When preying on humans, the red or the white wine?
B-Movie Nightmares | Sparks, NV United States | 03/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Only having seen three of Jean Rollin's films, I will not attempt to give you any insight into this interesting French director. My opinion of this film is the same as the other two I have seen by him: occasionally boring, yet well done with some good bloody moments. Out of the three I've seen, this is a little less exciting than The Living Dead Girl, yet less dull than The Night of the Hunted. The story is pretty straightforward: a girl is attacked by a zombie on a train, leaves the train, then roams the French countryside looking for people who can help her with the ever-increasing zombie problem. The Grapes of Death title refers to wine made from pesticide-laced grapes, which is responsible for turning people into the zombies. It's different than, say, your typical Romero or Fulci zombiefest in that the people turn into the living dead gradually. It'll be just a hand decaying at first, for example, and the FX showing this and the other gore scenes are pretty effective. The people are conscious of what is happening to them, which is pretty horrible considering what dead tissue must feel like. Don't expect the blood n' guts level of your typical zombie flick though, this movie works because of the atmosphere, realism, and, of course, Rollin's use of beautiful French women.I would say that if you are a huge fan of the Evil Dead series, Dead Alive, or other over-the-top violent gore films, Grapes of Death might be a little slow for your taste. But if you like low budget movies, arty French films, or just something different than a typical horror movie you might really enjoy it. It doesn't resort to cheap scare tactics at all, and the dialogue (subtitled) is pretty intelligently written. The provincial beauty of the French landscape is not really that scary, and there is not much music that I remember, as opposed to some of the Italian horrors of this era that feature blasting electronic scores. If you can describe a movie as a "quiet, peaceful bloodbath" then that would be my summary of Grapes of Death."
Gory, sleazy zombie flick
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 10/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jean Rollin is a name instantly recognizable to hardcore horror fans, yet meaningless to nearly everyone else. This ignorance is quite unfortunate because the French director concocted some of the sleaziest, most unusual films ever made during the 1970s and 1980s, films usually imbued with a disturbing mix of hypereroticism and bloody violence. I have often tossed Rollin's name around in impolite company with seeming aplomb even though I had never seen even one of the man's films. You read enough plot synopses about someone and you start to feel as though you know every intimate detail about their work. What I did hear from others about this director oftentimes did not bode well. He is apparently well versed in schlock filmmaking, which in and of itself is not a problem with me, a true lover of bad cinema, but several of his films continue to draw raves from a selected minority of genre fans. Well, I finally sat down with a Jean Rollin film, his 1979 effort "Fascination," and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Then I followed up with "Living Dead Girl" and was even more impressed. Then came "Lips of Blood," "The Demoniacs," and "The Sidewalks of Bangkok." No wonder most people think Rollin is a hack.
"Grapes of Death" is one of the better Jean Rollin films I've seen, however, probably because the gore approaches the levels seen in "Living Dead Girl." The movie tells the story of the unlucky Elizabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal) and her nightmarish attempts to discover what happened to the residents of Roubelais, a small village out in the sticks renown for its vineyards. Viewers have a pretty good idea what happened right from the start when we see a bunch of scrappy looking French dudes wandering around in the fields spraying some chemical on the grapes. The guy who owns the farm arrives on the scene and makes a few comments about procuring more effective chemical masks for these workers. If you think that the pesticide will lead to gory mayhem within minutes, give yourself a pat on the back. The carnage starts even before Elizabeth arrives in the area. While riding the rails with a lovely friend, one of the chemical zombies stumbles aboard the train and quickly dispatches our heroine's pal. We know he's a zombie because he sports some weird, oozing sores all over this mug and lurches about in typical Romero undead style. It looks like Liz is in for a doozy of a time.
It's not too long after the incident on the train that Elizabeth sets off across the foggy French countryside in search of the residents of Roubelais. Before she returns home, however, she stumbles over a house where a couple invites her in for some vittles. Unfortunately, the head of the household has the grape plague in spades, and it takes a lot of effort for our young friend to escape intact. Soon after Elizabeth meets up with yet another enigmatic figure, this time a lovely young lass afflicted with blindness by the name of Lucy, and once again tragedy strikes when the grape zombies move to center stage. Poor Lucy! Her own father performs head surgery on the hapless girl with an extremely sharp instrument. Yuck! By the time two chaps lumber into view, both of whom recognize the reality of the terror roaming the countryside and have decided to take matters into their own hands, Elizabeth is fighting to stay alive any way she can. Zombies are everywhere! And all of them bear the same yellowish oozing sores. Throw in the always enjoyable Brigitte LaHaie in full grinning loon mode, buildings burning down and a truck explosion, and a twist ending that made little sense and you've got all the fixings for a fun filled couple of hours, Jean Rollin style.
"Grapes of Death," which certainly must rank as one of the most ridiculous zombie films of all times, actually succeeds due to several factors. First, Rollin treats us to his usual visual flair, a style both highly atmospheric and iconic. It's obvious when watching the movie that the director framed most of his shots with great care. LaHaie's character shedding her clothes for the two armed heroes, and LaHaie standing in front of a burning house holding a torch are only two of the many scenes in which the Rollin style of careful camerawork and the deliberate posing of characters is most apparent. Second, lots of gore really helps "Grapes of Death" stand out from some of Rollin's other efforts. A nasty scene involving a pitchfork, the brutal demise of the blind Lucy, and lots of exploding squibs had me cheering from my barcalounger. Third, and finally, I'll always watch a movie that has the luscious Brigitte LaHaie stomping about. She doesn't do much here other than stand around striking poses, but it's enough to give the film a bit of that Eurosleaze veneer I love so much. Sure, the conclusion of the film doesn't make much sense, but who cares? "Grapes of Death" is a lot of fun for the discerning gorehound.
