This French film gained a certain level of notoriety upon it release in 1968 for its violent and sexual content (Who knew it was possible to offend the French?), although in retrospect it’s just as notorious for starting the career of erotic horror director Jean Rollin. One aspect of Rape of the Vampire that often goes overlooked, however, is the fact that it’s one of the rare horror flicks to feature a primary antagonist who’s a black woman.
The movie started out as a 30-minute short but was deemed worthy of expansion into a feature-length film — a task that apparently blew Rollin’s mind. Thus, what had been a quiet journey into what “real” vampirism might be like (i.e., just a thirst for blood; no death by sunlight or crosses) becomes a schlocky, incoherent B-movie with the sort of avant-garde flourishes and grandiose dialogue that make people stereotype French art house cinema. Rollin didn’t even bother removing the credits from the first 30-minute portion of the film; he just added footage afterwards.
It’s in this new footage that the black woman (Jacqueline Sieger) makes her appearance. She’s a vampire queen not unlike Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned — except topless and very, very gay. Her somewhat conflicted master plan is to procreate a race of vampires while at the same time taking great measures to conceal their existence from the outside world. She also takes time out for nonsensical ceremonies, occasional torture and some vag-on-vag coitus.
Unbeknownst to the queen, some of her minions resent being turned into vampires and are secretly conducting research to find a cure. (Fun fact: vampirism is caused by bacteria!) The queen uncovers the plot, however, and has the main female conspirator whipped (naked, of course) before, oddly, throwing her a wedding party. A full-scale revolt breaks out at the wedding: a bunch of people are shot, and the queen is killed from a poisoned blood supply that she, for some reason, takes time to sample during the revolt. Any sense made by this film is purely coincidental.
It’s not hard to see why this is Sieger’s only film role. Her acting ability seems limited to topless lesbianism and punctuating lines with wide-eyed mouth gapes. As with most of Rollin’s work, Rape of the Vampire looks pretty enough, but he should never be allowed to write his own material. (Another recurring theme in his work: scenes that call for the violent ripping of a bra-less woman’s shirt at the slightest provocation. Perv.)