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Blu-ray Review: Jean Rollin’s ‘The Grapes of Death’ and ‘Night of the Hunted’

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A weird thought came over me while watching director Jean Rollin’s The Grapes of Death and Night of the Hunted back to back: whoever this Brigitte Lahaie is, she sure does like to get naked. So it was no surprise when I searched her name on Wikipedia and found that she was in fact, a porn star. Lahaie was 25 years old when she starred in Night of the Hunted and only 23 in Grapes, making it no coincidence that the nubile porn star was ripe for the picking to appear in these two Rollin’s films. Even though, coincidentally, she only has one sex scene between the two. Maybe she was trying to go the Sasha Grey route and expand her area of “acting?” Either way, The Grapes of Death and Night of the Hunted do manage to make the most of Lahaie, and not just by Rollins coming up with ways to get her clothes off.

GrapesOfDeathThe Grapes of Death brings us the quasi-Night of the Living Dead scenario as Elisabeth (Marie George Pascal) is headed by train to the small community of Roubles to meet her fiancé. After her new-found friend is murdered and the seemingly-dissolving attacker follows her off the train, Elisabeth must find out why the wine-producing area seems to be turning into zombies, leading her straight to the mysterious night gowned blonde (Lahaie).

As for Night of the Hunted, Elysabeth (Lahaie) runs into the street in an awfully familiar get up. Robert (Alain Duclos) picks her up and takes her to his apartment. Elysabeth explains to him that she has no short-term memory and can’t remember anything new, including being picked up by him on the side of the road. After Elysabeth and Robert decide to make with the whoopee, Robert leaves, when immediately Le docteur Francis (Bernard Papineu) and his assistant Solange (Rachel Mhas) show up and take her back to the facility she escaped from. Now Elysabeth must find out the evil doings happening inside this asylum and rescue herself and her friend Veronique (Dominique Journet) from certain doom.

Night of the Hunted and The Grapes of Death are brought to us by Kino Lorber’s Redemption division in their typical “as is” fashion. However, these both look pretty good considering the shape of the original 35mm negatives. Night is presented in a 1.67:1 aspect ratio, while Grapes is in 1.62:1. Of the two Rollin’s films, Grapes looks the better of the two as a whole, with some exceptional detail on display. That is, so long as we aren’t forced to look at random soft or out of focus shots. The usual Redemption quality stands bringing us plenty of scratches, white specks, slight noise, vertical lines, and telecine wobble; the only real negative is some crush and banding in the opening scene of Hunted. This is probably the best these two films will ever look outside of a first-rate restoration, something I’m sure no studio will ever bother with.

NightOfTheHuntedBoth films come featuring LPCM 2.0 tracks that do the low-budget films justice; aside from some faint hiss behind Hunted. The special features are hit and miss with a bunch of trailers for Redemption’s other Rollin Blu-rays and introductions by Rollin on both. Grapes also features a 49 minute interview with Rollin, conducted by Patrick Lambert and Frederick Durand. Hunted includes a short 2 minute interview excerpt conducted by Joshua T. Gravel about how short the shoot was and there’s also two deleted sex scenes that Rollin shot in case he needed to rebrand the film for soft core porn distribution.

Both films are pretty decent time wasters for horror aficionados  still unable to believe these films are even being released on Blu-ray to begin with. The only major issue is that both films feel stretched to their breaking points, but compared to Zombie Lake (the film I’ll forever refer to as “Zombie Knife Fight”), both Night of the Hunted and The Grapes of Death seem like high art and are worth a look.

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.