Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lips of Blood (Jean Rollin, 1975)

You know you got it going on when the model–the one with the childbearing hips currently posing up a storm in nothing but a pair of black, knee-high boots–you're taking photographs of in your chic home studio elicits yawns from the unorganized morass of perverts, junkies, pimps and reprobates scattered haphazardly throughout the audience. Just kidding, no one in their right mind would yawn while looking at Béatrice Harnois pose under any circumstances; it's not physically possible. However, that still doesn't mean the sight of the face-meltingly-gorgeous Martine Grimaud snapping pics while crouching in a skimpy orange robe with brown trim didn't manage to trump Béatrice's nakedness at every turn. Even though I'm not a pervert, a junkie, a pimp or even a reprobate, I know alluring when I see it, and Martine Grimaud is probably the most alluring actress I've seen in weeks. Yes, I'm well aware that "weeks" doesn't sound like an impressive amount/chunk of time. But you have got to remember, I watch at least two(!) films a week. Meaning, I'm drawing from a pretty deep pool of alluring actresses. By the way, if you have seen Jean Rollin's Lips of Blood (Lèvres de Sang), and you have a basic understanding of how my mind works, then you won't be surprised at all that I started off my review by going on a mini-tangent about the scene where Martine Grimaud, who, as we have already established, is alluring as all get out, takes pictures of a sort of nude Béatrice Harnois; it makes perfect sense from my perspective. If, for some strange reason, you haven't seen this film, and are not aware of my particular mind-set, I totally understand your bewilderment.

You could view my preoccupation with Martine Grimaud as an indictment against the rest of the film. In other words, the rest of the film failed to peak your interest, so when it came time to type words about it, you couldn't help but play the Martine Grimaud card. Wait, you have a Martine Grimaud card? Yep. You get it by watching by watching Lips of Blood. Wow.


I don't know if you noticed, but my alter ego couldn't even seem to stay focused. Which is ironic. I know, I know, what I'm about to say probably won't seem all that ironic. But hear me out, I think I'm onto something. Are you ready? Okay, here it goes. A sort of suave individual named Frédéric (Jean-Loup Philippe)–what am I saying? he's very suave... stay focused!–is schmoozing like a purpose-driven mongoose at a swanky party. And while chatting with two brunettes, who are lounging like it's 1975, Frédéric notices someone or something across the room.


You can tell he's transfixed by whatever he sees, because he is completely ignoring the brunettes. And you wanna who plays one of these so-called "brunettes"? You guessed it, Martine Grimaud. Don't you see the irony in that? Let me break it down for you. I, the person typing these words, is, to put it mildly, obsessed with Martine Grimaud. On the other hand, Frédéric, the film's protagonist, is not. No, what he's interested in is actually integral to the film's plot. In fact, take away the person or thing that draws his attention away from Martine Grimaud, and you have no movie.

Do you think if  Frédéric hadn't seen that person or thing, and kept chatting with Martine Grimaud, the film would have been more entertaining? Oooh, excellent question.

While I would love to answer your question–I'm sorry, your "excellent" question–I think I should mention that the film opens with a scene that has Frédéric's mother (Natalie Perrey) and two burly men transporting what look like corpses to a crypt in a Parisian cemetery. The reason I think I should mention this is to simply point out that Frédéric's mother is up to something. What that is exactly, I'm not yet entirely sure. But it does cause us to look at her with suspicion when we see her at the aforementioned swanky party.


Just as Martine Grimaud (her character has no name, so let's just call her by her real name, shall we?) was in the middle of saying something profound, Frédéric loses focus. I know, how does one lose focus when you're staring directly into the large, saucer-like eyes attached to Martine Grimaud's luminous face? I don't know, but he totally does. Draped in a diaphanous teal gown, Martine Grimaud is in the middle of uttering of a sentence that begins: "Scents are like memories." When all of a sudden, Frédéric wanders off to stare at a perfume advertisement. Yeah, you heard right, a perfume ad; the party, its turns out, is being thrown to celebrate the launch of a new fragrance.


I don't get it. Is this movie about vampires or perfume? Patience, my friend. Frédéric isn't interested in perfume, what has him so transfixed is the image the perfume ad uses. A black and white photo of what look like ruins, Frédéric stares at the picture with the intensity of–you guessed it–a thousand suns.

If you doubt the validity of that previous statement, you won't when I inform that Frédéric shuts down the flirtatious advances of Anita Berglund, a.k.a. the other brunette. I think I may muttered the word, "denied!" as Frédéric snubbed the attractive, but not as attractive as Martine Grimaud, brunette.

As he looked longingly at the photo, we're treated to a flashback sequence that completely justifies his yearn-laden gaze. You wanna guess where this flashback takes us? That's right, to the very ruins from the perfume ad. In the flashback, we see a little boy, who I think is supposed to be Frédéric, wandering the ruins after dark. As he's wandering, he spots Jennifer (Annie Belle), a mysterious young woman with short hair dressed head to toe in white standing next to a giant rusty gate. Gesturing to him to come closer, Frédéric enters the ruins of a medieval castle. So, what the film is saying is, Frédéric grew up near the ruins? Not necessarily. You see, he can't remember ever being there. Yet, the photo has somehow triggered all these memories that pertain to this grey, wind swept place.

