her into a passionate kiss---just as a mob member starts shooting at them through a window. It is quite impossible to tell whether the shooter misses – and it’s hard to see how he could have – or whether our vampires are impervious to bullets (but not swords?). In any event, they take their own sweet time about breaking their kiss and taking cover.
The two then decide to flee down a convenient secret passage, which leads ultimately through a rocky cave and out onto a beach; a very familiar beach. Hand-in-hand, our lovers run towards the water...
...and are gunned down by Marc, who has followed them through the passage.
This is where Jean Rollin’s original short film ended. As it stands, the viewer is invited to conclude that, having set out to cure the sisters of their delusion, Thomas has ended up buying into it instead; although granted, that doesn’t explain the fangs. (But perhaps we only imagined them...) The blast of a gun puts down both Thomas and Curable Vampire, who are last seen sprawled upon the damp sand, the low tide lapping about them---and dead; definitely dead.
Except that they’re not.
Not, at least, according to Les Femmes Vampires, “Part Deux” of our story, which arrives with a whole new cast – a necessity, seeing that Jean Rollin had already killed off most of the original one – and even a separate set of credits. The storyline of this section puts a completely different spin on what we’ve just witnessed, one which makes utter nonsense of the grim psychological drama we thought we were watching. The action as a whole is punctuated with flourishes and images that seem to draw upon earlier French serials such as Judex and Fantomas...and of course, Les Vampires; while in place of the earlier understatement, we now have wild exaggeration and mugging into the camera.
However, it is not immediately apparent that we are in the middle of a completely different film. Marc still stands in the mouth of the cave, looking at his grim handiwork. The Lord Of The Manor follows him onto the beach, responding to his natural fixation on the deaths of his wife and his friend by pointing out that they’re not the only ones who are dead; not by (*cough*) a long shot; and it’s all the because of Thomas’s meddling.
Marc takes himself off, and The Lord Of The Manor goes to inspect Curable Vampire’s body---which hasn’t a mark on it. He suddenly realises that he is not alone. Nearby on the beach, dressed as monks but definitely female, are three minions of the Queen Of The Vampires. The Lord tries to make a run for it, but more robed minions materialise and he finds himself surrounded.
The Queen herself then materialises, in a boat of sorts, drawn by her two male minions, one a blond all in white, the other a brunette all in black. The Queen speaks bitterly of her difficulty in finding the four sisters in the first place, and their vital importance to her plan. The Lord Of The Manor has already admitted sadly that he failed in his duty; evidently by “failed” he means doing everything he could to destroy the four sisters when (at least according to this film) he was actually supposed to be protecting them.
Either way, we are not inclined to quibble when the Queen orders his execution. The Lord is hustled to a convenient flat rock, and the Queen takes care of business herself---setting up the first of what would prove to be many indelible Jean Rollin images, as the Queen stands, caped and bare-breasted, licking blood from the curved sacrificial blade.
Whatever people make of the second part of Le Viol Du Vampire, there is general agreement that Jacqueline Sieger’s striking appearance – you can’t really say performance – as the Queen is one of its highlights, if not the highlight. Like most of Rollin’s cast, Sieger wasn’t an actress, just a friend helping out.
Realising that she will have to start over, the Queen orders her minions to destroy the clothing of Thomas and Curable Vampire, so they can’t be identified (we need an excuse for nudity?), and to really kill them, presumably by decapitation; because, after all, they are vampires...
The Queen doesn’t know it, but there’s a worse traitor than The Lord Of The Manor in the vampires’ midst. Her head minion, who we noticed looking distressed at the execution, is in fact actively working against the Queen in her scheme to---do whatever it is (and it’s never entirely clear). Here, she not only refrains from permanently killing Thomas and Curable Vampire as ordered, she has their bodies placed beneath the sacrificial rock, so that the blood of The Lord can revive them. (I’m not altogether sure why vampires would be wasting so much perfectly good blood, but there you go.)
Thomas revives first, and immediately begins licking at the blood trickling over the rocks. He then lifts Curable Vampire from the ground, embracing and kissing her. He has, as he realises, risen from the dead, but not come back to life. He begs her to help him choose, and she responds by biting him---again, we might say, but there is no sign of her previous bite on Thomas. (So how did he get to be a vampire? Hmm...)
