Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Look at the Newest Titles in The Cinema of Jean Rollin Collection

Late last month Kino Lorber (along with Redemption) released two more titles on DVD and Blu-ray in their exciting Jean Rollin Collection.  Featuring a real fan favorite and one of Rollin's most underrated films, these recent additions are both essential releases and serve as a reminder that our man's catalogue is in the absolute best hands.

  First up is Jean Rollin's 1982 film The Living Dead Girl (La Morte Vivante), a work that stands as one of the late filmmakers most treasured and adored films. The Kino-Redemption Blu-ray is a lovely thing to behold and it offers up a spectacular transfer for one of Rollin's most disturbing features. While The Living Dead Girl looked quite splendid on the great import Encore Box-Set from several years back this new transfer, mastered in HD from the 35mm negative, stands as the definitive presentation of the film and it is hard to imagine it looking much better, considering its budget and age. The color photography by Max Monteillet looks incredibly vibrant (the bloody finale now seems even more devastating than ever before) and the unforgettable score by Philippe D'Aram has never sounded quite as creepy and haunting. Kino, Redemption and Producer Bret Wood have done an absolutely extraordinary job with The Living Dead Girl and those that consider it one of Jean Rollin's great masterpieces will be thrilled with the disc.
-Image courtesy of Collections La Cinémathèque de Toulouse-

While it doesn't carry over the wonderful extras that the Encore Box offered, the new disc of The Living Dead Girl has some wonderful supplemental material that should entice any fans on the fence about upgrading again. These extras include another set of excellent liner notes from Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, trailers for a number of Rollin films, an older video interview with Rollin by Joshua T. Gravel, a terrific near forty minute video documenting Rollin's time at the Fantasia Fest in 2007, a short introduction by Rollin and, best of all, four amazing featurettes by filmmaker and former Rollin Assistant Daniel Gouyette (made up of chats with Jean-Pierre Bouyxou and D'Aram, a look at the alternate 'American' version and a moving tribute to the late uber-talented special effects artist Benoit Lestang). Gouyette's great documentary work puts Rollin's film in perspective and offers up a number of tantalizing bits of information that haven't widely been heard before.
Longtime readers here might recall in my original review of The Living Dead Girl that I don't rank it as high as many fellow fans do. While I find the majority of the film absolutely mesmerizing (and the performances by Francoise Blanchard and Marina Pierro to be among the finest in Rollin's canon) I still feel like the film is truly damaged by the, forced on Rollin, scenes of the two American tourists. That said, this new Blu-ray of The Living Dead Girl had me admiring the film's great moments more than ever and I don't think I have ever been as shook up by the pulverising ending as I was on this viewing.

  While I am sure that most fellow Jean Rollin fans will name The Living Dead Girl as the most essential recent release in their collection to my eyes it is the undervalued Two Orphan Vampires that is the real triumph here. Previously only available on two dreadfully blurry, dark and murky discs, Kino's new Blu-ray of Two Orphan Vampires finally grants Rollin's 'comeback' film a worthwhile presentation. While some print damage is apparent throughout, Two Orphan Vampires finally looks the way we always knew it should and, to use a cliche, I really did feel like I was experiencing the film for the very first time on this splendid new release, which was mastered in HD from the original 16mm negative.
As if finally having a great looking version of Two Orphan Vampires wasn't enough, Kino went far and beyond what was expected in the extras department as well. In fact, I would say that the supplemental material gathered here is among the best for this new Jean Rollin Collection so far and, again, Bret Wood and Daniel Gouyette deserve a real sign of gratification for all their amazing work. Along with Lucas' notes, the trailers and a 2008 interview with Rollin by Rebecca Johnson (previously seen on an older Redemption release) we are treated with an amazing 40 minute documentary from Gouyette entitled Memories of a Blue World, the Making of Les Deux Orphelines Vampires. Featuring interviews with a number of folks who worked in front of and behind the camera on Two Orphan Vampires, Memories of a Blue World is as informative as it is moving and it stands as one of the best documentaries ever presented on Jean Rollin's work...bravo to Daniel Gouyette!
I noted what I saw as the great, and not so great, aspects of the brave but flawed Two Orphan Vampires in my original write-up on it but I found more to admire on this viewing than ever before. It has all the trademarks of the classic Jean Rollin film as well as offering up proof that age and illness couldn't stop his unstoppable creative vision and drive. I am quite fond of this striking minor work and Kino's Blu-ray is one of the great archival releases of the year. The Living Dead Girl and Two Orphan Vampires are both available to order from Kino, Amazon and most other retailers. No definitive word yet on what the next titles in The Jean Rollin Collection will be but I know many of us are hoping for both The Grapes of Death and Night of the Hunted to be within our grasp soon!
-Image courtesy of Collections La Cinémathèque de Toulouse-