Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Horror Express (1972)

I bought a book at a yard sale when I was a kid. It was called Star Streak, Stories of Space and was edited by Betty M. Owen. I was probably inspired by my love of Star Wars (1977), which was pretty all-encompassing for a couple of years back then. The stories in Star Streak…, however, were not much like Star Wars. The first (and longest) one was actually Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. I knew this to be the story upon which two movies were based: The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Thing (1982). I had seen the former on TV, perhaps on Not Quite Classic Theatre (although I don’t think so). Oddly enough, I had not seen the “remake” by John Carpenter – in spite of the fact that I was a huge fan of Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1980), and that the movie was playing in the theatre at a time when I was going to several movies a week. My friend Phil went to see it and became an instant super-fan – drawing artwork inspired by it, and talking about constantly. He wanted to go back and see it again – and he wanted me to come with him. For reasons that I cannot to this day explain or fathom I said no.

What the hell?!

I could go on at great length expressing the absurdity of this decision in light of all of my feelings, personal tastes – and the fact the I loved the movie beyond belief when I finally did see it. The fact remains, that I did not want to go and see The Thing at that moment – I almost can’t believe that we were ALLOWED to go and see it in the theatres. It seems like a movie that should have been rated R, but I guess it wasn’t.

I also couldn’t believe it when I found out later that the film had been a box office disappointment on its initial release. I’ve always known it to be a beloved fan favourite, and seemingly very popular (at least on video). But apparently it was not so successful during its initial theatrical run. Perhaps I was not the only fan who refused to go to it for some, inexplicable, reason.

The point that I am very slowly coming around to, is that when I finally did see The Thing, I was immediately struck by the fact that it was not a “remake” of the 1951 classic. It was actually a much more accurate adaptation of the original novella, Who Goes There?. It blew my mind to think that a “remake” could be a more accurate version of the story than the original film. And, dare I say, a better film as well (although I do love the Howard Hawks original). 

What I did not know at that time, was that there was another movie that was, in a sense, a version of Who Goes There? – and a more accurate version than The Thing from Another World (although not as accurate as John Carpenter’s film). That movie was, and is, Horror Express (1972).

I had been aware of Horror Express for quite a few years. I used to see cheapjack public domain VHS copies of the film floating around in bargain bins and on video store shelves. And, oddly enough, I never had the impulse to rent it (or buy it). In fact, I had actively avoided seeing the movie, refusing to rent it with friends if it was ever suggested. In that way, it was just like John Carpenter’s The Thing. For no reason that I could ever articulate, I just didn’t want to see Horror Express. It’s almost as if i had an allergy to movies that were (at least somewhat) accurate adaptations of Who Goes There?.

I don’t really think this can be true. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that there was anything in common between The Thing and Horror Express. I think I was just turned off by the plentiful, shoddy looking VHS boxes. But who knows?

I finally watched Horror Express when a friend of mine lent me a copy and insisted that I give it a shot. It was better than I had imagined, but it was a pretty bad print of the film, so I don’t think I was completely convinced. I watched it again a few years later, via another terrible print, and this time I decided that I needed to buy a copy – but only if it was a good, remastered print. Thanks to the Arrow Video Blu-ray, I’ve finally added it to my collection.

The thing that amazed me most about it, aside from how good it finally looks and sounds, is that it is, clearly, a version of Who Goes There?. I’m not sure that I ever quite realized that when I watched the shoddier prints of the film. If I had noticed any similarities, I probably would have written them off as simple borrowings of ideas from other films. In any case, for the first time ever, I realized what an interesting version of Who Goes There? Horror Express truly is.

I won’t bother trying to itemize the parallels, or even synopsize the plot. I’m probably the last person on Earth to catch on to how great this movie is – nobody needs me to tell them what it’s about. I will say that it has an amazing cast, including Christopher Lee as Professor Sir Alexander Saxton,  Peter Cushing as Dr. Wells, Silvia Tortosa as Countess Irina, and Telly Savalas as a Cossack military officer. The music by John Cacavas is also excellent.

