The Living Dead Girl (1982)
By: Mr Intolerance on May 11, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Image (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.66:1 (Non-anamorphic). French DD 2.0 Mono. English Subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jean Rollin
Starring: Françoise Blanchard, Marina Pierro, Mike Marshall, Carina Barone
Screenplay: Jacques Ralf, Jean Rollin
Music: Phillipe d'Aram
Country: France
AKA: La Morte Vivante, Lady Dracula, La Muerte viviente, Zombie Queen
I approach films by Jean Rollin with a due sense of exhaustion and dread, expecting the worst (if you've seen Night of the Hunted, you'll understand why). I don't mean that in a good way – ie Woo-hoo!!! Ultra-violence! Blood, guts and grease off the rod! I mean it in a kind of "I have a 50/50 chance of being entertained here" kind of way, "and my hopes are definitely not up."

Then again, 50/50 – them's not bad odds. Paid out in this case.

Many moons ago when I was a young Goth about town – no, wait, don't hate me – I had the usual Goth fixation with vampires, and I read a book about vampire cinema (the focus being on European cinema), and this film was mentioned in dispatches alongside Female Vampire, Hammer films like Vampire Circus, Twins of Evil and such, Blood For Dracula – you get the picture. So imagine my surprise when it fronts up as part of a Redemption boxed set called The Zombie Collection. (By the way, I'm no longer a Goth – it's kind of hard to be when people tell you that you bear an uncanny resemblance to Bill Bailey…) If you have a look to the left of the page, you'll see that the confusion stretches on – how can you be Lady Dracula AND Zombie Queen?

Does it work on either level? Zombie or vampire? Yes, it does, actually. Surprisingly enough – both. And can I tell you that when people are losing eyes in the opening five minutes of a film – it's a good thing.

So anyway, our tale begins with Catherine Valmont, a young dead woman, being re-animated by chemical waste (gotta love that chemical waste in horror films; is there nothing it can't do?) and returning to her ancestral home, which is in the process of being flogged off by the local real estate agents (the agent responsible for the sale being Catherine's childhood chum, Helene). Then loads of graphic violence and nudity occur. Kind of like in the way that in the novel of Dracula the vampire becomes younger the more blood he consumes, the same in The Living Dead Girl. The more people the eponymous protagonist kills (ably aided and abetted by Helene), the more blood spilt, the more memory she regains – turning by degrees from a silent shambling brutal murderer into something more lucid and articulate, plagued with painful memories and a conscience. And so the film unfolds – not an original idea, but rather a nifty one to help the audience gradually unravel the back-story, as much as propel the narrative.

I know the word "haunting" gets hurled around with some gay abandon in relation to this film, but I guess it's kind of justified. By the end of the film, you're taken to a strange moral place where who the real monster is becomes a thing of conjecture, and Catherine becomes an object of pity rather than revulsion. I guess that much is quite clever, but it's let down by some of the supporting performances – the photographer in particular had me grinding my teeth every second she was on-screen, and the guys shifting the chemical waste at the beginning were laughably poor – as well as the dialogue. Mind you, possibly it was the translation rather than the script itself.

The acting is rudimentary at best, and the gore effects are not so much primitive as primordial, but it's certainly an entertaining romp. If, like me, you like 70s/80s Euro-sleaze, you'll definitely enjoy this film. There's enough blood and boobs for all to enjoy, and nudity done the way only the continental Europeans can. Now, while none of these women are Isabel Adjani (sigh), I'm certainly not one to be turning up my nose at fine imported booty.

Can I tell you that the Redemption version (distributed in the States by Image) has this weirdo intro that's full of the usual Redemption thing (fetishised strange sex with loads of blood), but has absolutely no relevance to the film whatsoever? Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Those wonderful people at Redemption have a full and complete understanding of boobs. No, really, I had to brush aside a tear it was so beautiful.
It looks the way a decent low budget film should look on DVD, given a reasonable go. No real problems with artefacts or grain (one scene with a bit of grain towards the end of the film doesn't ruin it for me). The picture's not the sharpest, but is still pretty good. The colours are pretty solid, though – I've come to rely on Image to present me with a good looking transfer. The fact that it's not 16x9 is kind of odd, to my mind. They've obviously spent a lot of time and care in making the film look its best, you'd think they would have enhanced it, too.
Fine – crisp and clear. Yep, them death screams are practically visual! I've said before, I could make a more exhaustive statement if I spoke French, but it sounds more than passable to me.
Extra Features
Not too much in this department – although that intro was pretty special. You get the basics: theatrical trailer, Director's filmography, and a photo and poster gallery. Nothing much there to write home about. I've never seen what's so special or extra about a trailer, when you've just seen the film itself.
The Verdict
Worth a watch. Not great, and certainly a bit slow, but definitely one for fans of the genre, and oddly enough works equally well for either vampire or zombie aficionados. I found it to be by turns both entertaining and amusing (sometimes unintentionally so), which is more than I can say for some other Rollin films I've seen.
Movie Score
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