• Escapees, The



    Released by: Redemption Films
    Released on: May 26th, 2015.
    Director: Jean Rollin
    Cast: Laurence Dubas, Christiane Coppé, Marianne Valiot, Brigitte Lahaie, Louise Dhour
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Any film by Jean Rollin is a strange beast. The man has many followers and ardent fans however that’s most likely due to the cult status of his more traditional genre films like Living Dead Girl and Requiem For A Vampire. Newcomers to Rollin's style of cinema could certainly pick a better starting point than The Escapees (titled Les Paumees Du Petit Matin in its original country of release), as it’s a fair bit different than some of his better known pictures, but stick with it. You just might wind up pleasantly surprised by the style and substance that plays out over the running time. But again, this is not a typical Rollin film; it strays from the more severe onscreen violence that some of his films are noted for and relies more heavily on his surrealist flair.

    The film opens in an insane asylum located in France, wasting no time in introducing its main characters in a strange juxtaposition of images. Solemn and mysterious Marie (Christiane Coppé) rocks gracefully on a chair in the middle of an open field, while feisty Michelle (Laurence Dubas) is forcibly thrown clothed into a shower stall and hosed down. She’s then buckled into a straightjacket and confined in a padded room, left there alone screeching at the top of her lungs. After shouting from her window, Marie comes to her rescue and the two girls decide to escape.

    The use of parallel shots is an interesting method in outlining the differing personalities in the two companions. Marie is diagnosed as being chronically non-communicational, while Michelle is anything but. Michelle longs to be free of the asylum, but is constantly locked down. Marie is able to move freely, but spends the majority of her time in one spot. Her need to overcome her anti-social behavior and fear of people can only be aided by Michelle, who she clings to desperately.

    Fortunately for Rollin fans, this is about the point at which the movie begins to traverse into Rollin's more surrealist style. Upon encountering a lone drummer in the woods, the two girls find their means of escape with a traveling group of burlesque dancers. Just as the odd sensation conjured up by the drummer passes, the viewer is thrown head-first into a journey of very odd experiences, playing out one after another until the film reaches its conclusion.

    To describe the movie much further would do it injustice, and risk spoiling the majority of the artistically structured scenes. Suffice to say, you will probably not encounter a burlesque show staged in the middle of a junkyard, or tragic death in such a beautiful environment elsewhere. Rollin weaves the story of the escapees through these bizarre settings, and through the lives of the other strange characters that the girls meet. Ultimately, they are on some kind of a quest that may never be completed, and half of the enjoyment of the film is encountering each stop on the way... and waiting for the lesbians. It's a Jean Rollin film, and you KNOW that there are lesbians (one of whom is, of course, played by the eternally beautiful Brigitte Lahiae).

    Fortunately for the viewer, this is a film where the setting, shot composition, and musical score all complement each other perfectly. Philippe D'Aram's simple yet haunting piano adds a sense of foreboding that runs through the movie, and the viewer is left unsure sure if they're witnessing a scene of optimism or foreshadowing of tragedy to come. The acting, particularly by the two leads, is somewhat naïve and at times can shift between overdone and understated, but that also adds to the dreamlike atmosphere of the film. Unfortunately, some aspects of the movie do seem convoluted and contradictory, due largely to the producer's insistence that a second screenwriter be added to the picture. Rollin borrows what he believes are the superior segments of both scripts and attempts to merge them together, with mixed results. As such, The Escapees will probably never stand out as the man’s best work, it never feels quite as personal as some of his more revered films, but it’s definitely got more than enough to offer. As such, fans of Rollin’s output should absolutely consider it worth seeing.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Escapees debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer taken from the original 35mm negative which appears to have been in excellent shape. There are a few minor specks here and there but no serious print damage to note and the increase in detail over the previous DVD versions is both obvious and substantial. Colors look excellent, the reds really popping (check out that red dress) without ever bleeding into the other colors and the black levels staying strong and deep while still maintaining pretty solid shadow detail. Texture is good, skin tones are nice and natural, and you won’t notice any issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. The increase in clarity and detail really lets you appreciate the sets and locations used for the film whether it be the interiors of an underground nightclub or the outdoor scene where the ending takes place.

    The only audio option for the disc is a French language track with optional subtitles in English only. The audio isn’t going to floor you but it sounds clean and clear and comes through without any hiss or distortion to complain about. The dialogue is properly balanced against the score and the effects work and the subtitles are easy to read and free of any typographical errors.

    Carried over from the last DVD release is an interview with Jean Rollin that runs almost 30 minutes with the man himself. He covers a fair amount of detail in this supplement, which is subtitled to better explain the director's broken English, and then certainly when he lapses into French. Starting with the explanation of the original title, Rollin discusses how difficult it was to film with two scriptwriters, and how this difficulty led to the film being turned down by distributors. Other interesting points related to the film crop up during the conversation, and it's a pretty revealing piece.

    The Final Word:

    As Rollin himself has said, some people think this film is bad, others think that it is not so bad. The only way to find out which camp you fall into is to check it out for yourself. While this Blu-ray doesn’t add anything new to the extra features (simply carrying over the DVD’s lone featurette), it definitely offers a very nice upgrade in both the sound and the video department.

    Note: The images below are from the old DVD and do not represent the quality of the Blu-ray (which looks MUCH better). We ran into technical difficulties trying to get good caps off of the Blu-ray (which was slightly scuffed) so we used DVD caps because they're better than nothing.