Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fiancee of Dracula

In case you were wondering what Jean Rollin's been up to the last five or seven years or so, you can stop wondering because he was obviously hard at work toiling away at making the masterpiece that is Fiancee of Dracula (2002). (I'm always wondering what people are doing right at the moment I think about them. Like I wonder what Michael Jackson or David Lee Roth are doing right now. I wonder the same about Jean Rollin, like what is he doing right this very moment? I don't really have a lot going on.)

Fiancee of Dracula is like most of Rollin's oeuvre - it's disjointed and surreal and features some lesbian vampirism, as well as some over-the-top situations involving nuns (not that a lot of the other work I've seen by Rollin has to do with over-the-top situations involving nuns, but that's what sets this one sort of apart, amongst other things, I suppose.) The film starts suddenly when we see two men, an old professor type and a younger curly-haired leather-jacket wearing gent, peering into a cemetery. We'll find out later that the professor is a professor who really wants to meet Dracula and the young man is Eric, his assistant. As they look into the cemetery, they see a dwarf in a jester outfit and his vampire lady friend traipsing about. The vamp gets nakey and drinks the dwarf's blood and as they are about to do sex to each other on top of a crypt, the Professor grabs the dwarf and demands to be taken to his leader, Dracula. He's pretty fearless in the presence of the vampire, perhaps he's done this sort of work before? He is a professor, I guess. The dwarf says he doesn't know where Drac is but if they go talk to this insane woman in the nearby village, she can tell them where to go.

Satisfied with this, Prof and Eric go off to find the village idiot. They meet her by a silo or a tower or something, and she rambles on about sharks, opium dens, and the Queen of Shadows, who is really the HBIC if you want to talk to Dracula. She also tells them that the Queen of Shadows is kept by the Sisters of the Order of the White Virgin and they should go to their convent if they want to talk to the Queen. She tells them all this while humming and dancing around foolishly, and none of it makes much sense, but the Prof trusts her, I mean, why not?, and they head off to wherever the hell the convent is.

Upon arriving at the convent, they meet Sister Pipe and Sister Cigar (an attempt at some kind of Freudian allusion?), who welcome the men into the convent because it's been awhile since they've seen mens. These are not your ordinary nuns - they make out with each other, lift up their habits to show the Prof and Eric their underwear, perform ritualistic gypsy pagan exorcism dances, and have oil paintings of naked ladies all over their ornately decorated convent. Oh yeah, and they also take care of Isabelle, the aforementioned Queen of Shadows, who we are told later is going to become Dracula's bride. When we meet Isabelle for the first time, she's wearing a sequin and tassel number and spouts all manner of nonsense about Jesus filling our hearts with whatever and then she retires to her jungle themed room for the Prof and Eric to come interview her. She's as crazy, if not crazier than the village idiot, and tells them all manner of things about how Dracula lives inside a clock and how he speaks to her telepathically and fills her with darkness.

The Prof tells her to get the eff outta dodge, but don't let anyone stop her so Eric and him can follow her to this clock where Dracula lives so they can talk to him about important Dracula stuff, I guess. He then casts a spell on her so she'll sleep until midnight, the appropriate hour to go see Dracula. Then two weirdos stop by the convent to talk to Mother Superior about claiming Isabelle as their daughter or relation or cousin, who knows. After Mother Superior lights a cig on an ornate light-up singing Crucifixion lighter, she tells them hell to the no, they ain't getting Isabelle. The weirdos vow revenge and take their leave. It's all very theatrical.

Meanwhile, the dwarf takes Isabelle to some castle ruins in the sidecar of his motorcycle with a white lacey bassinet on the back. They meet up with an Ogress (the same actress that played the village idiot - only now she's an Ogress, which there is no real indication of her Ogress-ness, except the fact that she tells us "I am an Ogress." She's got on a lot of eye liner and a sexy dress and she eats the baby in the bassinet. So we're, of course, supposed to believe she's an Ogress, then.) She tells the dwarf and Isabelle she'll eat up their bones but then Eric shows up and shoots her, which is awesome, because she talks waaaaay too much. They navigate through the castle to a courtyard and the dwarf and that weird revenge swearing couple bring out a coffin. A woman in a blue dress shows up and plays a violin. The the beautiful (subject to opinion) She-Wolf shows up, and much like the Ogress, we're merely told she's a She-Wolf, although she does have long fingernails and wears a red dress, two She-Wolf qualities if there ever were two. She's the MC for this unholy night and tells everyone that the nuns gotta be killed as the sacrifice to bring Drac back to life. She, like the Ogress and the vamp, aren't particularly frightening. At one point, the She-Wolf and the vamp make out, but in about the least erotic way possible. Some other stuff happens like a nun gets her heart ripped out and the vamp gets thrown off a stone wall by the dwarf, but none of that really advances what attempt, if any, at a plot.