I suppose it could be noted that most of the movie takes place on a train, which is a departure from all of the other versions of Who Goes There?. I seem to have a strange fondness for movies that are set on trains. This may all go back to my childhood, when I managed to watch Breakheart Pass (1975) three times on TV (in those days before home taping was possible). I’m still not sure how I did it (once on the US cable network, once on the Canadian channel and…?), but I remember distinctly seeing it three times in fairly short order. Needless to say, I thought it was pretty cool (and still do). But that’s another story…

Horror Express (1972) is an example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that would probably be a lot more revered and respected if it hadn’t spent so many years being passed around on bad public domain videotapes. I personally avoided it for a long time because of that, and I regret it (although not quite as much as I regret not going to see The Thing in the movie threatre back in ’82 – sorry about that, Phil). I am so glad that I finally have a complete and pristine print that I can screen anytime I feel like it, and what better time could there be than a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn?

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: 13 Ghosts (1960)

I always liked ghost stories. In most of the ones I remember from when I was a kid, there was only one ghost. There may have occasionally been two or three ghosts in a story. But the idea of one movie having thirteen ghosts in it was absolutely unthinkable to me.

I’m not sure how old I was when I first heard mention of the title 13 Ghosts, but I was certainly aware that the movie existed for a long time before I ever saw it. It is not a movie that I watched on late night TV, or on a Saturday afternoon (which is when I saw great films like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) for the first time). I’m sure that the original 13 Ghosts, would have appealed to me in a similar way when I was a kid. And I was certainly a fan of The Wizard of Oz (1939) back then, which seemed to come on TV at least twice a year (and I watched it every time). So, I liikely would have recognized – and appreciated – The Wicked Witch of the West (or Margaret Hamilton, as some might know her) playing the mysterious housekeeper in 13 Ghosts. But alas, I never saw the movie when I was young.

In 2001, I was a member of the board of the Manitoba Association of Playwrights, and we used to meet once on month on Tuesdays right after work. Like most unsuccessful playwrights, I worked at home, so this meant that I had to walk downtown just as most people were leaving downtown for home. The meetings would often last about two hours, which meant that I would be walking back home around 7:00 PM. And the journey would take me right past the Towne Cinema 8 – which I could remember being built twenty years earlier. It had been a big deal at the time, because it had been Canada’s first stand-alone multiplex cinema.

I would often think, as I walked past, that it would be fun to just stop in and see a movie. But I almost always had other plans, so I would keep walking. But on this particular October evening, there was nowhere else I needed to be. And, I happened to know that there was a horror film playing in honour of the Halloween season.

This was another issue for me. I went to a lot of movies back then. I had friends who would want to go as often as once a week, and it was not unusual for me to wind up at the theatres two or three times in a given week. However, most of my regular companions were not horror fans. They might occasionally agree to go to one, but if it wasn’t spectacular I’d be hearing about it for the next six months. So, I mostly watched horror films on my own, at the Home Drive-In.

The movie playing at the Towne Cinema 8 on this fine October evening was Thir13en Ghosts (2001), the remake of William Castle’s original – which I still had never seen. I don’t usually like to see remakes of classic horror films before I see the originals – in fact, I often don’t like to see them at all – but it had been ages since I’d seen a horror film on the big screen and this seemed like an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. So, I walked through the front doors, down the set of stairs into the basement, and bought a ticket…

I know that some people enjoyed Thir13en Ghostsand I suppose that I did too, on some level. But basically I thought that it was a big budget spectacle that was short on quality storytelling. It’s been almost twenty years since I suffered throu -I mean, watched it – so, I can’t really remember enough details to talk about it intelligently. And I will be the first to admit that if I watched it again now, I might, possibly, feel very differently about it. So… The point is, on that October evening in 2001, I vowed that I must finally track down watch the original 13 Ghosts.

Thankfully, because of the remake coming out, the original had been released on video and was pretty widely available. I managed to rent it at my favourite video store, Movie Village. I knew going in that it had to be better than the remake. In fact, I was so sure about that, that I probably raised the bar of my expectations so hight that I expected the film to be a work of brilliance that would make Thir13en Ghosts look look a bad re-run of (’80s robot sitcom) Small Wonder.


It was definitely better than Thir13en Ghosts, in my opinion. But I have to say that I was just a little bit disappointed in it. 13 Ghosts was not light years better than the remake. It had some of the same problems, it seemed to me in that moment, as Thir13en Ghosts. Again, this was almost 20 years ago and I can’t remember exactly what had turned me off. And it’s not that I hated it. I thought it was pretty good. But I had loved movies like The Tingler (1959) and House on Haunted Hill (1959) so much, that maybe I expected more from William Castle. 

