Shiver of the Vampires (1970)
Directed by Jean Rollin

Starring Jacques Robiolles Jean-Marie Durand Marie-Pierre Castel Michel Delahaye Sandra Julien

A brilliant, very low-budget early effort from Rollin, this film was his most accessible and commercial film to date when it was made and did good business in Europe. It doesn't stack up to some of his later films, most notably the superb "Lips of Blood," but it is an excellent cult horror/comedy that should appeal to any fear fan with esoteric tastes.

A young newlywed couple ride into a small French village to meet the new wife's cousins, whom she hasn't seen in years. They learn from one in the townsfolk that the two cousins just passed away. When they go to visit the family castle, however, they get mixed reports the relatives are dead, the relatives are alive. When the cousins finally show up, they're so weird and outlandish, the husband begins to suspect that at least madness is at work in the castle. Needless to say, there's a hell of a lot more afoot in the place. When his wife refuses to leave or even sleep with him the now-sexually starved hubby has to get to the bottom of what's going on, which involves both lesbianism and vampires.

With a shoe-string budget and some gorgeous locales (including an incredible castle, along with a beautiful cemetery), Rollin pulled off a wonderful, dreamlike horror film. One of the best scenes has a vampire emerging from a grandfather clock! As is always the case with a Rollin movie, there's plenty of nudity. At times, his lack of an effects budget can lead to some annoying moments, such as a "disappearing act" some vampires experience when exposed to sunlight.

But all in all, it's a wonderful movie. Especially fun are the two cousins, both hippie men in early 1970s attire, who explain how they were once vampire hunters before becoming vampires themselves. The intelligent screenplay throws in a little pagan history and plenty of anti-Christian rituals to keep the action moving. A rock score (by a band called Acanthus) that sounds like something Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd would have cooked up also livens up the movie, and adds an even greater sense of early '70s kitsch. The result is one of Rollin's best films and a must see for fans of horror movies from this wonderful era.

There are reportedly English-dubbed versions of the film floating around, but it would be wise to stick with the French-language version which was released to DVD in the late 1990s. Other titles the film goes by: "Sex and the Vampire," "Strange Things Happen at Night," "Terror of the Vampires," "Thrill of the Vampires," "Vampire Thrills" and the French title: "Le Frisson des Vampires."

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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