We finally get to meet Drac at about an hour in, and he does indeed rest inside a clock, like one of those big grandfather clocks that could actually fit a human inside. I know this because when I was a kid my mom inherited a clock like that from her grandmother and I loved that clock because it was really ornate and had all these animals intricately carved into the wood. I was like seven then and I could fit inside the clock if I really smooshed myself in there. My mom caught me doing it and yelled at me because the clock was an antique. I wonder if she still has that clock, I haven't thought about it in years, but I would love to have it in my own house. Anyway...Drac presents himself, and checks out Isabelle in her wedding attire, which consists of some white netting and red flowers placed over her boobies and crotch. The Professor and Eric are still hanging around, as are the nuns who are carrying human skulls and wearing funnels on their heads (seriously), and now the Prof can apparently communicate telepathically with both Eric and Isabelle. The dwarf is still running around somewhere too, but now instead of being dressed like a jester, he's dress like a skin, with combat boots and a bomber jacket and braces.

Eric decides somewhere along the line that he's got to save Isabelle from Drac's clutches, because all this is a bunch of mumbo jumbo anyway, and he doesn't believe in it. Then why is he the Prof's assistant in the first place? The Prof looks into Isabelle's mind and sees terrible darkness and evil and the whole thing dissolves into a cacophonous craziness that I'm not really entirely sure I understood.

Christian said Fiancee of Dracula was as bad as Alien Blood, which also featured some non-threatening, non-vampire-acting vamps, but I'm not convinced. Yeah, it was bad, but in a pretty okay, kinda alright way, because it's just so damn surreal. It's like what were you thinking, Jean Rollin or guy that wrote this, did you really think this made sense? And then we're watching the credits role and I said something like, do you think that out of the hundreds of people that worked on this movie, not one person was like, hey, this doesn't make any sense? It's not nearly as erotic as Rollin's stuff from the seventies and it has a lot more dialogue, which isn't necessarily a good thing. But seriously, what other movie are you going to get an Ogress, a jester and skinhead dwarf, a vampire, a dracula that lives in a clock, a she-wolf, a random violiness, a Van Helsing, psychic connections, and some totally silly nuns? Where? Yeah, I though so.


  1. Well, Jenn, I'm obviously a *much* bigger Rollin-ophile than you, but I don't begrudge it. :) I realize he's an acquired taste at best, but there's something about that crazy lesbian-vampire-MAD Frenchman I just love love love.

    I started out my Rollin experience with Requiem for a Vampire, followed by Shiver of the Vampires, followed by The Living Dead Girl, which is still my fave. (Yeah, I know you didn't dig it--again, not for everyone.) I've reviewed/gushed over all those at my place. But what impressed me was the visuals Rollin was able to capture, the weird poetry of it, and the way (as Tenebrous Kate rightly says) he's created his own cinematic language through the course of his movies, a symbology that obviously means a lot to him (grandfather clocks, vampires, abandoned castles, etc.) even if it looks like nonsense to everyone else. The term "dreamlike" has been thrown around so much as to make it almost meaningless these days, but if it ever fit, for me Rollin's movies are the definition.

    I saw Fiancee of Dracula last year, and was happy to see that age hasn't taken the surreal visual craziness out of the old boy. Since the Duke and I are big fans of Nunsploitation in all its forms as well, this was a double-shot of awesome for me. The crazy nun, the Smoking Nuns (hey, why isn't that a website? I need to register thesmokingnun.com :) ), and the chess playing skeletons are all awesome in my book. The gypsy dancing is just cake.

    And as I'm sure you're aware, The She-Wolf was played by long-time Rollin collaborator Brigitte Lahaie, who was in Fascination, Night of the Hunted, and a boatload of 70s French porn that's worth looking up if you're into that. And who isn't, eh? :) And imo, "beautiful" still fits. :P

    Anyway, I've learned through experience you can't talk someone into loving Rollin, but I'm glad you keep giving him a chance. Even if it's not your cup of tea, there's something to be said for a guy who keeps pursuing his own bliss, regardless. Luckily, it's my bliss too. :D

  2. I was just talking with a friend of mine about Fiancee of Dracula over lunch and saying that I had the weirdest dreams after watching it. Well, I had also just watched that dumb show Paranormal States about this guy being haunted by a werewolf ghost or something following watching Fiancee. So when I passed out, I kept having visions of ghostly werewolves coming out of clocks and so forth and my sleep was very fitful.

    But this was a good thing. I think the point I was trying to make to my friend, who btw, doesn't watch horror movies and has likely never heard of Jean Rollin, in the first place, was that I would much rather watch stuff like The Living Dead Girl or Fiancee of Dracula with all its surreality than watch some crap like Mall Cop or whatever is in the theatre right now.

