aka Les lèvres rouges
Director: Harry Kümel
Cast: Delphine Seyrig, John Karlen, Danielle Ouimet, Andrea Rau
Blue Underground / All Region / Unrated / 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / DTS-HD Mono in English or French / Optional Subtitles: English SDH, French, Espanol; English for French Version / 100 minutes / PURCHASE FROM TLACULT
Extras: Audio Commentary #1 with Co-Writer/Director Harry Kumel / Audio Commentary #2 with Star John Karlen and Journalist David Del Valle / Locations of Darkness – Interviews with Co-Writer/Director Harry Kumel and Co-Writer/Co-Producer Pierre Drouot / Playing the Victim – Interview with Star Danielle Ouimet / Daughter of Darkness – Interview with Star Andrea Rau / Theatrical Trailer / Radio Spots / THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE (1972, 101 Mins.)
Perennial exploitation film distributor Blue Underground is doing something fantastic; releasing the best of their impressive library on high definition blu-ray. I know that there are those that scoff at making those old movies look any better than they did in the beloved grindhouses of old, but for anyone that has seen what a good HD transfer can do for some of these flicks, it is sure to change some minds. The process is so enriching that it can turn a great movie into a masterpiece. So far BU has hit all of their high-def re-issues out of the park from their stalwart classic Maniac to their newest, Harry Kümel’s intense adult vampire thriller Daughters of Darkness.
Newlywed couple, Stefan and Valerie, are on their way to visit his family when they stop at a seaside luxury hotel for the night during the “off season”. They are the only ones there until the elegant Countess Bathory (pronounced “Batory” apparently) and her sexy assistant Ilona check in. The new couple catch the eye of the Countess, especially the naive Valerie, and at that point she begins manipulating them with the help of Ilona. Using her persuasive charm and the sexual wiles of her loyal helper, she tries to drive a wedge between the husband and wife so that she can have Valerie all to herself. Through a wave of unexpected violence and steamy sex, the smoldering vampiress will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
Channeling the artistic soul of Jean Rollin, writer/director Harry Kümel in collaboration with director of photography Eduard Van Der Enden have created something very special. This stylish adult vampire story is rich in color, poetry and sex; so much that it saturates its soul and the soul of the viewer. The colors throughout are almost characters themselves as the chilling blues fill the sky giving us the feeling of death and the radiant reds are filled with engorged blood. Transitions between scenes are even fades to red instead of black, a very effective touch. The original French title is Les lèvres rouges which literally translates to “Red Lips”, a more appropriate title in my opinion. I mentioned Jean Rollin a little earlier, that’s because of the use of the ocean and crashing waves to create tone in addition to the color palette.
You feel all of the confusion felt by Stefan and Valerie that is caused by Bathory as the new lovers are torn apart both emotionally and sexually. The gothic undertones are played completely straight and never become stereotypical and silly. My favorite scene takes place on a hill ocean-side, with the silhouette of the Countess in front of the chilling blue sky, engulfing Valerie in her cape. It is a poignant scene that turns the tide, so to speak, in favor of Bathory. Another amazing scene happens to be one of the most sensual love scenes ever committed to celluloid. It is between Stefan and Ilona (who has perfect tits, by the way) as she seduces him at the command of her master. The sexuality is never explicit but the camera work, lighting, color and direction make it arousingly effective.
As I said, some films deserve the high definition treatment. Films like Salon Kitty (also from Blue Underground) and Daughters of Darkness that have such saturated colors and blacks really pop when they have the right transfers. BU has given this their magic treatment and produced a beautiful picture that dwarfs even their own DVD which featured the best resolution until now. Lots of grain, very little damage and oodles of detail make this gorgeous movie look exactly as it should; near flawless. The high-def English and French mono tracks sound perfect as well. The single disk features all of the extras included on the two-disk DVD from Blue Underground including the non-HD version of Vicente Aranda’s The Blood Spattered Bride which makes a nice little companion piece for Daughters.