The Blood Rose

1970 [FRENCH]


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Reviewed by Bunuel1976 7 / 10

THE BLOOD ROSE (Claude Mulot, 1969) ***

I had never even heard of this film before Mondo Macabro announced their upcoming DVD release of it, so I was surprised to find - after I had already ordered it online - that Leonard Maltin had in fact reviewed it in his Guide and gave it his proverbial *1/2 rating usually allotted to such sensationalist fare. Even more surprising is the fact that I found this to be so good and engaging, despite being the nth revamping of one of my all-time favorites - Georges Franju's EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1959). Also, I expected it to be much trashier – considering the dubious epithet "the first sex-horror film" that's attached to it; there is a reasonable amount of nudity here, but this is generally tastefully presented. Actually, it exudes a rather classy atmosphere (with cinematography by the renowned Roger Fellous) peculiar to French horror cinema – similar, in fact, to other Mondo Macabro releases such as MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (1960), THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (1965), GIRL SLAVES OF MORGANA LE FAY (1971) and SEVEN WOMEN FOR Satan (1974).

Lead Philippe Lemaire is appropriately debonair as the celebrated painter whose life and career take a nose-dive once his wife is no longer able to act as his muse; the actor later worked for Jess Franco and Walerian Borowczyk but, sadly, ended his own life in 2004. Anne Duperey is luscious and graceful during the early section of the film: the girl's loving relationship with her husband is presented in some detail, so as to render her subsequent bitterness (which even drives her to commit cold-blooded murder) both believable and poignant. The appearance of her scarred features, then, is subtly handled throughout (presented mostly as blurry POV shots) and the make-up itself quite well done. The actress eventually broke into the mainstream with PARDON MON AFFAIRE (1977), a successful comedy later Americanized as THE WOMAN IN RED (1984).

Howard Vernon provides a further link with the EYES WITHOUT A FACE prototype – since he played the title role in Jess Franco's THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF (1961), a character to which actor and director would often return (the last time in FACELESS [1988], a viewing of which followed the next day). In THE BLOOD ROSE (released as RAVAGED in the U.K.), he again plays the surgeon who aims to graft the face off a live victim: here, however, he's blackmailed into the task and actually doubts his own success (his eventual fate, then, comes as a total shock). The dwarf manservants seen here may be something of a genre requisite, but they're actually well-integrated into the plot – their rape/murder of a captive girl (an intended, but obviously unwilling, face donor) and subsequent beating by their disfigured mistress seemed a gratuitous digression at first, but it does help set up the film's wild and completely unexpected final act! It's rather odd, however, that no revenge was visited upon the spited socialite who perpetrated Duperey's accident.

The catacomb-like design of Lemaire's art gallery complements the Gothic atmosphere of his family château. As for the film's deliberate pace, this is characteristic of the "Euro-Cult" style – typified by the scene in which an inquisitive girl is made to prowl the castle grounds for minutes on end. Unsurprisingly, Mulot (who tragically drowned in 1986) later dabbled in porn cinema – though the obscure crime film THE CONTRACT (1971) is considered as his best work. The DVD supplements include an interesting 23-minute interview with the film's assistant director (and Mulot's brother-in-law), and a reasonably informative essay about the history of French horror cinema over the years (going all the way up to the most recent examples).

Reviewed by HumanoidOfFlesh 7 / 10

Sleazy and atmospheric French horror flick,

Hyped as The First French Sex-Horror Film "The Blood Rose" certainly delivers the goods.Lemaire plays an aging painter whose wedded bliss to gorgeous Anne turns to tragedy,when she nearly gets in a catfight with his former lover and falls into a fire in a pretty hilarious scene.She is of course horribly scarred.The great Howard Vernon plays a surgeon who may be able to return her to her former beauty,but he'll need a live victim to do it.So women are brought to the artist's château in order to get a face.The dwarfs,who were the painter's longtime servants,are charged with capturing the girls.Clearly inspired by Franju "Eyes Without the Face" "The Blood Rose" features lovely Gothic setting of French medieval castle, great-looking women and a healthy dose of sleaze.Rollin-esquire atmosphere is well-captured and the climax is fantastic.7 out of 10.

Reviewed by pj75pj75 10 / 10

An Under Rated Gem of 70's Euro Horror

The first real film from a director who went on to do a lot of interesting work in the 1970's and 80's before his tragic death by drowning in 1986.

An avowed homage to Eyes Without a Face, the film unquestionably creates its own atmosphere and goes in a very different direction from its more famous model. Mulot's film has great cinematography, an interesting script construction and a very melancholic mood that marks it out from most low budget shockers of the period. Although not a costume piece as such, it is probably closer to the classic Mill of the Stone Women than to Franju's film.

The acting and direction are of a uniformly high standard. Anny Duperey and Philip Lemaire impart real depth to their characterizations and it's great to see Euro legend Howard Vernon once again. The film was sold as a mixture of sex and horror and the sex is provided by a bevy of stunning Euro babes including Valerie Boisgel and Michele Perello who went on to feature in Morgane et ses Nymphes before disappearing into the hinterlands of porn.

Well worth more than a passing look for any fan of classy Euro horror, this one has probably improved with age and repays repeated viewings.

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