But the real culprit, I think, was Thir13en Ghosts. Watching it first, even though I didn’t like it, had somehow cast a shadow over my experience of 13 Ghosts. And as a result, I did not watch the movie again until last Friday. If I hadn’t bought a box set of William Castle Blu-rays, which included 13 Ghosts, I’m not sure if I ever would have.

But I’m really glad I did. This time I went in with much lower expectations. Not really expecting it to be bad – I had thought it was at least decent the first time I saw it – but perhaps I just didn’t have the recent hangover of watching the remake first. And I must admit, that part of me was afraid that I might hate it. However…

I loved it this time! It has a sense of humour, plus some nifty ghost effects (for their time) and some moments of legitimate creepiness and suspense. Had I watched it on a Saturday afternoon when I was a kid, it probably would have thrilled me.

It may still not reach the heights of William Castle’s best work, but 13 Ghosts (1960) is certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema that would be welcome on any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn or Saturday matinee, and I look forward to watching it again!

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Mark of the Devil (1970)


That word jumped off the box…

It was a simple black and white photocopied cover on a clamshell case. It was, I know now, a bootlegged copy of the movie. At the time, I just thought it was a cheap, low budget box. Maybe I thought the real box had been damaged or lost, and this cheap photocopy had replaced it. I’m not sure.

“BANNED IN 19 COUNTRIES!” the box screamed at me. I don’t think anything had ever made me want to rent a movie more than that. It was Mark of the Devil Part II (1973), and I had never seen Mark of the Devil part one. In fact, I’d never heard of Mark of the Devil part one. Usually this would deter me from watching a movie. But this movie was banned in 19 countries! It simply needed to be seen. The cheap photocopied cover somehow added to the mystique. Like no official movie box could have made it onto my video store’s shelves. Only an underground, secret copy… If I didn’t rent it now, maybe the police would confiscate it and I’d never get a chance to see it again.

I rented the movie.

I don’t remember much about Mark of the Devil Part II (1973). I think it entertained me well enough, and had a few shocking or disturbing moments, but I don’t think it lived up to the promise of “BANNED IN 19 COUNTRIES!”. And that bootlegged copy DID disappear from my video store’s shelves not too long after I rented it. I don’t think the police confiscated it. Somebody probably bought it (or stole it). 

Several years later, a friend of mine returned from trip to New York with a couple of VHS tapes he’d bought for me in a bargain bin. One of them was Mark of the Devil (1970). “Banned In Many Countries” the box proclaimed. I wondered if it was more than 19 countries. If it were, say, five or six countries, surely that would only be a few, wouldn’t it? At what point does “many” start? More than ten? More than twenty?

We immediately slipped that tape into the VCR and watched it.

I think we were a tad disappointed. There was nothing in the movie that would seem to warrant being banned in one country – never mind “many”. We did, however, think that the movie was good. Surprisingly good. “Too good”, as my friend likes to say. In other words, it was “too good” a movie to deliver the kind of offensive sleaze that would get it banned all over the world and, over twenty years later, provide us with the kind of “bad movie night” experience that we might have been expecting.

The memory of the film stuck with me over the years, but I never watched that cheapjack VHS copy again. Truth be told, it was a low quality tape, and a not so great print of the film itself. When Arrow Films released a super-deluxe blu-ray version, I knew that it was time to revisit this horror classic (or #NotQuiteClassic, depending on your point of view).

Incidentally, I did rent a VHS tape called Mark of the Devil Part 3: Innocence From Hell sometime back in the ’90s. It also claimed to have been “banned” – or did it? What the box actually said was “Banned in Nearly 19 Countries”. Nearly 19 countries? What does that mean? It was banned in 18 countries? Why not say 18? Were they thinking that it sounds better to say “almost” 19? If you’re going to do that, why not say “almost 20 countries”? That definitely sounds better than 18. And it’s still true (if the film was actually banned in 18 countries).

Maybe what they’re really saying is that the film was ALMOST banned in 19 countries – meaning that 19 countries considered banning it, but in the end, none of them did. So it was actually banned in 0 countries. I suppose “almost 19” does sound better than 0.

The truth is probably that this is just a line that some distributor or marketing genius put on the box. They probably had no idea whether or not any countries ever considered banning this film. But since the first two movies had been banned (at least according to their marketing) they figured that the third one should follow suit.

