Director: Claude Mulot
Mondo Macabro

Hyped as "The First Sex-Horror Film Ever Made!" when released theatrically in the U.S., THE BLOOD ROSE was made during a transition period in European horror, when ample doses of sex, nudity and violence where now becoming the norm. Twenty-something director Claude Mulot was obviously enthusiastic about the genre, using the now-chestnut premise of Georges Franju's EYES WITHOUT A FACE (as well as other "mad surgeon" entries of the 1960s), but throwing in his own unique ingredients to make this film standout on its own. Once a staple of late-night TV (New York's Channel 9 played it on "Fright Night" on several occasions, albeit heavily censored), THE BLOOD ROSE now gets a proper U.S. DVD release, and its the perfect addition to Mondo Macabro's already impressive catalog of bizarre cinema from around the world.

Wealthy, distinguished, graying painter Frederic (Philippe Lemaire, SPIRITS OF THE DEAD) drops the attentions of his lover Moira (Elizabeth Teissier) for the beautiful Anne (Anny Duperey) and the two soon wed. During a fancy costume party at Frederic's chateau, Moira's would-be catfight with Anne has her accidentally falling into a roaring outdoor bonfire, becoming disfigured and crippled for life. When Frederic isn't painting, messing around with deadly plants at the clinic he's part owner of, or romancing the blonde chambermaid, he's ushering in beautiful women to his baroque residence. It seems that one of his employees, Professor Romer (Howard Vernon), is a discredited but brilliant surgeon who may be the only one who can restore his wife's former beauty, but he'll have to murder to do so.

Euro horror buffs that have never seen THE BLOOD ROSE will be in for a pleasant surprise, as it absolutely has all the right ingredients. Director Mulot delivers the goods without being pretentious or taking things too seriously, yet he mounts a sometimes arty, sometimes campy, sometimes gothic, sometimes erotic cinematic affair that's never boring and moves from one eccentric scene to the next with some particularly skillful cinematography and impressive splashes of color. The massive, aged chateau often gives the film the feel of a period piece, despite it being set in the time in which it was made, and a dream sequence where a slain female character who is buried in the courtyard, only to rise from the dead, provides some highly effective imagery.

Not to give away too much, but the character of Anne turns cruel and vindictive, rather than sympathetic (ala Edith Scob in EYES WITHOUT A FACE), and the camera (with the aid of special lenses) often gives us glances of her distorted view of the world. The make-up job on her horribly disfigured face is also quite startling when we do get a peek at it. One of the oddest things about THE BLOOD ROSE is the inclusion of two mute servant dwarves (played by Roberto and Johnny Cacao) garbed in animal skin furs. Their assaulting of a shapely imprisoned young lady leads to one of the film’s many shots of naked female breasts and buttocks. Dr. Orlof himself, Howard Vernon, is ingeniously cast as Romer, decked in black attire and dark sunglasses. The character is rather subdued and solemn for a change, and Vernon pulls this off well, and belongs in such a film as much as Peter Cushing belongs in a Hammer Horror. Neither a full-fledged surgical horror film in the classic sense, nor a sex film in the softcore sense, THE BLOOD ROSE is still quirky, exemplary European horror, and required viewing at that.

Shown here in its fully uncut 94-minute European running time, Mondo Macabro has released THE BLOOD ROSE with an excellent transfer. Presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, colors are very bold and really stand out in this presentation, while the French transfer source is in immaculate condition. Aside from some grain here and there, the image detail is very good and the overall picture is top notch. Two mono audio tracks accompany the film; the French language track and the English-dubbed track. Both get the job done, and the English track even contains Howard Vernon’s real voice. Optional English subtitles are also provided.

Extras on the disc include an informative video interview (running around 23 minutes) with Didier Philippe-Gerard, collaborator and friend to director Mulot (who died in a tragic swimming accident in 1986). He talks about meeting and working with Mulot, how THE BLOOD ROSE came together, and all other aspects of his too-short career (which included some hardcore sex films). Other extras include a well-written essay by Pete Tombs, a still and photo gallery, and some bios on the main participants. (George R. Reis)