Already, he realises, his memory of his life as a man is receding, and he has an unquenchable thirst for human blood. How did this happen? What change has taken place in him? He asks Curable Vampire how she was turned, but her memories are even vaguer than his; she recalls nothing definite before the mansion. She does, however, remember a woman, a terrible woman...
From this point, the second half of Le Viol Du Vampire devolves into a series of confusing subplots, none of which ties comfortably into any other, and each of which seems to exist purely to set up its imagery. As far as I can tell – and please don’t quote me on this – the Queen is trying to find a way to convert vampires, who can be killed, into the living dead, who cannot. To this end, she has her own hospital-cum-research facility (!!), where two of her minions conduct SCIENCE!!
However, those minions have plans of their own, which include developing an antidote to vampirism. One of them, whom we have already met as the treacherous head minion (Ariane Sapriel, I’m pretty sure), I shall call Assistant from now on, as that is her relationship to the person in charge of the project, Doctor (Eric Yan?).
Loyal Vampire – remember her? – wakes up on an operating table; she screams when she sees the Queen, who laughs. Doctor assures her that she will be fine, as the bullet fired by her sister missed the lung, and there is no infection. Of course, Loyal Vampire was killed by a sword through the heart, not a bullet by the lung; but that’s the kind of detail we mustn’t get hung up on if we’re going to make any progress at all with this film.
(Mind you, I said if.)
The Queen tells Loyal Vampire that Curable Vampire and Thomas are dead, along with a bunch of others; and that any surviving witnesses must also be killed. Loyal Vampire is given the task, and promises to obey. Blind Vampire, last seen staggering away, “crazed, bloody and dirty, her clothes ripped to shreds”, is one of those she expected to find and kill, though you wouldn’t think she posed much of a threat, witness-wise. The Queen also needs “the body of a woman who recently died violently”, who is to be transformed into “a living-dead woman”: the first appearance in the Rollin oeuvre of that iconic concept.
As it happens, both of the Queen’s targets are together. Blind Vampire – no question about the eye damage this time – has somehow made her way into the crypt in which Marc has had Brigitte’s body interred, and has adopted Brigitte as her BFF. She explains to the naturally unresponsive Brigitte her plan for the two of them to go far away, where no-one will find them, and then tries to feed her, which---doesn’t go well.
After a quick bit of gratuitous lesbian sex – very quick, and very gratuitous – we find Marc visiting Brigitte’s grave. As he walks away, a funeral procession with a horse-drawn hearse enters the cemetery. Marc doesn’t notice anything wrong, but we do: for one thing, the altar boys are girls; for another, the crucifix on the priest’s staff is upside-down; and, oh yeah, the priest has fangs. Besides--- Well, they’re not bringing a body, they’ve come to collect...
Through a complicated set of circumstances, this venture also ends badly for Blind Vampire, who is captured by the male minions, Blond and Brunette. If Blind Vampire wasn’t insane before all this happened, she is now, and she believes she is being swept away to meet her handsome prince. Instead, she is carried off to the beach – that beach – where she is stripped naked and left to the mercies of the surf. As Blond and Brunette canoodle with two female minions, we learn that vampires apparently hold mass weddings (!), and that Thomas and Curable Vampire have been taken to the clinic, which is a secret. Obviously.
In fact, our vampire lovers are in The Blood Room: a room occupied chiefly by large glass vats of blood, which the lucky ones get to drink from through plastic tubing. Thomas and Curable Vampire are straitjacketed, though, and can only salivate. Doctor and Assistant turn up, explaining about the living-dead research, and trying to recruit a suspicious Thomas to help with their antidote counter-research. To sweeten the deal, they offer their guests a plastic tube each...
Blond and Brunette report the treachery of Doctor and Assistant to the Queen, in the hope that they will be initiated as a reward. The Queen has Assistant brought to her and, when she refuses to talk, she is stripped and hung by her wrists for a series of floggings that may or may not actually happen (one of them is at the beach, with seaweed; one appears to be in some sort of greenhouse).
Meanwhile, Thomas and Doctor have proved that vampirism is the result of a bacterial infection. More importantly, we get to watch Thomas looking down a microscope while Doctor pours something fumous from one flask to another and then gravely examines the result. SCIENCE!!
The researchers’ triumph is short-lived, however, as the Queen sends Blond and Brunette to collect them at gunpoint.
