Night of the Hunted (1980)

Conversely, I think this would be a poor introduction to Jean Rollin, which it nearly was for me… I have dim memories of SBS showing a Rollin film an awfully long time ago—probably late 90s—and I’m now fairly certain this was it. At that time I must’ve knew Rollin’s name at least cos I dimly remember thinking I should watch it… for whatever reason, though, I couldn’t get into it then—just lucky, perhaps, that it made so little impression on me that it wasn’t enough to put me off Rollin in future—and frankly I had trouble getting into it again tonight. Apparently it began with a proposal to make yet another hardcore film, but Rollin (understandably sick of the hardcore ghetto he was still largely stuck in) suggested the producer should let him make a real film (albeit one that would have a certain quantity of sex; the DVD contains two deleted hardcore scenes, though not the ones the producer later added) on a porno budget instead. The end result was even less obviously “Rollin” than Grapes of Death; the usual resonances are harder to find and setting the film mostly in a large tower block deprives us of Rollin’s usual gift for locations (at least until the very end, whose staging on a railway viaduct is certainly kind of startling). But the tower is, to be sure, right for the story; it’s an incarceration point for a group of people affected by a radiation leak that’s somehow made them literally lose their minds, and they’re essentially being kept there to prevent panic breaking out (and to be quietly disposed of). Actually not a bad plot or anything (even if the science perplexes me a bit; can radiation exposure actually affect memory like that?), there’s a certain amount of 70s paranoid thriller vibe behind this one. I don’t know, though, something just doesn’t feel right about the execution and I don’t know what it is… The shoot was not entirely happy (largely thanks to the death before production of a key performer) and Rollin later remembered it as one of his worst films. Which is probably overstating it a bit, but Night of the Hunted certainly didn’t impress me like his other films have. Still, I know it has its defenders (q.v.) and maybe a second viewing later might click better.

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