Dracula's Fiancée (2002)
By: Julian on January 18, 2010  | 
DVD
Redemption (UK). All Regions, PAL. 1.66:1 (16:9 enhanced). French DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Jean Rollin
Starring: Jacques Régis, Thomas Smith, Cyrille Iste, Magalie Aguado, Thomas Desfossé
Screenplay: Jean Rollin
Country: France
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
I'm not well-acquainted with Jean Rollin at all. I do know that he is known to be something of a Gallic, gothic Jess Franco and was lauded (possibly? I'm not sure, perhaps they intended it to be depreciatory) by New York Times as "the French master of erotic horror". Dracula's Fiancée is the first Rollin film I've seen and perhaps judging the director on this picture does him a disservice – this film makes up something of a noughties comeback for Rollin, whose premier works are considered important entries in seventies Eurotrash. However this isn't a flattering showcase of the French exploitation maestro – Dracula's Fiancée has a cornucopia of exploitation elements, none of which make any sense woven together with the smattering of plot writer/director Rollin brings in, and it's the sort of detached, mal-conceived dross that would be the darling of the arthouses if exploitation cinema wasn't so maligned. That said, Dracula's Fiancée has one very noble quality: with these exploitation titbits so wantonly and gratuitously thrown in, and with the mood Rollin quite successfully evokes, this film looks like quite an authentic piece of seventies Grindhouse or midnight cinema, though of the more arty, surrealist variety (think The Holy Mountain or Eraserhead, but not a patch on either). Sadly, this doesn't redeem what is a generally awful film.

It's phenomenally difficult to explain Dracula's Fiancée schizophrenic plot without sounding insane, but I'll give it my best shot: a professor (Jacques Orth) and his assistant (Denis Talloran) are looking for Count Dracula's remains when they are given a lead by a midget circus jester (Thomas Smith). The jester says that the Count is engaged to be married, and said fiancée is floating around somewhere and can lead them to Dracula's coffin-bound, eternally sleeping corpse. Their subsequent investigations bring them to the beautiful village idiot (who, when hypnotised by the professor, reveals that she's not quite as stupid as her behaviour suggets) and a troupe of insane, chain-smoking lesbian nuns. A pretty ogress that eats infants (the moment the dwarf jester tries to bribe her with "pink-cheeked babies" is when Dracula's Fiancée hits its strides as a comedy) is thrown in for effect, to say nothing of the lipstick lesbian vampires that eat up the scenery prodigiously.

Intelligence is as sparse as gore in Dracula's Fiancée and, as it culminates in an absolutely madcap Shakespearean finale which is as infuriating an anticlimax as any, you can't help but wonder what the bloody hell Rollin was on when he thought his screenplay was remotely filmable (let alone what he was thinking when he penned it). What's most likeable about it, though, is the inimitable seventies vibe: it's not just a budgetary thing, but the atmosphere Rollin conjures up with effective use of costume design, cinematography, editing and cheap, hyper-crimson blood – in spite of the film's obvious failings – is commendable. It's nowhere near enough to make me actually like this, but a ribbon to Rollin for trying.

Dracula's Fiancée can certainly be classified a work of surreal cinema, but good surreal cinema has an all-important thread common to whatever seemingly random events take place. Alejandro Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre carries with it strong religious and cultist allegory, and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive comments on the trappings of celebrity (to name two movies I've seen quite recently that fit the genre), but Rollin seems satisfied presenting lesbian vampires and having his film wallow self-indulgently. More power to him, but the end product is barely watchable.
Video
Presented in 1.78:1 and it looks pretty good – online screenshots prove its superiority to the Shriek Show disc, and Redemption has given us a sharper, brighter print of Dracula's Fiancée. It's dodgy in more than a few places, but this is hardly a movie that was dealt a stellar budget.
Audio
French Dolby mono track, with optional English subtitles. It's fine.
Extra Features
A 20-minute interview with Jean Rollin filmed in Paris in 2008, a 5-minute stills gallery, a trailer for this film (which I admit to trying to watch before writing this review in an attempt to establish whatever cohesive ties Rollin at least intended, but unfortunately it doesn't come with English subtitles) and trailers for other Redemption releases – Fascination, Night of the Hunted, Killer's Moon and Spring of Life. A reasonable set and the director interview is a particularly interesting inclusion.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I'm not sure how good a starting point this is for Rollin newcomers, but Dracula's Fiancée was dire. It promised much but delivered little, with none of the key exploitation ingredients gelling as Jean Rollin flounders and spectacularly fails as writer/director. Fans may enjoy cameos by Rollin regulars, like Fascination's Brigitte Lahaie, but most will be so distracted by the film's sheer ridiculousness and self indulgence that they'll just be waiting for the credits to roll. Avoid.

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