Saturday, 1 September 2007

Lips of Blood (1975)

A man is troubled by returning memories of his childhood, and in particular by memories of a strange young girl. Quite by chance he comes cross a photograph of a ruined chateau, which triggers further memories. His mother tries to persuade him that the girl never existed. Visions of the girl keep recurring, however, and lead him to a graveyard, and to a crypt. Knocking over a cross that stands guard at the entrance he opens a coffin, from which two young women emerge. They are vampires, which of course is only to be expected if you start following beautiful young women into graveyards at night. He finds that vampires have played a significant part in his past, and it is his memories of the vampires that had been erased from his memory. Jean Rollin’s 1975 film Lips of Blood (Lèvres de sang) combines eroticism, horror and evocations of childhood and loss. It’s also a movie that, like so many vampire movies, addresses issues of female sexuality and the anxieties that female sexuality provoke. The hero is eventually offered a choice, and in effect it is a choice between his father and the authority he embodies and the woman and the rebellion that she represents. Vampirism as a metaphor for the threat that female sexuality represents to tradition, order and authority is here made very explicit (another vampire movie that illustrates this same point is the underrated 1967 Hammer film Dracula, Prince of Darkness, especially in a particularly chilling staking sequence).

As is usual with Jean Rollin, the movie features some effective gothic imagery, although it’s not as impressive visually as earlier films such as Requiem for a Vampire and Shiver of the Vampire. Lips of Blood is, however, an intriguing movie about memory and about the pains and joys of growing up. Unfortunately by 1975 audiences expected either a lot more sex, or a lot more gore and violence, in their horror movies and Lips of Blood sank without trace at the box office. The Redemption DVD release doesn’t offer much in the way of extras, but the movie looks superb and it’s a must for fans of 1970s eurohorror.

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