Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blood and Roses

Roger Vadim's Barbarella has been one of my favorite films ever since I first saw it a decade or so ago. Even though it's campy and ridiculous, it holds up as an entertaining film, with great visuals, and set in an imaginative, fully realized universe. I don't know why it took me so long to think, "Hey, I wonder if Roger Vadim made any other movies?"

Well, I finally did think that, and after some rudimentary research on Wikipedia, I learned that the answer is, yes. He made a lot of other movies, some to much acclaim. After a little bit more looking, I learned that one of those other movies can be found on Netflix Instant Watch, and it is, of all things, a vampire movie. Awesome!

Blood and Roses (1960, French title: Et Mourir de Plaisir) is based on the classic Gothic story Carmilla, which itself was a predecessor to and influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula. A group of friends are staying at an ancestral home in Italy, celebrating Leopoldo and Georgia's engagement. Carmilla (Annette Vadim, the director's second of MANY wives), in love with Leopoldo, is jealous and depressed, unwilling to go outside for the costume party at the family graveyard.

Drawn hypnotically to an old wedding dress, Carmilla dons it and trance-walks into the crypt of its owner, Mircalla, a vampire who takes over her mind. Her friends don't pay much attention the changes in Carmilla at first, animals are afraid of her, her skin is cold. Every day, she must secret herself off to the place of her burial, in order to survive. At night, she hunts and feeds on innocent girls.

Blood and Roses is one of the coolest vampire movies out there. It has a great story, told with atmospheric and surreal cinematography by Claude Renoir (who also shot Barbarella). And as a bonus, the girls are totally 60's French sexy.

The only problem is that the version on Netflix is dubbed, and I don't know for sure, but it looked to me like the sides of the frames were cropped. I've heard the film was edited for release in America, and this may have been that cut. I would love to see the full French language version of the film.

Carmilla has been adapted more than once before. I read that Dreyer's silent film, Vampyr is somehow based on it, but it bears little similarity to Blood and Roses. There's another one from 1970 produced by Hammer, that I'm probably going to check out in the future. I assume it's going to be more of an exploitation film than Blood and Roses (which also has its share).

I'm going to have to watch more of Roger Vadim's films now, too. I'm happy to see that Barbarella wasn't a fluke, and that he totally had directing chops.

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