Jean Rollin on Blu-ray: LIPS OF BLOOD Review

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
For our fourth excursion in the world of Jean Rollin, we travel back to the realm of the vampire with Lips of Blood.  This film seems rather tame in comparison to The Iron Rose, and the plot, somewhat pedestrian.  However, because Rollin has such a distinguished style, the journey nonetheless remains fascinating and mesmerizing. This isn't my favorite of the Rollin discs, as the idea seems a bit too thin to stretch out an entire film over, but such is life, and it managed to hold my attention anyway. Regardless, Kino's Blu-ray has been restored and treated with kid gloves, giving home video viewers easily the best presentation of Lips of Blood ever to appear on their screens.
Jean-Loup Philippe stars as Frederic, a maternally-dominated young man who by chance is awakened to a dormant childhood memory by attending a launch party for a new perfume. A chateau pictured in the poster reminds him of a night, long ago, when he was lost and a beautiful young woman (Jennifer, played by Forever Emanuelle's Annie Belle) came out of nowhere to protect him through the night. Later, the woman - unaged - magically appears and beckons to him, and Frederic finds his way back to the chateau and to her, uncovering some dark secrets about his family's past along the way.
The hero of the film, Frederic, is at a party when he spies a poster of some archaic landscape and castle on a coast that seems to beckon him. He has the very distinct impression that he knows this place, even though he can't remember why. When he asks his dowdy, but dominating, mother, she is evasive and pleads with him to drop it. Of course, this never works, and Frederic's imagination/recollections start to go wild, while his determination to seek out the significance of this rocky coast reaches a fever pitch.

This film, however, is not about the destination, but about the journey Frederic takes to recapture the sensation of his childhood.  There is a woman in his flashback to whom Frederic promised to return, and who wouldn't, she is absolutely gorgeous. His quest is not only to find this beauty, but also the love and safety she represents in his life.  The sense of belonging and security that eludes him in his modern existence. Rollin's love of the archaic and antiquarian is on full display here, as a man abandons the comforts of his civilized life for something more primal, and ends up giving his all to this woman he loves.

The second of half this film, the quest as it occurs in the castle and surroundings, is more about the vampires, but still only in how they relate to Frederic. This isn't a vampire film, it is a romance, not unlike many of Rollin's films. The vampires are there to represent the obstacles to Frederic's love, they pull him, this way and that, trying to get in the way of his eternal bliss. They trick him and lure him to their chambers with the intent of destroying him, but in the end, love still may conquer all.

If it sounds a bit hokey, at times it is. This is probably one of Rollin's more self-indulgent films. It runs a lengthy 87 minutes, which is puny by modern standards, but a good 7 or 8 minutes longer than most of his work, and it feels flabby. The final sequence of the film shows a coffin drifting out to sea, the shot would have worked just fine as a fade out, but Rollin's camera follows the coffin for several minutes, much longer than required.  At this point, it is all a bit redundant as the credits are about to roll, and if I'd sat there waiting for that shot to end only to find that the credits followed it, I might be a bit perturbed.  Otherwise, the film is typically beautiful, if not terribly engaging.  Rollin knows which side his bread is buttered on and he throws some boobs and blood in the mix to keep his audience paying attention, but they are completely extraneous, and only serve to pad the running time.  This obviously isn't my favorite, but it is a classic among Rollin's very particular oeuvre, so it is definitely worth checking out.

The Disc:

Lips of Blood looks pretty damned good on Blu-ray, like all of the Rollins do. The very natural looking image produces vivid colors and beautiful detail and textures throughout. There is some minor print damage, as with all of the discs, but nothing that might be considered a deal-breaker. The audio is equally clear and crisp, and it is worth noting that this is the first of the discs without an English dub, it only sports a French audio track with English subtitles.

Extras on Lips of Blood are relatively sparse. The package includes Tim Lucas' incredible essay on the art of Rollin, as well as a brief intro from Rollin and an interview with Natalie Perrey like all of the other discs, but there is no further context provided. I suppose it's better than nothing, but I really enjoyed the extended interview from The Iron Rose and was hoping for more along those lines.

All in all, Lips of Blood is a winner, however, being spoiled by the other features, perhaps I was expecting more.  Definitely recommended.


Blu-Ray Extras:
- Mastered in HD from the 35mm negative
- French with optional English subtitles
- Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
- Interview with Natalie Perrey (10 min.)
- 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
Original theatrical trailer
- Original trailers of four other Rollin films
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