Like Fascination and the other films in the series, Kino and Redemption have once again created a master from the film’s 35mm negative with appreciably authentic and impressive results. As with all the others released so far from the series, The Nude Vampire has not been digitally ram-raided and transformed into something fake and waxy-looking by DNR, or sharpened by unwanted edge enhancement. There is grain in the 1.66:1 AVC-encoded image that looks genuine and nicely resolved. There is also a fair amount of damage evident in the print – pops, flecks, wobbles and artefacts – although I didn’t find any of this to be particularly distracting.
The film is often well-lit, Rollin not really favouring dusky shadows, and contrast is steady and well-maintained. The white and cream of the mansion jockey well with the dainty orange negligee and the red skirts of the schoolgirl outfits that the twins wear. Candle or torch-light flicker alluringly with pleasing amber and golden hues. Blood, what little that we see of it, is suitably livid, but this is not a gory film by any stretch of the imagination. Skin-tones are pretty accurate – some pale, some tanned, but all appropriate. The palette is quite striking, with bold primaries, though never horribly gaudy. Dense blacks help to ground this imagery with a good sense of solidity and depth, lending atmosphere to the nocturnal sequences and providing good shadow definition with no element of crushing taking place. The image isn't the most three-dimensional around, but there's still some agreeable depth and the picture isn't as flat as the budgetary constraints might have implied.
Detail up close is very good, although not wholly consistent. Faces and eyes and hair can, at times, be exceptionally crisp and clean and well resolved, though softer and less textured at others. The nipples during the model-painting sequence are alarmingly vivid. The texture of clothing, the stitching in the velvet hoods and the loose threads around the eye-holes are all things that are keenly rendered. The weird shell-like breast ornaments on the twins, and the slender armoured plates in their classical skirts are also cleanly presented. Background objectivity is not too shabby either. There are naturally some elements when detail isn’t properly revealed – threadbare sets, softened lenses – but the action scenes of the vampire clan moving through the ruins, the torched twin rolling down the stairs, the animal-heads converging upon the girl through the darkened city streets or the weird figures moving across the rocky beach are more than decently handled.
This is a good transfer, solid and faithful to the source, with no digital tomfoolery to muck things up. The wear and tear of the old print is actually part and parcel of the vintage decadence of Rollin’s cult oddity.
We get two LPCM 2.0 uncompressed tracks for The Nude Vampire, one an English dub and the other in its original French language. The English track is actually very well synched and doesn’t present much in the way of the bugaboo-dubbing that you get from the mostly Italian counterparts. I found that I stuck primarily with this.
There is some hiss and background noise to the track – in both the English and the French flavours – but this is swiftly forgotten about because of the extremely odd and disquieting score that Yvon Serault serves up. With some industrial humming and droning, passages of wild string and piano work, and other strange and eerie effects lashed into the demented instrumentation, this is a score that is off-kilter, imaginative and deeply weird. But it comes across with a reasonable degree of power and clarity. It isn’t a warm track, but it has some range and depth to it.
Although this is hardly a boisterous sound design, attention has been paid to creating a certain ambience. There is the jangling of the wacky metallic costumes on the Castel servant girls. Some of the effects are a little louder in the mix than others. The gunshots are as pathetic-sounding as the guns, themselves, are pathetic-looking. But the moment when the twins close two glass balcony doors behind them offers a clatter that is surprisingly sharp and jangling. And the wind and the rolling surf makes for some nice natural ambience during the finale.
When it comes to the dialogue, you will probably find that is tinny and somewhat strained in either track. You can always hear it and understand it, but there are occasions when speech gets a little murky and swamped. It’s nothing to worry about, though.
An old and limited track, this is solidly presented for the most part.
As with all of the Rollin BDs in this series, Kino provide the same booklet of background trivia, stylistic opinion, evident praise and thematic exploration from Video Watchdog’s Tim Lukas.
Elsewhere, we get an Introduction from Jean Rollin and a 19-minute Interview with him. Neither are particularly illuminating, with the filmmaker playing on his simple desire to create and explore dreams and mystery, but it is nice to hear from the late director.
There is also a measly four-minute Interview with Natalie Perrey. Perrey was Rollin’s career-long assistant and wardrobe designer, but she also has an enigmatic role later in the movie. She merely provides a very slight overview of her work with Jean Rollin.
Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas provides a great little 20-page booklet that chronicles Rollin and his films, paying strict attention to the titles that Redemption has released on Blu-ray. This illustrated booklet accompanies all the other releases too.
Finally, the disc also carries English and French trailers for The Nude Vampire, as well as trailers for four other Rollin films.
One of the films that put Jean Rollin on the road to dimly-lit fame, The Nude Vampire is all about mood, style and sensory experimentation. What scant story there is makes little sense, and some of the performances are alarmingly wooden and elementarily amateur, but against much of our better judgement, there is the prevailing aura of something sensual and cosmically macabre that is frequently all that is required in order to enjoy his meanderingly moody work. The film is unusual and often wayward, but there is enough bonafide oddity and titillation to float many a veteran skin-buff’s boat. The illusionary aspect of the gothic mansion, the ritualistic affairs, the SF overtones of lab-rat cult devotees and of pseudo Time-Lord types flitting between dimensions is stunningly rich in ambition, and if the end result is still lackadaisical and disjointed, you have to admire the sheer verve of ramming so many concepts into one another.
And the women are naturally gorgeous. Which helps.
Redemption do Rollin the honour of bestowing his second feature film with a transfer that is actually very faithful to his stylish visual sense and comes across as immensely film-like. We get the original French audio as well as the English language track, and the demented soundtrack is alarmingly crisp and clear at times. Extras-wise, we don’t get much, but at least there is something added for the fans.
I’ve always tended to dismiss Rollin’s films, but the recent slew of his cult vampire-flicks arriving on Blu has sort of won me over. They aren’t great films by any stretch of the imagination, but they remain utterly beguiling and can definitely get under the skin. My appreciation for them has grown, not so much for their somewhat cavalier and illogical execution, but for the underlying qualities that empower them, and for the curious amount of influence that their themes, ideas and imagery have wielded upon a genre that would almost certainly refute any such connection if ever accused.
For fans of Jean Rollin, obviously, but also worth a look if you like quirky, offbeat fantasies.
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