Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Hidden Cinema of Jean Rollin: Suce Moi Vampire (1975)

Among the most mysterious titles in all of Jean Rollin's filmography, Suce Moi Vampire (1975) is a film that Rollin had long denied making before finally admitting it about thirty-years after its release. The rather infamous Suce Moi Vampire (Suck Me Vampire) is indeed a hard alternate adult-cut to one of Rollin's most moving and powerful works (Levres de Sang) and the fact that it turned out to be the higher-grossing of the two films upon release is sad, so it's not surprising that Rollin attempted to separate himself from it.

The failure of Lips of Blood in French Theaters was a turning point for Rollin as it truly signalled that his more personal visions were simply not connecting with audiences at the time. Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs would write in Immoral Tales that, "horror fans shunned" Lips of Blood "along with everybody else" due to the fact that it, "was released" during the height of the adult "invasion of French Cinemas."

Rollin took the failure of Lips of Blood personally and found himself in debt (financially and spiritually) to the producers of so he, "allowed the outtakes and alternative takes to be used" for Suce Moi Vampire according to Tohill and Tombs, who would go onto point out that Rollin was, "adamant he didn't make" the film.

Rollin denied making Suce Moi Vampire to Tohill and Tombs in 1993 as they were preparing their monumental volume on Euro-Cult Cinema. Several years later Rollin was still stating that he didn't have anything to do with the production in 1997's Virgins and Vampires when he wrote in the book's filmography that the work had been, "directed by an unknown French director" using numerous scenes, cast and crew members" from Lips of Blood. The filmography also mentioned that producer Lionel Wallmann and Rollin himself were used as actors in Suce Moi Vampire by this mysterious 'unknown French Filmmaker."

Rollin was never one to shy away from his adult ventures so his refusal to acknowledge his involvement on Suce Moi Vampire might seem a little odd but when one considers just how personal a project Lips of Blood was (and how fresh it still would have been to Rollin in the mid-nineties) perhaps the mention of Suce Moi Vampire was like pouring salt on a particularly nasty wound.

Suce Moi Vampire is indeed the work of Jean Rollin and he finally stated such in the excellent liner notes of Encore's Lips of Blood collection. Written around Halloween in 2005 Rollin would write that he, "took some copies of certain scenes, added two long X-scenes and knocked up" Suce Moi Vampire. Rollin admitted it was for his financier Jean-Marc, who he recalled was, "nearly down and out" after Lips of Blood's financial failure and that the successful release of the completely inferior Suce Moi Vampire marked, "the end of Rollinian vampires".

Encore's booklet would offer up some photos from the scenes Rollin shot specifically for Suce Moi Vampire but sadly the footage wasn't included as an extra on the set. As you can see from my stills the only currently available copy of the extremely elusive Suce Moi Vampire is a rather terrible looking grey market print that is as battered, beaten and faded as one can imagine.

Suce Moi Vampire is a confused and sloppy work made up partially of footage from Lips of Blood and the new sex scenes Rollin shot with some of the cast of Lips including Claudine Beccaire, Anita Berglund, Béatrice Harnois, Martine Grimaud, Sylvia Bourdon and Jean-Loup Philippe. While the film itself is really just a curiosity for Rollin devotees it does prove a rather fascinating experience if you love (or are just familiar with) Lips of Blood. It's jarring to see the haunting footage from Lips of Blood paired up with lazily shot sex-footage but intriguing none the less. While Suce Moi Vampire is an undeniably inferior work in every-way compared to Lips of Blood it does contain a rather unforgettable closing shot involving adult-actress Eva Quang (and possibly Rollin himself) that stands as one of the most perverse in all of Rollin's filmography.

While it is doubtful that Suce Moi Vampire will ever get a proper re-release of its own it would serve as a welcome extra on a future re-release of Lips of Blood, if the proper film elements were available. Hardly an indispensable film to view, Suce Moi Vampire is undeniably important in Jean Rollin's filmography as it stands as his first hesitant step into the adult-film world.


Soukesian said...

Many thanks for this article - great research, and another piece of the great jigsaw puzzle that is Rollin's filmography!

Valor said...

Great post, Jeremy, thank you!

"Suce-moi vampire" had a VHS release on Alpha France label... but it's almost impossible to find it!

Unknown said...

Fascinating piece. While I wouldn't mind seeing "Suce-Moi," it breaks my heart to think about an artist like Rolling being put through that. "Levres de Sang" is one of the best film, not just horror but overall cinema, that came out of the 70's. Justice can be such a fleeting thing in the arts.

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Thanks so much to you all for these comments. I really appreciate them.

Heather, I know exactly what you mean and the film is a rough watch if you know, and love, LIPS OF BLOOD like I know we both do.