• Night Of The Hunted (Blu-ray)



    Released by: Kino/Redemption
    Released on: April 23, 2013
    Director: Jean Rollin
    Cast: Brigitte Lahaie, Alain Duclos, Alain Plumey, Dominique Journet, Bernard Papineau, Rachel Mhas, Vincent Gardere
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    It’s saying something when, in a filmography full of odd pictures, Night Of The Hunted stands out as one of the more unusual films that Jean Rollin has made. It’s not quite horror, not quite eroticism and not quite science fiction but it definitely manages to incorporate bits and pieces of those genres, spinning them with a ‘uniquely Rollin’ surrealist angle.

    When the movie beings, a man named Richard (Vincent Gardere) is driving down a remote and dimly lit road one night when he comes across a beautiful young woman (Brigette Lahaie of numerous XXX movies as well as Rollin classics like Fascination and The Grapes Of Death) dressed in white standing beside a large tree. He stops and once she falls down by the car he picks her up and takes her home so that he can help her. What he doesn’t realize is that there’s another woman nearby, Veronique (Dominique Journet of Zeffirelli’s La Traviata), and that she is obviously traumatized and left standing in the woods alone and naked.

    Once he has the woman back at his place, they talk and he finds out that she’s got some serious short term and long term memory issues. She knows that her name is Elysabeth but she can’t remember what happened even minutes ago. Regardless, they are obviously into one another and it doesn’t take long for the two of them to lose their clothes and engage in a very prolonged lovemaking session. Things are looking up for both of them until Richard leaves for work the next morning and, pretty much out of nowhere, Elysabeth is quite literally forced by a doctor (Bernard Papineau of Claude Chabrol’s This Man Must Die) and his assistant to go back to a strange mental hospital (presumably the one from which she escaped in the first place).

    Richard, having fallen for Elysabeth, decides to follow her in hopes that he can save her. Once he arrives there he finds that both Elysabeth and Veronique have been brought back because they’re suffering from a sort of degenerative memory loss. Neither Veronique or Elysabeth remember their time in the woods but soon enough they once again team up to try and escape from the hospital. The two are afraid that the doctor in charge will murder them if they stay. If things weren’t complicated enough, there’s a deranged man roaming the hospital killing people (seemingly at random) and various employees and patients are getting it on.

    Slow and dreamlike almost (though not quite) to a fault, Night Of The Hunted is a strange film. Characters don’t always act logically and at times the plot seems to be disregarded in favor of atmosphere and the chance for the camera to simply soak up the locations. That being said, if you don’t mind the surrealist aspects of the storyline or the fact that this time the story comes second, it is rather well done. Lahaie is not only completely gorgeous to look at (and frequently in her birthday suit) but she’s also a solid actress in the traditional sense as well. She does do a very good job of portraying that confusion and fear that her character would likely feel while dealing with what transpires in the picture. She brings a doe-eyed sense of childlike naivety to the role that you probably wouldn’t expect from an adult film actress. Gardere and Journet are also quite decent in their parts; with Journet rivaling Lahaie in terms of just how flat out spacey she looks and acts at times.

    With much of the movie taking place in the ‘hospital’ it is interesting that Rollin chose an old office building to stand in. There’s a very impressive sense of gloom hanging over the locale and it works in the movie’s favor, giving the movie a similar tone to the one that Cronenberg managed to elicit from the apartment building where he shot Shivers. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to understand exactly why Elysabeth and Veronique want out of this place, for if it isn’t overtly sinister right off the bat there is a very definite darkness to the building.

    While the lack of vampires and the decidedly non-gothic location shooting might make this one less a typical Rollin film than other, better known works like Les Frisson Des Vampires or La Morte Vivante, it is certainly ripe with many of the quirks that make his movies so interesting. The dream like atmosphere, the surrealism, the color schemes and the pacing all conjure up moments from some of his better-known works. We also get a finale that takes place around some trains, reminding us of the earlier Rollin film, The Iron Rose. The combination of the bits and pieces used to put this movie together might put some people off, for those familiar with the way Rollin makes his movies it’s certainly worth checking out and remains an interesting and experimental entry in his filmography.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Night Of The Hunted looks good on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and mastered from the original 35mm negative. As it has been with most of the Kino pickups from Redemption, it doesn't appear that the movie has undergone any seriously intensive restoration but the elements used here were obviously in pretty nice shape to begin with, though there are some minor to moderate specks present throughout as well as some scratches and other bits and pieces of print damage to note. Detail is solid as is texture and color reproduction looks much, much better than it ever did on the various DVD releases that have been offered over the years. As this is an intentionally cool and cold looking film you don’t always get the most bombastic looking picture in terms of ‘pop’ but the image quality here definitely help with the intended atmosphere that Rollin was obviously working towards building. Shadow detail is also quite improved, making the darker indoor scenes and outdoor nighttime scenes quite a bit better looking overall. There are no issues with compression artifacts evident nor are there any obvious examples of either edge enhancement or noise reduction. All in all, this is a nice film-like transfer that should make the film's fan base pretty happy. A bit more cleanup work would have been nice but at this point in the line’s history, we know we’re not getting that and this is quite a nice upgrade overall.

    The only audio option on the disc is an LPCM Mono track in the film's original French language, no alternate language are supplied though optional English subtitles are provided. This isn't a particularly exciting track but for an older Mono mix, it leaves little room for complaint. The levels are nicely balanced, the dialogue is easy enough to understand and there are no problems with any distortion or hiss does in the mix. The score sounds good as well, heavy on synth it's got some nice punch behind it when the movie asks for it and it does a nice job of enhancing the film’s strange atmosphere.

    A two minute interview with Rollin conducted by Joshua T. Gravel at a Fantasia appearance starts the extras off. Here Rollin discusses making the film, his cast and crew, writing the film and the locations used. It should also be noted that Rollin also shot some harder material here in case he needed to re-edit the movie as a softcore sex film. Kino have included two extended sex scenes which were shot for that reason here – both take place in the building and take place between some of the supporting characters. These are much longer and more explicit than the versions that show up in the feature but stop short of becoming hardcore.

    Aside from that we get a quick two minute optional introduction to the film from Rollin, a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Rollin titles available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino/Redemption, static menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase is a full color booklet of liner notes from Tim Lucas that discuss Grapes Of Death and Night Of The Hunted in quite a bit of detail, putting them in a welcome historical and cultural context and offering up some interesting stories about their origins and influence.

    The Final Word:

    Night Of The Hunted is a strange film, but also a very well made one. Lahaie proves here that she’s more than just a pretty face and delivers an impressive and convincing performance while Rollin loads this cold, eerie picture with plenty of those strange little touches that make his films as interesting as they are. The Blu-ray release offers a welcome upgrade over previous DVD releases and it includes some interesting extras as well.


    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Toyboy's Avatar
      Toyboy -
      Good call on the SHIVERS connection. That's what I recall feeling when I first watched NIGHT OF THE HUNTED.
    1. Richard--W's Avatar
      Richard--W -
      This is my favorite of Rollin's films. It offers a genuine character-driven story that holds my interest. I'll begin my Rollin blu-ray collection with this purchase. I didn't realize Veronique was played by Dominique Journet of Zeffirelli’s La Traviata, a film I know well. I guess I didn't recognize her with clothes off.