Lips of Blood (1975) – By Cary Conley

After the failure of The Iron Rose, Jean Rollin experimented with several other genres including crime dramas as well as soft core pornography. But he eventually came back to the genre that had garnered him some modicum of attention in the first place: the vampire film. This time out, instead of a strictly Gothic story, Rollin set Lips of Blood firmly in the present time, that being the early 1970’s. Co-written by the film’s male star, Jean-Loup Philippe, Rollin felt this was by far his best script, and I would tend to agree with him.

A young man, Frederic, (Philippe, playing a 28-year-old when in reality he was 39!) sees a poster with an ancient ruin by the sea that brings back a flood of memories from his childhood. When Frederic was just eight years old, his father died tragically. Young Frederic was so traumatized by his father’s death that he lost his memory. For the last 20 years, he has been haunted by dreams and flashes of odd visions. Now, seeing the poster brings memories of a beautiful and mysterious young woman who once saved him from being lost in the ruins. Frederic cannot ignore these newly discovered memories and sets out to find the young woman and settle the mystery once and for all. Unfortunately for him, the young woman is, of course, a vampire. She was the one who killed his father. Unable to bring herself to sever the head of the vampire, Frederic’s mother sealed the girl in her tomb and moved she and her son far away from the ruins and the terrible memories of the past.

While the film is set in 1970’s France (other Rollin films, such as The Nude Vampire and The Iron Rose, are also set in contemporary times, but almost wholly located in castles and graveyards so as to give the viewer a sense that the film is a period piece), Rollin doesn’t wholly forsake his Gothic trappings as the audience is treated to plenty of nubile and nude young vampire women wandering the castle grounds in their long, flowing gauze wrappings. The climax of the film also occurs in this setting, along with the ubiquitous beach that appears in each and every Rollin film. Also true to form, Rollin uses set decoration full of pop-art and early 1970’s psychedelia to create several very odd settings.

With The Iron Rose, Rollin had perhaps moved away from the eroticism and frequent nudity contained within his films, but his return to the vampire genre also marked a whole-hearted return to the eroticism he was known for. Lips of Blood contains plenty of full frontal nudity, both of the male and female variety, and plenty of voluptuous vampiric vixens parading around. One scene in particular in which a female model being photographed masturbates for the camera is the most explicit scene–though still firmly in soft core territory– Rollin had lensed (at least for his horror films) up to this time.

As with most of Rollin’s horror films, much of the output merely borders on the horrific, and this is also accurate for Lips of Blood. It is true there are vampires and bats and fangs and bloody stakes, but the core of the story is of a young boy who is searching for his true love. And when he finds her, he sets in motion a plan to ensure they stay together forever–no matter what happens. This plan creates one of the truly unique and memorable set pieces in Rollin’s oeuvre, that of the two nude lovers climbing into a coffin and floating together out to sea, presumably to land on an island where they will be left alone except for the occasional lost sailor who will satisfy their hunger.

Lips of Blood may be one of the more accessible Rollin films for mass consumption in terms of story and plotting. Upon its release, Lips of Blood failed to make much of a dent at the box office, primarily because hard core pornography had recently been legalized in France, and it was all the rage. In order to recoup some of his money, Rollin re-cut the film and added hard core sex scenes, helping to create that unique European hybrid of horror and porn known so well by fans of Jess Franco and Joe D’Amato. The hard core version was retitled Suck Me, Vampire for the U.S. market. The film is presented here without the pornography the way Rollin intended it to be.

Lips of Blood has just been released in a newly mastered, HD version from the original film negatives. Included is a wealth of extras such as an introduction by Rollin himself along with an interview with Natalie Perrey, Rollin’s right-hand woman and production assistant. The film is offered in French with optional English subtitles. The same very nice 20-page booklet, found in all five Rollin releases and authored by the original Video Watchdog, Tim Lucas, is included.

The film was released in late January and is readily available at many retail outlets and online stores on DVD and Blu-Ray as well as on video-on-demand at Amazon.com.