Blood and Roses
The trouble with Roger Vadim isn’t so much that he is generally regarded as being something of a “divisive” filmmaker, it’s more that to a great number of people he is quite simply seen as being a downright “bad” one.
For evidence of this, one need only look to the fact that there is no largely positive consensus on his two most famous films – And God Created Woman and Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy – with just as many people unreservedly loathing them as unabashedly loving them (for my part, I like the former a lot and have never been quite sure about the latter). Those two admittedly iconic (whatever you may happen to think about them) efforts aside, his filmography is chock-full of sensationalist and seedy, yet remarkably slight, films starring the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Jane Fonda, all of whom he had relationships with (and are only ever recalled because of the fact they starred the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Jane Fonda, and were almost exclusively recalled by Vadim himself before his death… He called his autobiography Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda: My Life With The Three Most Beautiful Women In The World!!!). It was this kind of fare and that lazy lothario reputation that brought upon Vadim both open hostility from his French New Wave contemporaries and a hack-like reputation that persists to this day, but closer inspection shows that he did manage to produce a few true gems in his time.
Blood and Roses (1960) is almost certainly the greatest film Roger Vadim ever made, and it is also one of the greatest and certainly most interesting vampire films of the 1960s. Liberally (in more ways than one, as we shall see) adapted from Sheridan Le Fanu’s pre-Dracula vampire novella ‘Carmilla’, it tells the tale of the De Karnstein’s, a Central-European aristocratic clan haunted by the legend of its bloodsucking ancestry right up to the present day. In the build-up to the marriage between her cousin Leopoldo De Karnstein and her friend Elsa, young Carmilla begins to act strangely and with an intense jealousy… But of whom is she truly jealous – the bride-to-be or her cousin? And, perhaps more pressingly, has she anything to do with the number of pretty young servants turning up dead with little bite-marks on their necks?
Yes indeed, Blood and Roses belongs very much to the lesbian vampire (I’m not sure if there’s another way of putting it, so please excuse my Horne’s and Corden’s) subgenre of dreamy, decadent and sensual shockers that combine moral and sexual ambiguity with their scares (for more information, kindly have a look at this), but fear not as this is a classy affair and Vadim exercises possibly more restraint here than he did in the entire rest of his career. He also shows that he did possess a not inconsiderable talent for filmmaking by creating a moody atmosphere throughout, both lulling and chilling, and dazzling us with an array of memorable, often proto-psychedelic visual flourishes – from possibly the most beautifully rendered fireworks display in film history, to one of the most memorable dream sequences you’re ever likely to see, too. The reason Blood and Roses isn’t better known than it is (and it easily deserves to be Vadim’s most famous film) is surely because it isn’t actually commercially available at the moment; there has yet to be a DVD release and a Paramount VHS version was deleted a long time ago.
It is at this point that we should probably “warn” you that we will be showing a DVD copy of the VHS tape, and with rather a heavy heart too, as we’d love to show you a much more aesthetically fulfilling version of such a visually alluring film. Still, it’s the best we can offer at the moment and you really don’t want to miss a rare screening of such a wonderful film (at the Montpelier in Peckham on 27/06/2013). Check out the trailer below for further evidence!