Release Date(s)1978 (April 23, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
The French love them their wine something funky. Seriously man – based on this movie alone: they just go crazy for the stuff. And when, come to find out, a batch of grapes gets poisoned by some new cutting-edge insecticides, those wacky French literally get crazy from their wine. So crazy in fact, that their brains melt and they turn into flesh hungry, pus-filled, zombie-type killers. And because this film comes from the lens of Jean Rollin, it’s no surprise that a young and beautiful woman gets sucked into the whole mess. When a train ride from Paris to her home town in the middle of the countryside gets shut down, she has to run from township to township fighting the wine-drunk undead. Can she make it back home to her loving boyfriend? Will the two construction workers (turned zombie hunters) protect her? Isn’t it a shame you weren’t in the French porn industry when the unbelievably hot Brigitte Lahaie was going full-tilt boogey? All these questions and only a few more, will get answered in the newly remastered for Blu-ray The Grapes of Death makes its way into your home theater.
Jean Rollin (who is, in my humble opinion, the best French filmmaker who ever used porn actresses, minimal dialogue and improv filmmaking techniques) makes what I also say is his very best film with Grapes. As gross as the film can get, this is still a really fun ride. Remember… this is no Italian zombie flick – so don’t get me wrong and think I’m saying this is up there with the great international zombie films. But for Rollin, this is a truly well-formed flick with lots of nice touches; including one of the best severed heads ever (and I mean ever) to be created for film. If you like horror films, I have no problem recommending you give the flick a spin.
Originally released on DVD by Synapse back in 2002, Grapes of Death was nothing to sneeze at, considering the impeccable performance of Synapse. But this Blu-ray from Kino/Redemption... man. It’s purdy. Encoded 1080p with a 1.66.1 widescreen aspect ratio, you can tell this was pulled from the original 35mm negative. It’s light, clean and free of any overly digital clean-up. Imagine the original DVD (which was worked in much the same way) made just a few years later, and a higher resolution. Color and film texture are all spot-on and the biggest leap in quality comes in the quality of the blacks. It’s a greatly satisfying transfer. Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track featuring the original French. With optional English subtitles. The sound is only just good – not much improved over what we got on DVD – but it serves the film fine.
I was slightly disappointed that Kino/Redemption didn’t try and get some of the extras featured on the Synapse disc, because there was some choice stuff there. So if you’re a completist, you’ll want to keep your original DVD instead of simply upgrading. But what is here is fine too. We get a nice, long interview with Jean Rollin, Patrick Lambert and Frederick Durand, which was conducted in 2007. It’s archival at best, and looks at Rollin’s career as a whole – but having it here, and weighed against everything spanning all the collected works on Blu-ray, it’s a fine thing to have and to hold. There’s also your standard introduction to the film by Rollin, a trailer for this and other films in the Rollin collection and a new edition of the Tim Lucas liner notes series focused on Grapes of Death and Night of the Hunted.
- Todd Doogan