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Mondo Macabro presents
The Blood Rose (La Rose Ecorchée) (1970)

"Nothing and nobody can destroy our happiness. Nobody!"
- Frederic (Philippe Lemaire)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 29, 2007

Stars: Philippe Lemaire, Anny Duperey, Olivia Robin
Other Stars: Howard Vernon, Elizabeth Teissier, Michéle Perello, Gérard Huart, Jean-Pierre Honoré, Roberto, Johnny Cacao, Valérie Boisgel
Director: Claude Mulot

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, brief sensuality, violence)
Run Time: 01h:34m:05s
Release Date: August 28, 2007
UPC: 843276013196
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ C+B+B B-

DVD Review

Claude Mulot's 1970 film The Blood Rose (La Rose Ecorchée) has the distinction of being known as "the first sex-horror film ever made," a French-made B-movie from a director best known for his hard-core titles. That Mulot connection weighs heavily on The Blood Rose, and though the film paved the way for a string of French nudity-filled horror titles in the early 1970s, today the content is remarkably tame. Yes, there's quite a bit of skin on the display, but the sexual content is almost nonexistent, contained within just two scenes—one of which features a rather unpleasant sequence between two dwarves assaulting a captive woman.

The story is a familiar variant, where nubile young women are used as unwilling parts in a grotesque experiment, in this case a series of skin grafts performed by a shamed plastic surgeon on the disfigured wife of a close friend. At least that's what it is supposed to be about, because really none of that taks place, there's just plenty of talk about it. Not that that is all bad, necessarily, because Mulot strings together a series of darkly beautiful scenes, rich with that 1970s B-movie genre coating, but, unfortunately, they often feel like parts of two or three different movies. Late in the film there is an eerie nighttime shot into a desolate chateau window that features a woman whipping the stuffing out of the two aforementioned dwarves. It's a creepy visual, but one that almost seems out of place as Mulot shifts gears for the second half.

Celebrated artist and notorious womanizer Frederic (Philippe Lemaire) has fallen head over heels in love with Anne (Anny Duperey), and whisks her away to his crumbling country manor to live happily ever after. The problem comes from a spurned lover (Elizabeth Teissier), who forces poor Anne to fall into a huge bonfire, which naturally reduces her beauty to a crackly, deep-fried mess. Anne miraculously survives the accident, but is driven mad. Heartbroken Frederic becomes a recluse and pretends to the world that his wife is dead, all the while plotting a scheme with former plastic surgeon Professeur Römer (Howard Vernon) to restore her to her original beauty.

That's a potentially neat setup by Mulot, who layers on a few levels of kinky weirdness by having Frederic's country manor "managed" by a pair of silent, horny, animal-skin-adorned dwarves. A sexy blonde nurse named Agnes (Michéle Perello) falls on the wrong side of Anne's favors, but not before she has a somewhat catatonic love scene with Frederic, while the wrong-place-wrong-time Catherine (Valérie Boisgel) suffers the film's greatest indignities, but not before she reluctantly doffs her duds. The final act features Agnes' investigative sister Barbara (Olivia Robin), and it's here that Mulot moves into a more traditional gothic castle formula, with candelabras, lightning, and one very sheer nightie.

Don't be drawn in by the whole "first sex-horror" tag expecting some raucous sexcapade and buckets of blood, because Mulot plays it all pretty close to his chest, with the exception of a scene or two. Nudity yes, but sex is more or less implied. Mulot fills this one with a number of beautiful French actresses, so the skin quotient is never a concern, yet it is Vernon's troubled Römer who steps up in the final reel to give the film a character that actually has some dimension. Things fall apart bizarrely as the story closes, culminating in one of the oddest fight scenes I've ever encountered.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Mondo Macabro has issued Mulot's feature with a brand new 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Though slightly grainy overall, with moderately soft edges, this new treatment features some beautiful color rendering, especially given its low-budget roots and age. Fleshtones may be a tad warm in spots, but that's a minor complaint.

Very, very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The original French language audio track is listed on the back cover as 2.0 stereo, though it seems to register as mono. No trace of hiss, with voices sounding clear and distortion-free, and the romantic themes of the Jean-Pierre Dorsay score carrying a rich, pleasing tonal quality. A rather tolerable and evenly synched up English dub is also included, though the voice levels are mixed a bit too loudly to appear natural.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Mondo Macabro has issued Mulot's The Blood Rose in a bright red amaray case, which helps sell the whole "blood" thing pretty well. The disc is cut into 20 chapters, and is available with optional English subtitles.

Extras include five text screens providing a history Mulot and the film, and text bios for Mulot, Lemaire, Duperey, and Teissier. In An Interview: Didier Philipe-Gerard (23m:09s), a "collaborator/friend" of the late director offers his remembrances of early 1970's French low-budget filmmaking. A stills gallery has 20 images, consisting largely of lobby cards and international poster art.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

An impressive new anamorphic transfer and the original French audio should make fans of early 1970s Euro horror genre happy, as will the promise of the uncut version. The film is an engaging oddity with plentiful nudity, ultimately handcuffed by unfulfilled promise.

High praise to Mondo Macabro for their solid treatment of this overlooked title, even if The Blood Rose ends up being more of a tease than a horror/thriller.

 


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