Monday, March 23, 2009

Lips of Blood

Lips of Blood
Original Title: Lèvres de sang
Directed by: Jean Rollin, France, 1975
Horror / EuroGoth / Eroticism, 71min.
Distributed by: NjutaFilms
[Redemption / Another World Entertainment]

Suave upper-class mover Frédéric [Jean-Loup Phillipe] sees a poster on the wall at a party and finds himself remembering one special night from his childhood when he spent a night in the ruins of an abandoned castle with a strange girl [Annie Briand]. Suddenly he realizes that she’s the only women he has ever loved and sets about tracking down the castle ruins so that he might be reunited with this long lost love…

What first promises to be just another movie in the vain that I remember Rollin’s movies to be; slow-paced crap acting with a few French chicks running around wearing nothing but see through curtains (cause that’s what their ever so see-through dresses look like, the curtains at my summer house) strange weird imagery and a equally surreal soundtrack to accompany the far fetched plot actually gets under my skin and proves to be something of a quite tender love story… …if you want to twist it that far. And I do, I do want to enjoy this movie and I do want to go away from it saying that there’s more to it than meets the eye. The love story is the one that I chose to take with me after the end credits finish rolling. Because it's that love story that pushes Frédéric on, his modus operandi, to find that girl he fell in love with all those years ago. And it's also within that theme that some of the most beautiful imagery of the film is found. So setting the movie up with all the trademarks, a quick vampire burial, or more hiding the coffins away and strategically placing crucifixes to keep them there than a burial, the camera focuses on Frédéric who obviously is still pampered by his mom [Nathalie Perrey] because he still lives as home we will eventually learn and he acts as her little errand boy during the party. That’s the same party where he starts his investigation into that strange castle ruin that haunts his childhood memories.

He tracks down the photographer who shot the photo, but she wont’ tell him anything about it as “someone” has paid her good money to keep it a secret. Anyhow she falls for his boyish charm and promises to let him know if he meets her at the aquarium at midnight. On his way to the rendezvous, he goes to see a movie, Rollin's 1970 La Vampire Nue, only to be distracted by the spirit of the girl he longs for. He sets after her and soon finds himself in a strange cemetery where he inside a tomb finds a secret passage leading down to the crypt we saw at the beginning of the movie. Due to his innocent curiosity he obviously opens one of the caskets releasing the vampires upon the world. (Again Rollin uses his stock actors, Phillipe, Perrey, the two twins Catherine and Marie-Pierre Castel among others). In a panic he flees only to bump into a woman on a bridge who claims to be the girl he's looking for... and even though he doesn't believe her, he follows her back to her flat. After confronting her with the fact that he understands that she's not the girl he's looking for and that someone obviously has paid her to claim she is, the woman runs out into the dark night... Only to be cornered by the vampires.

Frédéric continues his search and heads off to the aquarium, but as he enters, a strange dude leaves… at midnight… so it comes as no shock when Frederic finds the photographer killed does it? He races after the bloke and there's a wonderful chase in the Parisian Metro before he starts seeing visions of the girl again, who mouths the words Je’ taime, which only furthers his drive. It’s at this point that he figures out that his mother isn’t telling him everything because he doesn’t recall the great childhood memories she always told him about. Neither does he believe her when she claims that he never went missing. Enraged with his mother he storms out of their house only to be restrained by guards outside who take him to the Parisian looney bin. But fret not, because pretty soon the twin vampires are there and disguised as nurses they free him and chomp down on the psychiatric wanting to “cure” Frédéric. He continues his quest while at the same time the female vampires bite their way through his antagonists, and every now and then he sees the girl of his dreams lead him on. Eventually he finds the location of the castle and returns there, only to learn that the girl in fact was/is Jennifer, a vampire that stalked the area setting forth an army of terrifying she-bats that terrorized the small rural town. His mother was part of the posse that finally put an end to the rein of terror and now demands that Frédéric does what is right and end the vampire once again while the villagers, or at least that’s how I interpreted the three blokes driving stakes though the bare chests of the other four fanged chicks in curtains, killed off the others. Obviously he doesn’t and fools them all by tossing the decapitated head of a religious statue that watches over Jennifer’s coffin into the big fiery bonfire in the castle courtyard. Satisfied with the results the vampire killers and Frédéric’s mom all leave, as Frédéric takes one last walk around the ruins… …only to meet up with the still very alive Jennifer. They spend a few days together while they celebrate their love and finally he gives her the greatest gift of all as he lets her set her fangs in his neck. Together they step into her casket and sail away from the beach to start a new life of their own together for all eternity. Great climax indeed, and at times the movie almost plays like a Giallo with sexy vampires thrown in for good measure.

Jean-Loup Phillipe who holds the lead in the film also wrote the screenplay together with Rollin, and that’s possibly why his character is so likable. If you’re going to play him you might as well make him likable. And he is likable, probably because the quest for love is one of the noblest quests you can set out on, and everybody wants our heroic underdog to find his love or at least set the record right while trying.

It’s been years since I actually sat through a Rollin movie, not to many of them have made an eternal impression apart from a few, so finally picking up some of his films on DVD and revisiting them is possibly going to turn out to be a pleasant re-acquaintance with the good old Jean Rollin, because Lips of Blood impressed me in many more ways than it might have all those years ago when I started exploring the exploitation genres. Great stuff from a great golden age of European genre cinema.

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

French Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0, Optional Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Norwegian Subtitles

Trailers for Requiem for a Vampire, Shiver of the Vampires, The Living Dead Girl, Night of the Hunted, Demoniacs and a decent three minute slide show of images from the film.

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