Two Orphan Vampires (Les Deux orphelines vampires), based on one of his own novels, was Jean Rollin’s return to the genre he loves most, the vampire movie. The most recent movie of Rollin’s that I’d seen previous to this was his 1982 zombie movie The Living Dead Girl (one of the very few zombie movies I’ve really enjoyed), and I approached Two Orphan Vampires (made in 1997) with some trepidation, fearing that Rollin may have lost his touch. Would the Rollin magic still work? I need not have worried. Two Orphan Vampires is one of his best films. It’s very much a Jean Rollin movie, making no concessions whatsoever to modern trends in horror movies. Louise and Henriette are two blind orphan girls, living in an orphanage run by kindly nuns. They’re not always blind, however – at night their sight returns, and they leave the orphanage to seek out graveyards, and to seek out blood. Their existence changes dramatically when they are adopted by an eminent eye specialist. The girls seem to have created their own private mythology, with themselves at the centre. The have lived many times, and died many times. They have been Aztec goddesses, and they have been magical girls in other times and places. Have they really been goddesses? Have they really lived and died before? Are they actually vampires? If you’re looking for definite answers to these questions then Jean Rollin is probably not the film-maker for you. To Rollin dreams and fantasies are as real and as important as anything in the waking world, and whether these dreams correspond to any objective reality is an entirely irrelevant question. Dreams and memories are important in themselves. To ask if a memory is true or false is to ask the wrong question. If you approach this film expecting or hoping for a conventional horror movie you may be very disappointed. There’s virtually no gore, there’s virtually no action, and (surprisingly for a Rollin movie) there’s very little nudity. If you accept that Rollin is not really a horror director but is in fact working in the genre the French call the fantastique then you will find this to be a beautiful and haunting movie. If you’re already a Rollin fan then you know what to expect, and you shouldn’t be put off by any negative reports you may have heard on this one – it compares very favourably indeed to his earlier work. It was shot in New York and Paris, and the look of the movie is somewhat similar to his very underrated and in fact quite superb 1973 feature The Iron Rose (La Rose de fer).
I’ve read some negative reviews of the Shriek Show DVD release, but I thought the image quality was perfectly acceptable. It includes interviews with Rollin and with the two lead actresses. Two Orphan Vampires is most definitely worth seeing.