Marc is at home, recovering from the shock of discovering that Brigitte’s body has been stolen, when he gets an even bigger shock---Brigitte, apparently hale and hearty and chatting about the dry cleaning, but with no memory of anything that happened since the night before their trip into the country. In fact, she seems to think it is the night before their trip. Marc struggles to hold it together – particularly after he touches her...
Earlier on we saw Doctor examining and dissecting out a woman’s internal organs---while she was still alive, or at best undead. Now, we find Thomas on the floor of an operating theatre, tied up, and another woman on a table, covered by a sheet with an ominous stain on it. She, too, is alive – or at least... Thomas urges the woman to climb off the table and help him, apologising for the vivisection, but insisting he had no choice. She struggles to obey, and the sheet drops away to reveal a bloody bandage over a gaping hole in her abdomen. Nevertheless, she manages to cut Thomas’s bonds before she dies. Thomas mutters bitterly that the monsters who did this deserve no sympathy---then realises that he is one of them...
Marc follows Brigitte to a seemingly abandoned building which on the inside is actually the vampires’ very modern clinic. They end up in The Blood Room where, in addition to the blood vats, we find two cataleptic girls, presumably earlier experiments that didn’t work as well as Brigitte. The Queen’s voice comes over a speaker, insisting that she makes the living dead move, that she is in control. Unfortunately, Marc doesn’t take this in a properly literal spirit. He finds the recorder and rips out the wires---and Brigitte collapses, dead again. As Marc grieves over Brigitte – again – some minions creep up on him, but somehow he manages to shoot them before being knifed.
And then it’s time for a vampire wedding!
Apparently the wedding scenes were filmed in the actual Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (which closed in 1962), but if so, disappointingly little use is made of the setting. Instead, our focus tends to be on a ginormous multi-breasted bat-toy-puppet-thing: it’s completely adorable, albeit rather mood-shattering. (Hello, Nut O’ Fun!) The Queen, one leg propped up on a coffin, and with the camera naturally situated at just-below-crotch-height, addresses her followers, saying a bunch of stuff that makes precious little sense, although the gist of it seems to be that this particular wedding signals the vampires’ success in achieving genuine immortality via conversion to a state of living-death.
Rather unexpectedly, the bride and groom turn out to be Assistant and Doctor. (A white wedding, huh, Assistant? Sure, we believe you.) More confusing stuff happens. “Semizahe!” cries the Queen, which provokes the vampires watching from the balcony into cheering and hugging. Assistant climbs into the coffin, Doctor climbs in after her, and the two are sealed in. This is the signal for the watching vampires to rush up onto the stage, but they fall silent while the Queen takes a quick snack from Loyal Vampire’s throat; she seems flattered.
Then somehow Doctor and Assistant burst out of their coffin; we note that the bride has acquired a pair of panties since entering it. Doctor calmly informs the Queen that she has betrayed, and he and Mrs Doctor-Assistant exit, stage-left. The bat-toy-puppet-thing gets pushed over, and from behind it appear Thomas and Curable Vampire, who proceed to gun down the partying vampires.
The Queen escapes, making her way to The Blood Room at the clinic for a sustaining drink. Alas, our revolutionaries have been there before her: she collapses, clutching herself in agony... Loyal Vampire is another survivor of the massacre, and she runs back to the beach. As she tries to launch herself in a boat she is grabbed from behind by Blind Vampire, who not only survived being abandoned to the surf, but has somehow managed to find her clothes on the beach and get dressed again. A violent though visually indeterminate struggle follows.
Doctor takes Ms Assistant-Doctor to the lab, telling her that they have to try the antidote developed by Thomas and himself---and by “they” he means her. He prepares an injection for his obviously reluctant new wife. And as it turns out, they have indeed made an antidote to vampirism, inasmuch as poor Assistant dies...although she rehumanises long enough to declare herself devampirised first, as Doctor and Thomas look on. Hope it was worth it, fellas!
Rather than take this course, Thomas and
No-Longer-Curable Vampire apparently decide to have themselves walled up
in a cellar, so that they will never be tempted to feed on human beings.
We leave them kissing and debating how long it might be before they can
expect to die of, uh, natural causes .
During the wedding, we had a brief cutaway to Marc, gathering Brigitte’s dead body into his arms – again. We cut back to him now, and it seems that recent events have been a bit too much for Marc. We leave him carrying Brigitte’s body down a mysteriously deserted Place de la Bastille, philosophising about death and quoting Gaston Leroux.I can’t imagine why the Parisians of 1968 rioted, can you?
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