Living Dead Girl

Director - Jean Rollin

Cast - Francoise Blanchard, Marina Pierro

Country of Origin - France

Discs -1

MSRP - $24.95

Distributor - Kino

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

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The Film (4/5)

     About 2 years ago the world lost one of it's great unsung cinematic visionaries, and one of the true pioneers of French fantastic horror the now legendary Jean Rollin. During his career Rollin's work was primarily known by a devoted group of European horror aficionados, and kept alive by the work of fans who kept his work in the public eye. His films were far from horrors mainstream, for while they contained the sex, violence, and undead creatures horror fans crave they were more about the atmosphere then the scares. This created as many fans of his films, as it did detractors as Rollin was truly a cinematic auteur with a true personal cinematic vision.

   The Jean Rollin of the early 80's was an established cinematic master.  While his work was still as obscure as ever, his work showed more confidence in this period than in his more raw, earlier works. His films such as Fascination (1979), Grapes of Death (1978), and the Living Dead Girl (1980) show the hand of master auteur fully in control of all the elements of the directorial process.

   Although Rollin's work since the very beginning of his career could be attributed to the horror genre the director very rarely made films with gory or overtly violent elements in them choosing to make more dreamlike and fantastic narratives during a period when filmmakers from Wes Craven (Last House on the Left) and Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) in America to Lucio Fulci (Zombi 2), and Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust) were seeing much success with their ultra gory efforts.  However, starting with 1978's Zombie opus The Grapes of Death gore began to appear in the films of Jean Rollin culminating in the this 1980 effort the Living Dead Girl.

   It could be said that the Living Dead Girl is Jean Rollin's goriest film.  It could also be said that the Living Dead Girl is not your typical Euro-splatterfest typical of this period.  As with most of the films that Jean Rollin chose to put his name on (his non-pornographic efforts), he comes at the Living Dead Girl with his own personal style in check. Yes, the Living Dead Girl is a very gory film, but it carries with it a fantastic, somber, other worldly tone that separates it from more over the top gore efforts. 

   The Living Dead Girl tells the story of Catherine Valmont, a young woman who died 2 years before the story begins. As the story opens a couple of garbage disposal men, are getting rid of some toxic waste barrels in the crypt in which her body is stored.  Unfortunately, for Catherine, and the men their is a minor Earthquake and the toxic chemicals end up awaking her from her dead state with a thirst for blood. She promptly kills the men, and drinks their blood. Her now undead state comes to the attention of her childhood best friend Helene, with whom she made a pact. Whichever one of them died first, the other would follow soon after. This has left Helene with a certain feeling of survivors guilt since that time. 

   Upon seeing Catherine, Helene is convinced that she was not dead, but alive the entire time, and she was lied to. This all changes after she visits the house after Catherine has murdered a couple who were making love in her living room, and she is taken down to the crypt where Catherine drinks blood in Helene's presence.  Helene now becomes determined to bring Catherine to the world of the living, by assisting her in acquiring the blood she needs to live, and teaching her how to speak again.  Unfortunately, the closer she comes to the living world the more Catherine realizes how she doesn't belong here. However, Helene continues pushing to keep the two of them together creating a murderous spree in the French Countryside where they live.

   The Living Dead Girl feels less of a typical zombie film, and more of Jean Rollin's Frankenstein.  Sure, Helene did not attempt to bring Catherine back to life, but she sure did attempt to keep her there, and there was a certain obsessive madness to her character once she decides that is what she is going to do right down to her final moments. The film has more a straightforward narrative than many of Rollin's earlier efforts, and yet does not lose any of the lyrical poetic nature that the best of his films tend to exude.

   The Living Dead Girl is one of Jean Rollin's finest films.  It is a film that shows a director expanding his palette, and in total control of his powers.  It is also one of the most unique zombie films of all time.

 

Audio/Video (3.5/5)

   Kino/Redemption have restored the Living Dead Girl in an absolutely fantastic 1080p AVC encoded 1:85:1 transfer preserving the films original aspect ratio.  This transfer keeping in line with the work Kino and Redemption have been doing together this far looks absolutely spectacular.  I have not watched the Living Dead Girl since the prior Redemption DVD, which did not see much in the way of restoration, and I can tell you that this restoration trumps that release in every possible way. The colors are brighter, the black levels are darker and deeper, the grain structure is intact, flesh tones are accurate, and fine detail is greatly increased. There are a few bits of print damage throughout, but it is never a distracting, and give a filmlike atmosphere to the whole transfer.

   Kino/Redemption have supplied a French language LPCM Mono track with Optional English subtitles. The dialogue is clear and crisp, as are effects and music. I did not detect and audio defects on this track.

 

Extras (3/5)

   Kino/Redemption have put together a nice slate of extras for their release of the Living Dead Girl.  The Blu-ray kicks off with an introduction to the film by the late Jean Rollin.  We then have 4 featurettes, Jean-Pierre Bouyxou on La Morte Vivante, The Living Dead Girl: The American Version, When I was Seventeen: An Homage to Benoit Lestang, and finally Music by Philip D'Aram.  We then have Jean Rollin at the Fantasia Film Festival 2007, and an excerpt from an interview with Rollin by Joshua Gravel.  The disc is rounded off by all the trailers in the Rollin series thus far.  We also get another wonderful set of liner notes (the third volume) by Video Watchdog editor (and Mario Bava biographer) Tim Lucas.

 

Overall

   Jean Rollin's the Living Dead Girl could be considered one of the greatest of his films. It is a very poetic, somber, fantastic, yet gory affair that shows a director at the top of his game.  The A/V restoration courtesy of Kino/Redemption is rather stunning, and the extras are quite nice.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.