La morte vivante (1982)

Director: Jean Rollin

I’m referring to this film by its original French title because, technically, The Living Dead Girl is actually a separate film… The latest in an ongoing series of behind-the-scenes fiascos on a Jean Rollin film was the imposition, for some reason, of a second director, Gregory Heller, to make a second version for American distribution, whereby Rollin would do a scene with his actors in French then Heller would reshoot the same scene en anglais. That way they could avoid dubbing it for American release. Old-fashioned but not inherently bad idea, hampered only by the fact that Heller and Rollin held each other in massive mutual contempt, and only one of the actors was a native Anglophone while the rest had varying degrees of trouble. ‘Twould appear the Heller version may never have actually been released for some reason…

Anyway, Rollin’s film is great. He was unhappy at having to make another gore film; having predated the gore trend with Grapes of Death, now he was stuck having to follow it. However, LMV was perhaps more successful than Grapes was at being a “Rollin film”; the dictates of the commercial impulse didn’t swamp his own tendencies to do things differently. Much as Rollin’s vampires are distinctly non-traditional, so Rollin’s zombie in this film is pretty much unique; revived by a chemical waste leak, she’s astoundingly well-preserved after being dead two years and more interested in blood like a vampire than a conventional post-Romero ghoul. Again he’s blessed by his knack for interesting locations and his female leads (particularly Francoise Blanchard in the title role), but the gore effects are notable, in that their creator, Benoit Lestang, was still in high school when he made them (from here he went to a considerable career in mainstream French cinema, which I suspect was rare for Rollin associates). And yeah, they look kind of like the beginner’s work that they are, but there’s a point made in one of the DVD interviews that the “homemade” quality of the gore actually suits the small “homemade” quality of a Rollin film (and I will confess some of them actually did make me go “oh, FUCK!” when I saw them). On the whole, actually a pretty fair introduction to Rollin’s oeuvre, atypically bloody to be sure but reasonably accessible while still maintaining his own peculiar feel. Liked this.

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