The Shiver of the Vampires (1971)–review

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A newly married couple, Isle (Sandra Julien) and Antoine (Jean-Marie Durand), have decided to stop by her cousin’s castle for a visit before embarking upon their honeymoon. She hasn’t seen them since childhood and would like to reconnect. The Cousins (Michel Delahaye and Jacques Robiolles) have been vampire hunters for years. Just two days before the couple’s visit they had been killed and turned into vampires themselves. Having researched their family’s religious background, all the more obscure ones from the past, led them to the most underground religion of all: vampirism. They become hunters of vampires.  In battling the undead they finally succumbed to their own prey.

This is unknown to the couple at first. Yet, Antoine does stumble upon the Cousins as they finish off a victim and Isle is seduced by another resident of the castle, a female vampire named Isolde (Dominique). She is revealed to Isle in a rather striking shot emerging from the bottom part of a grandfather clock. Isle is very open to the seduction. The only conflict is that Antoine becomes wise to the plan to make his new bride into the undead and his struggle to stop it.

The Shiver of the Vampires is much more traditional of a vampire film than Jean Rollin’s previous film The Nude Vampire. The trappings are all there: a cemetery, crosses, an old castle. There’s also a Mario Bava-like color scheme. It’s still not really scary, yet the first ten minutes are rather creepy with its atmospherics. Despite the traditional nature of the film, the score was handled by 70s prog-rockers Acanthus. The mix of old-style images with contemporary music (for that time, anyway) makes for an interesting experience. What also makes the experience fascinating is Rollin’s inclusion of humor. The first sign of this is when Antoine, while visiting the castle’s library, is attacked by books jumping off the shelves. But, most of the humor is delivered by the Cousins themselves. Delahaye and Robiolles performances are quirky delights and they are fun to watch.

The thing that let me down despite my overall enjoyment of the picture is that too much is revealed too soon. There doesn’t seem to be much mystery or suspense that would keep me captivated. It seemed pretty clear where is story was headed.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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