Kino Lorber // 1973 // 79 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // March 19th, 2013
Sex kittens who stop at nothing!
I love the work of Jean Rollin (The Grapes of Death) and jump at the chance to watch anything of his that I haven't seen. Unfortunately, I sometimes get bitten for my enthusiasm, because not all Rollin projects are created equal. This is especially true when he would exit horror for other realms, especially action and erotic films, of which he made plenty. Even though I fully know this to be true, I can't help myself when I see his name and, once again, I jumped at the chance to watch Schoolgirl Hitchhikers. It's not the worst of the director's long career, but it's still pretty hard to watch.
A lovely pair of hitchhikers (Joëlle Coeur, The Demoniacs, and Gilda Arancio, Zombie Lake) wander into what they think is an abandoned house. After a bit of frolicking, the owner comes home and, after a bit more frolicking, the girls learn the truth. The guy has stashed some jewels in the home and his criminal buddies want their cut. When he won't give it up, they kidnap one of the girls and, after escaping, the other one seeks out a private detective to help free her friend.
In his good work and bad, no matter what genre he decided to tackle, Jean Rollin always made essentially the same movie. I'm sure that limits his appeal to many viewers, even cult film fans, but I can't help but appreciate his lovely, dreamy vision. He's at his best when he's playing in fantastical realms, but all the elements are still there even in more realistic worlds. Beautiful young women in various stages of undress find an abandoned structure where they settle down for a while, only to discover it was never abandoned and, instead, houses nefarious beings, whether those are gangsters or vampires or Nazi zombies. Maybe I'm just easy to please, but it's a formula that works for me, most of the time at least.
Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is not one of those times, and not just because nubile bloodsuckers aren't emerging from grandfather clocks (though that might have helped). No, this entry in Rollin's catalog just feels lazy. Directed under the name Michel Gentil, which he frequently used for his purely erotic work, Rollin seems interested solely in getting his actresses undressed for an extremely softcore rumble. Now, that's more or less his motivation in general, but it's just dull this time around. He trades in the weird incoherence that makes me love his movies so much for more standard crime story and it only serves to highlight how deficient his writing could be at times.
It's not the worst piece of Jean Rollin's work that I've seen, but there
isn't much reason to watch Schoolgirl Hitchhikers. The actresses are
attractive and there are a few moments of Rollin's trademark nuttiness, but not
enough to make it enjoyable. It's slow, even at under 80 minutes, and not nearly
sexy enough for it to work on that level. Really, there's nothing here to
recommend, sadly, but that won't stop me
from watching more Rollin films when one I haven't yet seen comes my way.
Schoolgirl Hitchhikers come out on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber under their Jezebel label. It's not a great disc, but it's as good as the film is ever going to look. The 1.66:1/1080p image is somewhat soft and lacking in fine detail, but the colors are nice. Aside from a few instances of print damage, the transfer is clean with no compression issues. The PCM mono audio track comes in both the original French and English dub versions. Both are free from noise, but almost completely lacking in dynamics. The dialog and music are generally clear, but the dubbing is awful on the English version, so I would definitely recommend the French. The only extra is a bank of trailers for other Rollin films, so not much to speak of.
Sometimes, no matter how much I like a director, I have to admit when a particular project just isn't very good. With Jean Rollin, there are a plenty of those, but his best work is so unique and strange that I can't really complain too much about the weaker films. Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is pretty weak, though, so do yourself a favor and watch one of his vampire movies instead.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 1.0 Mono (English)
* PCM 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated