Jean Rollin On Blu-ray: THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES Review

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
Our look into the films of Jean Rollin on Blu-ray continues with his third feature, The Shiver of the Vampires (Le frisson des vampires). Shiver finds Rollin exploring the possibilities of the vampire myth in a completely different, yet somehow more conventional way than his previous two films. The piercing black humor in this film makes it one of my favorites, and it really benefits from the HD upgrade. Kino's Blu-ray of this film is beautiful, though not without its fair share of print damage, and definitely worth the upgrade.
When a honeymooning couple visit the crumbling estate of the bride's ancestors, they discover her closet is filled with more than skeletons: a sinister lesbian vampire, a pair of nubile handmaidens, and two vampire hunters who have been recruited into the ranks of the undead.
The above synopsis give you a basic idea of what happens in Shiver, but it gives you no inkling as to how fun the film is. Where The Nude Vampire was more of an exploration on the nature of vampirism, Shiver is a vampiric romp. The film opens with a couple of newlyweds on their way to their honeymoon who make a stop at the castle of the bride's cousins only to be told they've recently died. Rather than move along, she decides that she must stay overnight to mourn their passing. Within seconds of their entry into the castle, shit starts going crazy, antics ensue.

If you were to mention the idea of a black comedy with vampires to people today, they would immediately conjure images of some bullshit like Vampires Suck, which just goes to show how far we've fallen as a civilization. Shiver isn't a straight comedy, but there is enough levity in the script, and particularly the characters of the cousins, to keep the film from disappearing up it's own asshole.

Shiver of the Vampires finds Rollin continuing to test thematic tools he'd revisit over and over (and over) again throughout his career. There are the ubiquitous female twins, the lesbian vampiress, the modern abandoned castle, numerous graveyard scenes, crazy lighting schemes, and numerous invented rituals. It all sounds very dark, but the film is really a blast. The vampire cousins, who seem much too old to be cousins of our bride, are fantastic characters, well drawn and exuberant, whose presence makes the film more fun than it has any right to be.

We're introduced to the characters and led through key plot points with jaunty '60s sounding guitar twang that undercuts the seriousness of what's going on onscreen, but fits the feeling perfectly. The music is one of my favorite parts of Shiver, and I may be seeking out a soundtrack to the film as a result. It sounds like straight '60s garage band stuff, sort of menacing, but mostly just goofy. It really adds another dimension to the film in a way that only a perfectly matched background score can.

In case you couldn't tell, I loved The Shiver of the Vampires, and place it high among my Rollin favorites. The combination of dark imagery and light hearted vampire hijinks really hit a sweet spot for me. As is the case with most of Rollin's stuff, this isn't mean to be scary, and it certainly isn't, but it is something even better, it is entertaining. Highly recommended stuff.

The Disc:

Kino/Redemption's disc of Shiver is only the slightest step down in quality from The Nude Vampire. There are a few moments of significant print damage marring the film, but those cannot be helped. The conditions in which the negatives were stored must have been compromised. Apart from those few brief moments, the film looks great and sounds wonderful. There is plenty of very natural looking film grain and Rollin's extreme lighting is preserved beautifully. The audio fares significantly better, with the above-mentioned score coming across beautifully, and both the French language track and the marvelous English language dub sound great with no major damage. This is one case where I would make an argument for both audio tracks, as the English language version retains much of the excitement of the film without being hammy.

In terms of extras we get a couple of interviews along with the fantastic Tim Lucas essay that accompanies all of the discs. There is an extended introduction by Rollin, as well as a forty minute interview which I really enjoyed, though, again, I wish it'd been subtitled even though he is speaking English.

If you only purchase one of these discs, Shiver of the Vampires would probably be my choice. Great stuff!


Special Features:
- Mastered in HD from the original 35mm negative
- English dubbed version
- French with optional English subtitles
- Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
- Interview with Jean Rollin by Dr. Patricia MacCormack (39 min.)
- 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
- Original trailers of four other Rollin films
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