By the way, Mark of the Devil Part 3: Innocence From Hell is in no way related to the other Mark of the Devil films. It’s actually an alternate title for a film called Alucarda (1977), by Juan López Moctezuma, who made a handful of horror films in Mexico – but that’s another story.

Mark of the Devil (1970) is the best of all of these movies (at least as much as I can recall part 2 and 3). In spite of its reputation for being “banned” and being shocking, it’s actually a pretty serious-minded story about the witch hunt, which could be taken literally as the story of what happened in Europe (and elsewhere) in the 1700s, or metaphorically about other “witch hunts” throughout history. The movie exposes the politics behind such movements, the inevitable corruption, and the somewhat less than puritanical motivations of the individuals who are entrusted to “save us” from the evils in the world. For a self-declared violent sleaze-fest – that handed out vomit bags to all patrons – it’s actually a rather thoughtful, intelligent and powerful film. 

I imagine that much of the credit for the quality of this film must be given to writer/director Michael Armstrong, who wrote almost 20 movies (but only directed slightly less than 5) – plus some television. Apparently producer/actor Adrian Hoven, who played “Walter – the Nobleman”, may have made changes and inserted scenes without Armstrong’s knowledge or permission. I don’t know enough about this to comment, but it sounds like there was much tension and disagreement about what kind of film it was trying to be. I tend to believe that it’s Armstrong’s vision that comes through and makes the film as good as it is. Armstrong is a far more accomplished writer than Hoven ever was.

Mark of the Devil (1970) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema at it’s most notorious. It combined the old school gimmickry of William Castle (vomit bags) with the new extremity of modern horror in the 1970s, of which this was one of the first examples. Historically significant, and surprisingly thoughtful and engrossing, it can make for a dark and shocking (and perhaps even sickening) #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

As I’ve talked about in a previous blog post, the #NotQuiteClassicCinema hashtag is an homage to one of my favourite childhood television programmes, called Not Quite Classic Theatre. Every Saturday night they showed old Hollywood monster movies until the wee hours of Sunday morning. A good portion of these old movies were of the “giant bug(s) attack a city or small town” variety. A perfect example would be Tarantula (1955), which I discussed in a different previous blog post.

It doesn’t take a genre film theorist to see a direct link between movies like Tarantula and Kingdom of the Spiders (1977). Kingdom of the Spiders is more recent, of course. And in colour (many of the old movies were black and white). However, when I was watching Not Quite Classic Theatre many of the films were only twenty-five to thirty years old. Kingdom of the Spiders is older to audiences now, than those old black and white films were to me in the 1980s (forty-three years and counting as of this writing). And I’m guessing that the look of Kingdom of the Spiders, while not foreign to me, is probably about as aesthetically different to a young person today (who is used to digital video, etc.) as black and white film was to me.

The biggest difference between movies like Tarantula and Kingdom of the Spiders is the size of the monsters, or tarantulas as the case might be. They were, of course, gigantic in Tarantula, but they are normal, everyday, regular sized tarantulas in Kingdom of the Spiders. Why would regular sized tarantulas be scary? Sheer numbers. There are thousands or millions of them. And, as the experts in the movie explain, they are more aggressive and more deadly than the normal version of these spiders.

I suppose a genre film theorist could make a case for the 1970s bringing a new sense of realism and grit to the giant bug movies of the past by making the bugs “regular sized”, but I won’t try to do that. Watching a movie like Kingdom of the Spiders gives me the exact same feeling as watching an older giant bug movie like Tarantula. It has the same small town setting, it has the same type of characters, it has the same basic plot structure. What I mean to say, is that it’s a dream come true for an old monster movie fan like me.

Kingdom of the Spiders is #NotQuiteClassicCinema gold! It’s one of those rare movies that manages to tread the line between being a “good” movie and a “bad” movie. It’s actually quite well made, and much better than one might expect. The cinematography is great, and some of the shots are downright brilliant (spiders entering the frame at just the right moment, etc.). As a piece of storytelling, it works well – and I have no trouble imagining that my childhood self would have taken this movie very seriously and been thrilled, chilled, and thoroughly entertained.

The cast is amazing as well. Former football player and iconic star of some of the greatest Westerns ever made, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Professionals (1966), and my personal favourite Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Woody Strode plays a rancher who has to deal with the unusual infestation and its devastating effect on his animals. I first became aware of Strode in one of my other personal favourites, Vigilante (1982). Since then I have become a fan and am always happy to see him in any movie, good or bad.

