**** Out of 5
Release Date- July 9th, 1997
Running Time- 107-Minutes
Writer/Director- Jean Rollin
Starring- Alexandra Pic, Isabelle Teboul, Bernard Charnace, Natalie Perrey
Released in 1997 Two Orphan Vampires often draws mixed reviews, but it seems as if a good portion of Jean Rollin’s film often get very mixed reactions. As I’ve stated in other reviews on Rollin’s work his films are for the most part an acquired taste whereas films such as Grapes of Death and Living Dead Girl have a bit more appeal. On the surface Two Orphan Vampires seems like a film that will have more mass appeal, but while a bit different than Rollin’s more art-house style films (if they can really be described as that), Two Orphan Vampires like a lot of Rollin’s work from the 70s is a hit or miss film with viewers and I’m in someways surprised it gets as many positive reviews has it does though even by Rollin fans this is seen as a middle of the road film, but quite honestly I would rate this as one of my favorite films by Jean Rollin. Many films from his prime could be quite erotic at times with plenty of sex and nudity, but you went get any of that here as there is only one brief nude scene. Many reviews cite how unlike other Rollin films there is no gore, which is true, but Rollin was never really a gore director. Grapes of Death and Living Dead Girl had a lot of gore, but his other films even with some violence weren’t very gory at all. I often find myself struggling to write reviews on a good portion of Jean Rollin’s films and Two Orphan Vampires is no exception.
Like the good portion of his work I don’t think Two Orphan Vampires can be described as horror even if that’s the genre it fits. Rollin doesn’t really attempt suspense or scares and if anything this film can sort of be seen as a dark fairy tale. If you go into Two Orphan Vampires as a traditional vampire film you will be very disappointed as the film strays from normal vampire conventions. The two vampires can go out during the day, but are blind though they can see at night in blue. If shot they can be wounded or even die. The only thing that really makes this a vampire film is they do feed off blood. Like some of Rollin’s other less traditional films if someone asked me what I liked about Two Orphan Vampires I’d be hard pressed to really come up with valid reasons, but like I said I very much enjoyed this film a lot. However it isn’t a perfect film by any means and has plenty of flaws, which for some might sink the film and while these flaws can hinder my enjoyment to some degree it didn’t ruin it for me. Louise (Pic) and Henriette (Teboul) are as the title of the film described two orphan vampires living in an orphanage run by nuns. The nuns see them as angels unaware of their secret. The girls are blind by day, but at night they sneak off in search of victims for blood. The girls are adopted by Dr. Dennary (Charnace) and like the nuns he’s unaware of their secret.
Two Orphan Vampires was written by Jean Rollin, which is based off a series of novels he wrote when he started having trouble getting funding for his films. I haven’t read Rollin’s novel. Many have described the screenplay as poetic and while I wouldn’t go that far I can see how some would say that. The script is very wordy and very much driven by the two girls, which worked for me, but it was at times too dialogue heavy, which is fine if you’re Quentin Tarantino. Rollin’s script is very much a dark fairy tale and perhaps its just me, but I often wondered how much if what happened did and how much of it was the over active imagination of two teen girls, which perhaps could be why certain things seem to just happen with little explanation. One scene has Louise and Henriette in New York where they attack someone than flee up a fire escape and into a window when they enter they suddenly have bullet holes. Later in the film they’re seen walking around a cemetery during the day (this is after they’ve been adapted) and a couple spots them and says they’re evil. If anything the only thing they’d be guilty of is lying about being blind, which they aren’t well sort of. When the guy goes after them a young couple sees this and the girl has her boyfriend help Louise and Henriette, but they end up getting the girl and now two people are after them and they hide in a tomb where they meet another vampire. The two chasing them don’t enter the tomb and aren’t seen from again. However the first guy after them does come across the girls later by chance. As I mentioned the girls meet another vampire and they also meet other creatures of the night such as a she-wolf and a ghoul. Also the girls talk about how many times they’ve died and comeback and past lives.
As I mentioned all of these things could simply be part of the imagination of Louise and Henriette and perhaps that’s why certain things aren’t really explained and why they randomly come across other vampires and so on. It’s never explained either how Louise and Henriette arrived at the orphanage and their relationship isn’t explained. There is a close bond between the two girls and I did get a lesbian vibe however its never stated nor are there any love scenes between the girls. In Rollin’s work in the 70s it may have played out differently. However the script is also quite interesting and while I personally wouldn’t use the word poetic, but again I can see why some would. Like I mentioned the script is very much driven by dialogue and while that turned some people off I enjoyed it. Louise and Henriette were great characters they’re fun and while they do harm innocent people and one act of violence was quite tragic as this person cared about the girls I think most viewers will still be attached to Louise and Henriette and identify with them and root for them. Jean Rollin’s script may not always work and sure perhaps a little too wordy, but it has this innocence to it even if Louise and Henriette aren’t exactly innocent.
As director Jean Rollin moves the film at a slow, but steady pace. Some have cited Two Orphan Vampires as being too slow and while I get the complaints I was never bored, but a few minutes could have easily been lost. Two Orphan Vampires was shot on 16MM and I simply love the look of 16MM films and Two Orphan Vampires was no exception. The visual look created by Rollin is a big reason I was kept invested in the film even when things slowed down. The blue tint used in the film really helps create some visual style and gives the film a great look. There is some action spread out through the film, but its nothing very graphic and this would be one of Rollin’s tamer films in both violence and sexuality as I mentioned Rollin’s films can be quite erotic, but this film isn’t. I fully understand why Two Orphan Vampires does get negative reviews and sure its hard to argue against the flaws, but for Jean Rollin make an excellent film that leaves you wondering how much of this happened and how much was the imagination of two teen girls.
The strength of the film comes from the two leads. Alexandra Pic and Isabelle Teboul are excellent. Both girls are cute and have such great energy and natural charisma. The bond between Louise and Henriette never feels forced and the two girls play well off each other. Despite some of their actions I found myself identifying with Louise and Henriette and that stems more from the performances than anything else. Pic and Teboul both deliver such excellent and at times powerful performances and with their great looks and charisma its difficult to not root for them.
Overall Two Orphan Vampires is one of my favorite Jean Rollin films despite the issues the film has. Even though the film gets more positive reviews than I expected it does probably get more reviews that claim the film poor or average at best and I’m not surprised since the film doesn’t have mass appeal and might lack in certain aspects when compared to Rollin’s prime, but I still very much enjoyed Two Orphan Vampires and with excellent performances from Alexandra Pic and Isabelle Teboul I can see past the problems and enjoy it.
Tina Aumont best know for her role in Sergio Martino’s 1973 classic giallo Torso appears in a bit role as a ghoul and Brigitte Lahaie who worked with Jean Rollin on such films as Grapes of Death, Fascination and Night of the Hunted has a bit part as a victim of Louise and Henriette.