I think it's important to note that Synapse, and not Redemption, released the DVD version of Rollin's film. With Redemption discs we usually don't get much in the way of extras. Synapse loaded up their release with a bunch of supplements, the most important of which are lengthy interviews with Rollin and LaHaie (!) that run for roughly thirty-two minutes. Also included for our viewing pleasure is a still gallery, two trailers for the film, and a Rollin filmography and biography. I heartily recommend "Grapes of Death" to horror fans. While not as enjoyable as "Living Dead Girl" (my favorite Rollin film to date), it's still a picture that classifies as an archetype of sleazy Eurohorror. Give it a watch soon! "
Grapes of the Zombies
Michelle R. Monroe | Newark, OH USA | 02/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Special Features for Grapes Of Death-(Special Edition):
90 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), original French and German theatrical trailers, video interviews with director Jean Rollin and actress Brigitte Lahaie, Jean Rollin biography and filmography, stills gallery, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (18 chapters), languages: French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: English
The French love their wine something funky. Man - they just go crazy for the stuff. And when a batch of grapes gets poisoned by some new cutting-edge insecticides, those wacky French literally get crazy from their wine. So crazy, in fact, that their brains melt and they turn into flesh hungry, puss-filled, zombie-type killers. It's no surprise that a young and beautiful woman gets sucked into the whole mess. A train ride from Paris to her home town in the middle of the countryside gets shut down, and she has to run from township to township fighting the wine-drunk undead. Can she make it back home to her loving boyfriend? Will the two construction workers (turned zombie hunters) protect her? Isn't it a shame you weren't in the French porn industry when the unbelievably hot Brigitte Lahaie was going full-tilt boogey? These questions, and only a few more, will get answered in The Grapes of Death, the newest Euro-sleaze DVD from Synapse.
Jean Rollin (probably the best French filmmaker who used porn actresses, minimal dialogue and improv filmmaking techniques) makes what I think is his best film with Grapes. As gross as it can get, this is a fun ride. Now... this is no Italian zombie flick - don't get me wrong - nor is it Romero caliber. But for Rollin, this is a well-formed flick with lots of nice touches, including one of the best severed heads ever (and I mean ever) to be created for film. If you like horror films, give the flick a spin.
Grapes of Death is a surprising DVD, especially given the impeccable performance of Synapse. This film couldn't look any better on DVD if it wanted to. The transfer is clean, the compression is luscious and, aside from the expected source flaws, there isn't a thing wrong with the film at all. Even the sound, in all its mono glory, is ripe and full. I couldn't have imagined this film making such a fine DVD, yet here it is. Good job Synapse.
And it's even a great special edition (who'd of thunk it?). First off, you get a pair of ultra-rare video interviews with director Jean Rollin and actress Brigitte Lahaie. If you're a fan of their work, this ends up being an incredible feature. Rollin's French is a bit thick at times, but this piece gives us a great look into his mind and where he's been coming from all these years. And Lahaie is as fine as ever. Whoo-hoo! There's also a mighty fine text-based Jean Rollin biography and filmography and a short stills gallery. But nothing beats the transfer and the interviews. Synapse, you've done it again. "
A winner, but lacking cohesion and tension - surreal.
J. J. Sargent | Waterbury, CT United States | 06/02/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Fans of Jean Rollin will not be disappointed. This film capitalizes on many of the staples that make his films unique. There is a pretty gal travelling all over the french countryside facing peril, atmospheric and lingering cinematography, a quirky soundtrack, breasts, a tragic love story, and plenty of surprises to keep viewers guessing. Add the special appearance by the lovely Brigitte Lahaie and you've got a winner, but certainly lacking the cohesion (though wildly subversive and surreal -- though not so bizarre as Jess Franco's pictures) and tension of some of his more successful ventures like La Morte Vivante (The Living Dead Girl), Requiem for a Vampire, The Shiver of the Vampires and others."
Gore at its most immaculate!
C. Christopher Blackshere | I am the devil's reject | 04/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Au revoir madame, it's time to die...
BROOOTAL! Jean Rollin and The Grapes of Death('78) introduced gore to French cinema, and it's a match made in heaven! Or hell, if you prefer. It really doesn't get much better than this.
There is something strange brewing at an isolated French winery. The pesticide used in the grape fields is possibly having an adverse effect on the townspeople. They are all slowly turning violent and losing their minds as their flesh begins to decompose.
Rollin does an excellent job directing this gorefest. There is plenty of visually stunning shots of graphic violence--blood splatter, flesh rippage, impalement, decapitations, and more. No CGI, these special effects are all very well done. Plus, of course Rollin threw in some nice shots of gorgeous naked women. This is all contrasted very well with the beautiful French countryside. The action advances at a moderate pace with no cheap irritating scares or horrible cliches. Some of the kills will make you squirm.
Grapes of Death is another spectacular horror gem from the 70's. Very eerie, poetic, and downright creepy. I wish some current filmmakers would watch this and take notes.