Salvation Films // 1975 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // August 15th, 2008
Scents are like memories -- the person evaporates, but the memory remains.
Seeing a photo of an old castle evokes a childhood memory for Frederic (Jean-Loup Philippe): he was 12 years old and stumbled upon the castle, where he met a beautiful girl a few years older than he. His mother (Nathalie Perrey) insists that this never happened, that the family never lived anywhere near such a castle.
But now that Frederic has experienced this memory, he is seeing the girl everywhere -- or at least, her apparition. His efforts to find answers are being thwarted, however. Someone is intent that he stop pursuing this -- and is willing to kill to prevent Frederic from going any further.
That someone might have a point. In his travels, Frederic happens upon some ruins and a sealed off crypt with four coffins and a crucifix at the door. His poking around awakens a quartet of sexy, blank-faced, barely clad ladies -- who happen to be vampires! Now, these toothsome lovelies are strutting around Paris, attacking random and unsuspecting strangers.
Will the City of Light be plunged into darkness by the naked and the undead? And what terrible secrets will Frederic unearth as he searches for the girl who is haunting his thoughts?
Director Jean Rollin's Lips of Blood (Lèvres de Sang) is an atmospheric and entertaining bit of French vampire erotica, equal parts creepy, silly, and disturbing.
The script, co-written by Rollin and Philippe, starts out promisingly, with a lot of mystery elements. Although they don't speak to Frederic, the vampires seem intent on helping him. On the other side are those who are trying to stop him. The resolution to all this is interesting, if not entirely satisfying.
But this film is really not about plot so much as it is about atmosphere and visuals, and on those areas, it largely succeeds. Jean-François Robin's cinematography is beautiful, and the images of the "vampire girls" -- each in a different colored shroud -- walking around the ruins are haunting. The ending features a nicely perverse twist on the vampire mythology.
Salvation Films does a decent job with this release. There were two previous DVD releases for Lips of Blood, one in PAL and the other NTSC. This release seems to be based on the PAL release. The aspect ratio is clearly a bit off (1.78:1 as opposed to the OAR, 1.66:1). This means there is a bit of information missing from the top and bottom of the screen, but it doesn't seem to be significant. The picture itself is fairly clear, and the audio track strong.
Among the extras is a 33-minute commentary by director Jean Rollin that runs over selected scenes, which means it's not accessible while watching the main feature. The print that contains the commentary is different from the main print. The viewing print has no titles or credits at the beginning. The print that contains the commentary does have the opening credits and looks to be in the OAR. The commentary print is letterboxed and does not appear to be anamorphically enhanced, and, frustratingly, it does not have subtitles.
As far as commentaries go, it's so-so. Rollin's English is not so hot, so an unnamed interviewer occasionally helps him out by telling him what word he's trying to use. It's reasonably interesting, more so if you're a fan of the director or the film. Stick with it, though: toward the end, he does share a little insight about the ending of the film that you might have missed while viewing it and makes the whole thing that much more twisted.
Other extras include recent interviews with Jean-Loup Philippe and Nathalie Perrey, as well as an introduction by Rollin. All these were on the PAL release (which was a three-disc set).
The folks at Salvation Films might want to consider hiring themselves a copy editor. Poor Jean-Loup Philippe's name gets three different spellings here. On the DVD case, he's "Jean-Lou Philippe." On the extras menu, he's "Jean-Loup Philippe," and he's listed as "Jean-Loup Phillipe" onscreen during his interview.
Sloppy packaging notwithstanding, this is a solid release and worth a look, particularly for fans of vampire erotica.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Salvation Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Introduction by Director Jean Rollin
* Selected Scene Commentary by Jean Rollin
* Interview with Jean-Loup Philippe
* Interview with Nathalie Perrey