His wife in Kingdom of the Spiders is played by Altovise Davis, who was married to the legendary Sammy Davis Jr.. She only has eight acting credits on the IMDb, but she somehow managed to be in several things I saw as a child, including episodes of Charlie’s Angels and CHiPs. There are actors with over a hundred credits that I’ve seen less often. How does that happen? Aside from Kingdom of the Spiders, she is in another #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic: Welcome to Arrow Beach (1974). When I was a kid, my friends and I thought The Village People were the height of cool, and used to spin 45s of YMCA and In The Navy over and over again. So imagine my surprise to discover that Altovise Davis was also in Can’t Stop the Music (1980), the Village People movie. Her acting career may have been brief, but it was remarkable. 

Without giving anything away, because you know I hate spoilers, Altovise Davis provides us with one of the greatest moments in Kingdom of the Spiders – perhaps one of the greatest moments in all of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, you’ll know it when you see it. Trust me, it will blow you away. 

Tiffany Bolling is a minor #NotQuiteClassicCinema celebrity. Not as well known as many of her contemporaries, she is nonetheless a fan favourite for staring in such movies as Bonnie’s Kids (1972), The Candy Snatchers (1973) and, one of my personal favourites, The Centerfold Girls (1974). She is great in Kingdom of the Spiders, as Diane Ashley, a scientist and expert on spiders from the nearby university in Flagstaff. She is a strong, intelligent woman who is also a perfect foil for the (perhaps somewhat chauvinistic, but charming) town veterinarian, who is trying to deal with the strange deaths of Woody Strode’s animals.

The town veterinarian is, of course, played by larger than life legend William Shatner. What can I say about The Shat that hasn’t already been said in better places, by better people. If you are new to the planet, and do not know who William Shatner is, let me say this: he is a Canadian actor who went to Hollywood and starred is such fine examples of #NotQuiteClassicCinema as Impulse (1974), White Comanche (1968), Roger Corman’s brilliant The Intruder (1962), Big Bad Mama (1974), The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973), Incubus (1966), The Devil’s Rain (1975) and, another one of my personal favourites, Visiting Hours (1982). Some people may remember him for a couple of other things, but these are his really important works…***

*** This is a joke. Please don’t send angry fan club lawyers to beat me up.

I’m sure that Kingdom of the Spiders would be good with or without Shatner, but he definitely brings his magic touch to it, and more than likely elevates it a notch or two. In other words, it would still be GOOD without him, it just wouldn’t be THE SAME without him. I, for one, am grateful for his presence.

And just for the record, I think the entire cast rises to the occasion and helps to make Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) a true masterpiece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that can be enjoyed time and time again on any given #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. I really haven’t talked enough about the director, John “Bud” Cardos (or at all, actually) – but I should have – and I undoubtedly will on another #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Requiem for a Vampire (1971)

I’ve taken to doing crosswords lately. I never had much interest in them when I was younger, but a couple of years ago, during a regular visit with my favourite (now) 98 year old actress, she expressed frustration with a book of New York Times Sunday Crosswords she had been given as a gift. She likes doing crosswords in her regular newspaper, but those New York Times ones were much more difficult. So, my partner and I decided to try doing one with her.

She was right. It was difficult. It took us three visits to complete one crossword. And that was with three brains working on it (one of which was prone to cheating once in awhile, by looking things up with a smartphone).

I supposed I had never really understood the language of crosswords; the different techniques that seemed designed to make things more confusing. For example, some clues have a question mark at the end of them. This, we figured out, meant that the answer was going to be “clever” in some way. So it was impossible to figure it out in a normal, logical way. We had to wait until we had a few clues to point us in the right direction. In other words, we needed to figure out some of the other words that intersected with this “clever” one so that we could see some of the letters that were in it. Worst case scenario, we would have to find ALL of the letters in the “clever” word by solving the intersecting ones, because even with only one blank left, we still couldn’t figure out what they were after.

Thanks to this whole COVID thing, we haven’t been able to visit our friend Doreen (who just turned 98 a few days ago) for a few months. Both she and I have found that we miss working on these frustrating puzzles together. Perhaps because of this, I have started doing the crosswords that I find in the regular newspaper, the TV guide, and even in some flyer packages. Most of them are a lot easier than the New York Times puzzles in Doreen’s book. But there are a couple that seem, to me, to be just as frustrating – if not more so.

