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LIPS OF BLOOD
Blu-ray. Redemption.

Lips of BloodThe fourth release in Redemption’s Jean Rollin Blu-ray editions is a return to the world of the vampiric in this 1974 film that perhaps feels like a step backwards after the masterful Iron Rose, but is nonetheless a fascinating, lyrical and unique blend of weirdness, eroticism and horror.

One of the few Rollin films centred around a male character, the story follows Frederic (Jean-Loup Philippe), who sees a photograph of an old castle while attending a cocktail party and immediately has flashback to a childhood meeting with a beautiful and mysterious young girl (Annie Belle). However, his mother claims to have no memory of the place and attempts to find it are hampered by secrecy and threats from sinister, gun-toting characters. But eventually, he uncovers the truth and returns to the castle, where scantily clad female vampires lurk.

While seemingly one of Rollin’s more personal films, this is less effective than much of his work – Philippe isn’t a particularly engaging lead (it always feels as though Rollin is never as interested in male characters as his female ones), and while the visuals are as astonishing as ever, the film has a pretty weak plot and is rather too slow.While this film, like so many of Rollin's films, isn’t really about the story – it’s more to do with the sense of discovery and the romanticism of the undead, and you suspect that there is more of Rollin’s own childhood memories and fantasies here than in most of his work - it is rather more conventionally plotted and structured than his other films of the time, but unfortunately struggles to hold the tale together and rather plods in the middle, as the uncharismatic hero stumbles around looking confused. No amount of impressive locations (with many a familiar sight from other Rollin films) or vampires in transparent gowns flitting about can liven up scene after scene of the wooden, bored looking heroaimlessly wandering about - of which there are a few too many.

Lips of BloodThat said, this is still a remarkable work – it’s utterly gorgeous (as, indeed, is Belle), and its world of hyper-unreality is as pronounced as in any of Rollin’s other works. As an existential search for the forgotten, and an other-worldly love story to boot, it remains as far from traditional horror as you can get, which makes the occasional exploitation scene (a surprisingly strong female masturbation scene; a few splashily bloody killings) seem almost jarring in their incongruity. These moments aside, this is more arthouse than grindhouse, and all the better for it.

Lips of Blood might not be the film to show the Rollin virgin, but for fans of the director, it remains an essential artefact, and this new edition is lovely to look at.

The usual extras - Rollin and cast interviews, trailers, the booklet - round out this package.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

 

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