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Iron Rose [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
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SYNOPSIS: A pair of lovers have a tryst in a vacant tomb, but then find themselves unable to escape form the graves and crypts of the massive cemetery. One of cult director Jean Rollin's most unconventional film, THE IRON ROSE vividly depicts the young couple's steady descent into madness.
BONUS FEATURES: Introduction by Jean Rollin (5 min), 2 French Theatrical Trailers, 2 English Theatrical Trailers, Trailers for Fascination, Lips of Blood, Shiver of the Vampires & The Nude Vampire. Interview with Natalie Perrey (9 min), Interview with Francoise Pascal (15 min) and more!
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The blu-ray doesn't appear to be remastered and has many instances of dust, but I didn't notice this once the film got well under way. There are several special features, including a brief interview with Jean Rollin, a 22 minute interview in HD with the lead actress, Francois Pascal, and a 7 minute interview with the assistant and actress Natalie Perrey. There is also a 20 page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of video watchdog.
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There's more to THE IRON ROSE than that, but not much more in terms of plot. It literally is a night in the cemetery. Director, Rollin does an admirable job of infusing the surroundings with a somber dread as we share what feels like a real-time descent into dusk and the overwhelming spell cast by the iron crosses, crumbling statues, and overgrown maze of tombs in which the lovers are trapped. Indeed, to enjoy this film you pretty much have to share Rollin's fascination for the morbid aesthetics of the authentic cemetery in which he filmed.
I'm not a huge Rollin fan but I liked THE IRON ROSE quite a bit. It would be more than fair to say it's not for everyone. It's certainly not "horror" in the conventional sense. Rather, it's an artsy, grim bit of romantic poetry that chooses death over love as its inspiration. Sound pretentious? Well, it is, but it also just kind of worked for me.
This new HD transfer is a great improvement over the previous DVD. The image is more nuanced than before, and gives the film a more natural looking nighttime appearance.
It's a fairly simple story of a young couple who get locked in a cemetary at night, and the rapid disintegration of their relationship and sanity. The girl (neither character is given a name in the film) is affected the most, as she begins to embrace the death and decay surrounding them, to the point of even talking to corpses beneath their feet. In the wrong hands, such scenes might have decended into camp, but Rollin gets a bravura performance out of Francoise Pascal. She takes the girl from kittenish flirt to screaming lunatic in a matter of minutes.
As with most any foreign "art" film, one can look for something beneath the surface if one enjoys that type of celluloid psychoanalysis. The girl, for example, may be taking on her shocking new hobby out of disappointment in her would-be lover (who unfortunately resembles the French love child of Rob Lowe and Eric McCormack). If that sounds far-fetched, consider this exchange early in the film: As the pair settle in for a picnic beside a tombstone, the boy accidentally knocks over an iron cross marker. As he's replacing it, the girl comments "Is doesn't seem very hard." "Hang on, I'll stick it back in," he replies. Hello...paging Dr. Freud!
Even putting aside the search for meaning in a 40 year-old French exploitation film, it's not hard to appreciate the gorgeous cinematography. This was my first time viewing the film, so I can't compare the transfer to any prior release, but the colors are quite vivid. Even the numerous nighttime scenes--often a place where HD transfers falter--are clear enough without seeming articially lit. Shots are composed for maximum beauty, such as the famous beach scene, where the girl imagines covorting nude with the titular iron rose in-hand. Like other auteurs such as Hitchcock or Argento, Jean Rollin seems to believe in the power of what Hitch called "pure cinema." The plot and actors are never as important as what the camera's eye actually sees at any given moment.
As for the Blu-ray, the extras include interviews with Rollin himself, Pascal, and a frequent collaborator of the director. There are great, unedited trailers for this and four additional Rollin films. As mentioned above, the transfer is rich in color and detail. While it's not quite up to today's HD standards, it's perfectly fine for a film of this vintage. There's a handy little booklet written by Tim Lucas which covers all of Jean Rollin's films (for those who have bought other Rollin titles from Redemption, this is the same book that comes with those).
If you've heard about Rollin and wanted to give him a try. . .I'd actually suggest you start with Shiver of the Vampires or his most popular film Fascination. But if you like atmosphere and suggestive horror, The Iron Rose is a good choice as well.
Made in 1973 by the late Jean Rollin, he of many a soft core lesbian vampire flick, here delivers an artful work of atmosphere and dread. Based on a poem by the French poet Tristan Coliere, this simple story follows two young lovers, not even name in the film, who find themselves locked into a cemetery over night. A frightful thought for sure, but it's in how the characters react to their situation and surroundings that make for an interesting and unsettling film. The ending is both tragic and poetic, maybe a little pretentious. The film does drag a little towards the end, and at just over 80 minutes it does feel a little padded.
Still, this is an interesting work, one of the best by Rollin, who had a real flair for art in horror, but was bogged down by his exorbitant interest in naked vampires and sex scenes, though, they too were very well filmed. I saw this first on Turner Classic Movies' TCM Underground, where I first expected this too be an unusual fit for the well respected cable network, I found that this fit in quiet nicely with their classy programming. I'm not fully sure what audience will react best to this unqiue film, but adventures horror fans and European art fans should have common ground with this rare gem.
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