To add insult to injury, Frédéric spurns Anita Berglund a second time for good measure. It makes you wonder what an attractive brunette has to do to get noticed around here. I mean, losing out to some old ruins is not going to help her self-esteem one bit. But then again, people in the mid-1970s didn't have self-esteem (my sources tell me that "self-esteem" was invented in the early 1990s), so, I'm sure she'll be fine.


As expected, Frédéric begins to grill her mother about the ruins. Despite her coyness, Frédéric seems more determined than ever to visit the ruins depicted in the perfume ad. It's almost as if the ruins are calling out to him.

The first step in finding out where the ruins are is to ask the photographer who took the picture. And, of course, you know who took the photo, right? You got it, baby! Martine Motherfuckin' Grimaud. Maybe if Frédéric hadn't been so rude to her at the party she might have stuck around to tell him. Either way, Frédéric manages to track her down at her photography studio. Crouching in a super-short orange robe with brown trim (in case you didn't know, everything in the 1970s had brown trim), Martine Grimaud is taking erotic pictures of Béatrice Harnois.

What's that? You're saying I've already described this scene? Well, I'm describing it again. I'd like to see you try to stop me. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, Martine Grimaud is taking pictures of Béatrice Harnois (who is sporting an anachronistic shaved pussy) while crouching.

When Frédéric asks Martine Grimaud where the photo was taken, she acts all coy and junk. Why does everyone want to keep Frédéric away from these ruins. I don't know about you, but I'm dying to know what's going on there. And I must say, Jean Rollin is doing an excellent job at building up the mystique of these so-called "ruins." After some mild begging and pleading, Frédéric, who is wearing a blue army sweater (I used to have one just like it, only mine was black - well, duh), manages to convince Martine Grimaud to spill the beans.


As a parting gift, Martine Grimaud shows Frédéric what her slinky body looks like when it's walking across a room without her trademark super-short orange robe with brown trim. Make sure to keep an eye on her belly chain, it will dazzle and amaze. That is, of course, if you're into slinky brunettes with wide expressive eyes who wear belly chains and are coy about the location of mysterious ruins.


Remember the young woman with short hair from the flashback? Yeah, the one played by Annie Belle (House on the Edge of the Park). Well, later that night, she starts appearing to Frédéric. As expected, Frédéric follows her. Leading him to a crypt, the very same crypt from the film's opening scene, Annie Belle somehow manages to get Frédéric to free four female vampires from their casket-based prisons.

Wearing silky transparent robes, the four female vampires, especially the blonde twins (Catherine Castel and Marie-Pierre Castel), help Frédéric get by all the road blocks her mother puts in his way; including a shrink (Paul Bisciglia), an assassin, and woman pretending to be Annie Belle (Sylvia Bourdon). Wait, why doesn't Frédéric's mother want him to go to the ruins? It's complicated. But let's just say, she has her reasons.

Surprisingly romantic, Lips of Blood is probably the perfect movie for all those who genuinely believe there's something or someone waiting for us come to along to claim them. Whether it be a place, a memory, an object, or even an alluring brunette, it doesn't matter. Just the mere fact that something we cherish might be out there gives a lot people hope. And this film captures that sense of hopefulness in a way that is both haunting and lyrical. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to look for more Martine Grimaud movies to watch.


  1. Jean Rollin really knows how to push my buttons. Slow, deep, and hard.

  2. I've been trying to claim an alluring brunette for myself for years. Apparently, Martine Grimaud went into the French porn industry not long after making this movie and was a regular for a while. I find the scene in her studio to be rather funny. A close second is the vampiric Castel twins dressed as nurses.

  3. @ido: I hope you're enjoying Jean Rollin Week. :)

    @Nine-Fingered Menace: I've got a handful of Martine Grimaud's erotic flicks (French porn) on my radar at the moment. Now I'm just wondering which are the ones worth seeking out.

  4. Let me know all you find out about them. I'm interested in '70s French erotica; though it's definitely a niche market.

  5. I remember seeing this on the VSOM (Video search of miami) ads in psychotronic. I am pretty ambivalent when it comes to Rollin and have a bunch of titles on my que that I can't bring myself to watch.

  6. @Nine-Fingered Menace: There's one Martine Grimaud film called "Exquisite Pleasure" that she stars in alongside Brigitte Lahaie that I have my eye on. The great thing about this film is that it looks like Martine is wearing the same shoes she wears in the orange robe with brown trim scene from Lips of Blood.

    Not to be crude, but I'm looking forward to seeing Martine fornicate onscreen. ;)

    @ido: This pleases me greatly. :D

    @Crankenstein: I used to be ambivalent, but after watching a few in quick succession, I find that I am less so.

  7. @yum-yum: I think it was because Rollin was stuck making porn films for a living. When he really wanted to be making romantic arty vampire films. So sick of the routine and loveless slapping of skin upon skin, he invested every desperate ounce of romantic desire in his world-weary psyche in the pursuit of this hazy dream. This theme of romantic hopefulness in the face of living death and eternal damnation amidst a sublime dream atmosphere is clearly demonstrated in "Shiver of the Vampires," "Requiem for a Vampire," and "Lips of Blood."