Home Video Reviews
The Blood Rose is a meandering little oddment with more Gothic curlicues and supporting characters than it knows what to do with. Case in point, the eponymous perennial. A beautiful flower studded with poison thorns that bring instant death, the Blood Rose comes into play in a subplot about Anne's mounting jealousy over buxom nurse Agnès (Michele Perello of The Slave Girls of Morgan Le Fay), whom she suspects of leading Frédéric astray. Turns out, Anne's suspicions are well founded and she dispatches the home health aid by asking her to move the Blood Rose, causing the girl to prick herself and terminate her employment with extreme prejudice. As Anne's paranoia escalates (and she suffers bi-curious dreams of a necro-erotic tryst with Agnès), Chateau Lansac is disrupted by the near escape of a beautiful prisoner (later raped and killed by a pair of domestic dwarves named Igor and Olaf), Römer being tailed by a suspicious Paris cop (Jacques Seiler appeared a couple years earlier in Conrad Rooks' Chappaqua, alongside the eclectic likes of William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, the Fugs and Hervé Villechaize), and the arrival of Agnès' suspicious sister Barbara (Olivia Robin), who proceeds to pepper Frédéric with nettlesome questions about the whereabouts of her missing sibling. It all makes for a viscous bouillabaisse of Grand Guignol elements that consistently refuses to reward the expectations it entices; while one might reasonably expect Anne to suffer the karmic turnaround of falling victim to the Blood Rose, director Mulot throws the audience a climactic curveball that is novel but less than satisfying.
Although its aspirations may have aimed higher, The Blood Rose makes for a perfect midnight movie, being more of an experience than a film. To this end, it is helped immeasurably by Jean-Pierre Dorsay's trippy score and the cinematography of Roger Fellous, which is rich in deeply saturated reds, blues, and greens. Mondo Macabro's anamorphic, letterboxed (1.66:1) transfer preserves these original compositions and values, resulting in a picture of staggering beauty freeze any moment and you've got an image suitable for framing. While the elitist among us would prefer on principle the original two-channel French soundtrack to the alternative English dub, the English language track is often more evocative than the French (at least as translated into optional English subtitles); as this kind of thing can be highly personal, give both a test run. Mondo Macabro offers a nice complement of extras: a comprehensive essay on The Blood Rose by Pete Tombs, a 23-minute video interview with the Claude Mulot's brother-in-law Didier Philippe-Gerard (who recalls that Mulot came to Paris and worked days as a window dresser while spending his nights at the cinema), a gallery of stills and promotional materials and talent bios, which inform us that Claude Mulot was lost at sea in October of 1986, that former Chanel model Elizabeth Teissier is most famous in France for being the mistress of Prime Minister François Mitterrand and that leading man Philippe Lemaire committed suicide in 2004 one day after his 77th birthday.
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by Richard Harland Smith