• Grapes Of Death, The

    Released by: Kino-Lorber/Redemption
    Released on: 4/23/2013
    Director: Jean Rollin
    Cast: Marie-Georges Pascal, Félix Marten, Mirella Rancelot, Brigitte Lahaie
    Year: 1978
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    The Movie:

    Elisabeth and her friend find themselves on a seemingly empty train and on their way to visit Elisabeth’s fiancé who works at a winery in the country. When they are forced to share company with an oozing and bleeding man, so starts Elisabeth’s ride into a night of horror. Oozing Man kills her friend and Elisabeth jumps off the train, wandering into another dangerous situation. A lone farmhouse looks like a good place to get some help, but that help comes in the form of an insane farmer and his captive daughter, and things don’t end well for either of them.

    Fleeing the farmhouse, Elisabeth continues on the road to horror as she meets Lucie, a blind women whose lost her bearings. Elisabeth agrees to help her back to her village in the hopes of getting some help with the train situation, but when they get there the village has been ransacked and people are lying all around, dead and bloody. Lucie must find Lucas, the man who takes care of her, in order to feel safe. They find him, but he’s off his rocker too, and expresses his love for Lucie in a most unconventional way. Fleeing the scene yet again, Elisabeth finds the unsullied (and stunning as always) Brigitte Lahaie in the mayor’s house, holed-up until this whole crazy person thing blows over. Brigitte may look fantastic on the outside, but inside she’s filthy and diseased. She, like everyone else Elisabeth has run into, wants her dead.

    Enter Elisabeth’s male saviors, Paul and Lucien. They happened along just at the right time with a box of dynamite and a rifle in order to take care of the pesky madmen (and women). Falling for Brigitte’s feminine whiles, things nearly go sour for all of them. Pressing forward to get to the winery her boyfriend runs, the truth about what has been transpiring over the last 24 hours is revealed. By this time Elisabeth is fried and defeated, and the result of the film’s grand finale is something not quite expected.

    Far from having the erotic elements found in many of Rollin’s earlier works, The Grapes of Death steers towards the direction of being a straight-up horror movie more than anything else. Even so, it has his style written all over it from the odd set decorations to the long scenes of people wandering around. And don’t forget the amazing locations he always uses filled with old structures and ruins. The atmosphere he was able to create so well is all over this movie, with long periods of natural background noise being the only audio, and with eerie, howling winds to add to the sense of isolation and destitution.

    The story is a bit flat, and some of the characters (actually just one) might get on your nerves a bit with all the screaming and gasping, but for the most part the story is engaging enough to keep your attention. Although it’s not that you really need to have your attention kept when you drink in the visuals. Rollin’s sense of where to put a camera and his lack of camera movement helps keep eyes riveted to the screen, and help make scenes extra creepy in this film. There’s one spot where Lucie, the blind woman, is walking through her village looking for people. She’s the only person in the frame, in her white gown, and as she gets closer to the bottom of the frame, people begin to melt out of the shadows and before you know it they’ve surrounded her. All you can do is sit there and watch the scene unfold in a single static shot, which is really effective.

    The make-up effects are pretty clunky but at times hit their mark. For some reason, puss and goop grosses this viewer out far more than blood does, and those infected have plenty of the yellow stuff to go around. There’re certainly some sections that aim to shock, like a graphic decapitation and later a make-out scene with the disembodied head. And there’s a little full frontal nudity, courtesy of Ms. Lahaie, plus a couple other scenes with some topless shenanigans, so the movie hits many of the needed exploitive elements and makes the grade where that’s concerned. But there’s more to the movie than the hopes to please the drive-in crowd. There’s a real attempt, and a successful one at that, to genuinely disturb and scare the audience.


    Kino-Lorber brings the film to its first high-definition version with a 1080p, AVC encoded transfer, carrying a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Plenty of natural grain is present for those who dig it, as are white flecks that appear throughout the picture. The colors look good even although a little flat. The skin tones look correct, and the black levels seem consistent. Certain scenes look better than others, but a lot of the story takes place at night and there’s nothing to complain about. Lots of detail can be seen here and the overall image is quite satisfying. There doesn’t seem to be any edge enhancement or noise reduction added, and there are no problems to report with aliasing or artifacts. As for the audio, only a mono French language track is available with English subtitles. The balance seems fine between the talking and the limited music, and there don’t appear to be any issues with the sound. It’s nothing special, but totally serviceable.

    For extras, an introduction by the director in English lasts 2:22. He talks about the comparison to Night of the Living Dead that has been made over the years and poo-poos it. A 49-minute interview with the man (in French) is fantastic, and he talks about the various works of literature that inspired his work, which includes comics. He also talks about his own comic from the 60s that’s reportedly very rare. He sounds great and seems to enjoy talking about his work. Its well worth the time spent listening to what he has to say. A trailer for the feature is available as well as trailers for other Rollin movies from the label: Fascination, The Night of the Hunted, Zombie Lake, The Living Dead Girl, and Two Orphan Vampires. And as a final added bonus, Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas continues with his writings on Rollin, with a third essay booklet titled “Anti-Virgins & Anti-Vampires: The Anti-Rollin of Jean Rollin”. As with the previous two essay booklets, it is a great read from cover to cover.

    The Final Word:

    Another great addition to Kino’s “The Cinema of Jean Rollin” series, The Grapes of Death is a healthy helping of good old fashioned schlock, ripe for late night viewing. The picture is pleasing, the interview in the extras is great, and the disc is must have for Rollin fans.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      [QUOTE=Todd Jordan;60353]You can view the page at http://www.rockshockpop.com/forums/c...rapes-of-Death[/QUOT

      No access??!!
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      It's not live yet. Tomorrow I believe.
    1. Clive Smith's Avatar
      Clive Smith -
      Nice review, Todd.

      I watched this twice over the weekend; it's one of my favourite Rollin's. The dilapidated buildings and rustic settings are very atmospheric and beautifully shot.

      Even with some of the hokey effects, I think it builds up quite an effective and nightmarish mood.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Thanks, Clive! Yeah I really liked it and I agree, the effects were bad, but it didnt detract from the mood or the creep factor. I've only seen it once, but it is a flick I will certainly revist. I wish it was dubbed though. I just love dubbed movies.
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      This along with lots of other Rollin films have been airing on Epix Drive IN channel. I notice they usually air late at night.