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Les Raisins de la Mort

Grapes of Death
Pestizide - Grapes of Death

France 1978
produced by
Claude Guedj, Christian Ruh (executive) for Les Films ABC, Off Production, Rush Productions
directed by Jean Rollin
starring Marie-Georges Pascal, Félix Marten, Serge Marquand, Mirella Rancelot, Patrice Valota, Patricia Cartier, ichel Herval, Brigitte Lahaie, Paul Bisciglia, Olivier Rollin, Francoise Pascal, Evelyne Thomas, Jean-Pierre Bouyxou, Jean Rollin
story by Jean-Pierre Bouyxou, Jean Rollin, screenplay by Christian Meunier, Jean Rollin, music by Philippe Sissman

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Two girls are travelling alone on an otherwise empty train. At one stop though, a young man enters the train, who obviously suffers from something like decaying alive - not only on the outside but obviously also on the inside, so before long, he has killed one of the girls, the other, Claudine, though showed enough nerve to hit the emergency brakes and take off by foot, and is far too quick for our decaying killer to follow.

Eventually, Claudine coes across a lonely house in tghe vinyards where she tries to persuade the owner, an old an, to help her ... but it seems the old man suffers from the same condition as the man on the train, and he soon turns violent and even kills his own daughter with a pitchfork. Once he realizes what he has done though, he asks Claudine to kill him, and she runs him over by car.

Next, Claudine stumbles upon a blind girl, Lucy, who claims she has run away from her village and lost the way, but now she wants to get back. Back at the village though, Claudine has to find out that all the inhabitants are either corpses lieing int he streets and rotting away or decaying zombies. And soon enough, the zombies have botten hold of Lucy, strangled her and then crucified her onto the door of her own house and beheaded her. Claudine only narrowly escapes the zombies when lovely Jeanette (Brigitte Lahaie) drags her into her house and promises to look after her and help her get away from the village for good ... thing is, Jeanette is also affected by whatever-it-is (later it will turn out that it was the local wine which was treated by a new pestizide), and instead of helping Claudine to get away, she calls her zombie friends to have their way with her ...

At this point two hunters arrive on the scene who haven't been drinking the bad wine and are therefore not affected by whatever-it-is, and they save Claudine from her zombie pursuers and shoot their way out of the village.

Then the three of them head to the wine-growing estate where everything is supposed to have started - and also where Claudine's boyfriend Michel is staying at. However, they find the estate deserted, so they just call the authorities and think everything is over .... until Claudine finds Michel, who is the only one on the estate who's still alive, but he is also steadily decaying, and ultimately he asks one of the hunters to shoot him - which he does. But seeing her love dead, Claudine takes the hunter's gun and shoots him and his firend too, even if they were the very men who saved her life ...

 

This is porbably the closest Jean Rollin ever came to making a straight horror film: It has got a straightforward, a tad formulaic storyline, it has all the shocks at the right places, and the distingction between heroine and monster is very clear for the most part. This however does not mean that the film is not also typically Rollin: the film is big on Rollin's trademark lyrical, otherworldly atmosphere and not so big on suspense, (female) characters are often dressed in revealing outfits that fit the movie's mood more than the situation (e.g. the blind girl, Brigitte Lahaie), and Rollin's has quite obviously put much greater care into choosing the right landscapes than you would come to expect from a horror film director.

In all fairness, Les Raisins de la Mort is not Rollin's best film, but it's still worth a look or two, even if you are not into Rollin's usual output of sexy vampire films ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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from the post-apocalyptic
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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written by
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