    I actually have sort of fallen in a kind of lust with Rollin - I want to see more of his flicks just to see what kind of weird levels he can take me to. And it doesn't always have to make sense, sometimes I'd prefer that it doesn't.

    Your love of nunsploitation is what drew me to your site in the first place - your review of Behind Convent Walls has made me salivate after seeing that film for the past several weeks now. And I would love to see thesmokingnun.com :)

    I'll keep coming back to Rollin because he really never ceases to amaze, as well as infuriate. It's like a train wreck, I don't want to look, but I have to. I always think about his movies, no matter how nonsensical, for days afterwards. It's good when a movie gets under your skin and festers around like an infection. Rollin does that.

  3. >>I always think about his movies, no matter how nonsensical, for days afterwards. It's good when a movie gets under your skin

    Well put--though I don't agree with the "festers" part. I'd prefer "grows and blooms." :P Anyway, I'm glad you keep going back to him--his stuff is definitely thought-provoking, which is something many folks don't like to be provoked into (see MALL COP box office figures, etc.). ;)

    I've still got a lot of Rollin to dig through myself. If you haven't been to this blog, it's very informative about the man and his work: http://requiemforjeanrollin.blogspot.com/

    As for the BCW review, I'm glad somebody read it! I was afraid the Duke and I were just boring everyone to tears with our drunken shenanigans and Naschy man-love. :)

  4. I've never seen any of Jean Rollin's films but your constant reviews of his films have me a little curious. I did see a trailer for "Requiem of a Vampire" on my Saint Francis DVD though, and I had planned on checking that film out. The trailer had lesbian vampires and some random clown, so those two things alone pretty much easily sell me when it comes to a movie. Jenn (or Vicar of VHS if you're reading this), what would you recommend as a good starting point as far as Rollin's filmography?

    On a side note, I ordered a Paul Naschy film called "Inquisicion" because I haven't seen any of his movies either but I've read about him on this blog and I've heard the name thrown around on an Exploitation movie podcast that I listen to. I'm still waiting on it to arrive in the mail but I'm looking forward to it!

  5. Aaron, you simply must get into Naschy's movies - they are some of my all time favorites. Christian and I have been wanting to start a Naschy-centric blog for awhile now. Start with Frankenstein's Bloody Terror with the Naschy stuff. Any of his Waldemere Daninsky movies are the ones you want to watch first. His monster mashups are not to be missed!

    So far, I've enjoyed digging through Rollin, despite what my reviews might sound like :) My novice advice would be start with Lake of the Zombies (Nazi zombies and lots of nudity!) and then maybe The Living Dead Girl. I'm definitely going to check out the Vicar's aforementioned recommendation on the Rollin.

  6. Aaron, Jen,

    I haven't seen Lake of the Zombies, but it's widely regarded as one of Rollin's *worst.* (Which is not the deny any joy you might derive from it--what do critics know, after all? :) )

    I started with "Requiem for a Vampire," which you'll either find fascinating or boring. Be aware it goes 40 mins without any real dialog--but the visuals are fantastic. "Shiver of the Vampires is an excellent follow-up to that one.

    If you get tired of Lesbian Vampires (I know, unlikely :) ), Living Dead Girl is a fave, and "Fascination" is widely hailed as Rollin's most "accessible" (I haven't watched yet--it's sitting on my DVD shelf at home. I need more hours in the day!) You also might check out "Night of the Hunted", which I think is a great flick about memory and forgetting and the impermanence of experience. It also has lots of luscious nude chicks. :)

    Don't even get me STARTED on Naschy! I've reviewed lots of his stuff over at my blog. IMO you can't go wrong with any choices. "Night of the Werewolf" is probably the most *technically* good one I've seen, but they all make me incredibly happy. :)

  7. I haven't seen "Lake of the Zombies" either but I've heard it mentioned alongside Jess Franco's "Oasis of the Zombies" as the two worst Nazi Zombie movies ever made, which isn't a good thing because I HAVE seen "Oasis" and it's awful. Anyway, I still plan on watching it because I'm eventually going to be doing a few reviews on Nazi-themed movies sooner than later.

    Jenn and Vicar, thanks for the recommendations. It might be a while before I check out Rollin's stuff but Naschy, on the other hand, is someone who's work I've been looking into checking out recently.

  8. I'm always referring to Paul Naschy as my boyfriend 'round here at the Cavalcade. I want to get shirts printed up that say 'Ladies Heart Waldemere.' Although I don't know how to screenprint or know anyone that does, so feel free to steal my idea and just make sure you send me a free shirt! Something about that beefy little man and his insatiable lust for all manner of ladies gets my motor runnin'!

  9. Dont know which of the Zombie lake ones I saw but it did have zoms with green facepaint that didnt extend to their necks and in an underwater lake scene you could see the tiles on the bottom of the swimming pool! I still really enjoyed it though.