Perhaps the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) is a gigantic crossword that takes up an entire newspaper page. The one I am currently working on has 371 ACROSS words, and 357 DOWN words. Most of the others average about 60 words for both ACROSS and DOWN. This is not the only reason that the gigantic crossword is difficult, however. It also makes use of all the most confusing and deliberately tricky clues that make simply knowing an answer a rare occurrence. Often I just don’t know what they are getting at. And sometimes when the answer is finally revealed (by carefully piecing it together), I STILL don’t know what they were getting at. “Why did they phrase the question that way?” I ask the silent newspaper. But it never answers me, and I’ve had to accept the fact that some of these riddles don’t have a logical solution and – if I don’t want to go out of mind – I simply have to enjoy the experience of letting them slowly reveal themselves to me.

In some ways, that’s not unlike watching a Jean Rollin movie. I don’t consider myself an expert, by any means. I’ve barely scratched the surface of his impressive oeuvre. I talked about my first impressions of his work in a previous post highlighting The Living Dead Girl (1982). One of my points was that I knew Rollin was famous for his vampire films, but I had come to know him mainly through his non-vampire films. Clearly, I’ve been long overdue for a exploration of what seems to be his main obsession.

I did some reading, and determined that a good place to start was Requiem for a Vampire (1971) – even though this was not his first vampire film. This worked out very nicely for me, because I happened to have a brand new copy of that film waiting to be watched (and I don’t own the previous ones – yet).

Anyone who knows me understands that I like to go into a movie not knowing anything about it (or at least not much of the plot). I like to experience the story without any preconceived notion of what it might be about. As such, I don’t like to spend a lot of time summarizing the plots of the films that I discuss in this blog. For one thing, there’s probably a million other blogs and sites where a person can read a plot synopsis if they really want to do that. More to the point, I don’t want to spoil anybody’s first experience of a film by telling them exactly what’s going to happen in it. However…

Trying to summarize the plot of Requiem for a Vampire (or most of the Jean Rollin films that I have seen) would be, in my opinion, a rather pointless exercise. It would be akin to trying to summarize the plot of a poem. Requiem for a Vampire is as much about tone and atmosphere and visual images as it is about plot or story. But just for the sake of argument, I’ll try to describe the first part of the film.

The story opens with two young women dressed in clown costumes, for reasons we don’t know, driving at high speed on a country road. They are being pursued by a second vehicle, for reasons we don’t know. One of the women is firing a gun at their pursuers, who are also shooting back at her, for reasons we don’t know. The other woman is desperately trying to steer the car from the passenger seat – for a reason we DO know; the male driver, who is NOT in clown make-up, has been hit by a bullet and is bleeding bad. There is almost no dialogue during this action, or after it’s resolved, or for the next twenty or thirty minutes. Needless to say, we do not hear any explanations for any of what we have witnessed thus far (such as why the two women are in clown make-up, or why they were in a high speed gunfight on a country road). We do eventually hear a brief comment about it, but by that point we are so deep into the movie that it really doesn’t matter. And in fact, I almost would have preferred to have never heard an explanation for any of it, because it’s very inexplicability is a big part of the charm of this movie (at least for me).

And let me be clear about this: I loved this movie! And I loved the first sequence that I have partially described. But like some of the crossword clues that I mentioned earlier, there was no logical way to understand what was going on from moment to moment. There was no way to predict what was going to happen. And a person could ask themselves, “Why did they do that?” or “How did that opening scene lead to this scene?” But I did not find myself asking any of those questions. Instead, I found myself completely mesmerized and happy to simply relax and let the events of the movie unfold before me. I could use words like hypnotic and mind-bending (is that a word?) to try to describe the effect that it had on me. It’s kind of like listening to certain pieces of music. You can’t explain why they’re so darn effective but they are.

And speaking of music, I loved the soundtrack by Pierre Raph. I’m sure it added to the overall experience that I am trying to describe.

Suffice it to say, that my first foray into the vampire side of Jean Roliin’s work has been a rollicking success. Requiem for a Vampire (1971) is a rare form of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that would be equally at home in the finest art-house cinemas, or the sleaziest grindhouse porno palaces of the past. It made for a transcendent #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn and I will gladly revisit it there anytime. I also look forward to exploring more vampire, and non-vampire, works by Jean Rollin in the future!