Little Orphan VampiresBy Jean Rollin (Redemption Books, 1993/95)

You probably won’t know this if you live in the U.S., but France’s late Jean Rollin was a prolific novelist in addition to a filmmaker. 1993’s LITTLE ORPHAN VAMPIRES was the first, and thus far only, Rollin novel to appear in English. It was also the basis of the Rollin directed 1995 film TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES, which makes sense, as the novel strikes many of the same thematic chords as Rollin’s films.

What this perilously slim 82-page trifle lacks is the poetic charge and dark eroticism of Rollin’s best films. The fault may be with the translation by Peter Tombs, but the book feels rushed and perfunctory, more like an extended screen treatment than a proper novel. In an introduction Tombs claims the book was written for the romans de gare (French pulp fiction) market, which explains its hasty nature. It’s a shame, though, that Rollin didn’t devote more time to the book, because it does contain some promising elements.

The quintessentially Rollin-esque plot is simple enough: it involves two vampire girls on a sex and mutilation spree in Paris, which naturally entails a lot of lovingly detailed nastiness. During the daytime the girls are rendered blind, meaning we get numerous descriptions of the “clack, clack, clack, clack” sounds made by their canes as they wander through the city. Other noteworthy elements include a powerfully eerie description of one of the girls seen dancing in darkness–“A strange apparition was visible…A sort of child woman, so far as he could see…standing in one place, feet together, bending her body back and forth, her long curly hair swaying across her shoulders”–and a flashback of the girls’ early existence amid an orgiastic Aztec sacrifice, which is easily the most inspired passage of the entire book.

The obnoxiously inconclusive ending is explained (though not excused) by the fact that LITTLE ORPHAN VAMPIRES was the first of a quartet of Rollin penned novels that are, according to Mr. Tombs, “increasingly bizarre.” It’s a pity none of those subsequent books have been translated into English, as they sound far more interesting than this one.