Night of the Hunted (1980) – By Duane L. Martin

A man is driving along the road, when suddenly he spots a very beautiful, scantily clad girl wandering out in the middle of nowhere alone. She’s disoriented and doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. Not only that, but she doesn’t know who she is or where she came from. He picks her up and takes her back to his place and takes care of her, which includes making love to her. Her memory doesn’t work well, and when he leaves for work, he leaves his number with her so she can call him if she needs anything. Once he’s gone however, a doctor and his assistant show up to take her back to the institution she escaped from.

See, this girl, Elysabeth (Brigitte Lahaie) escaped from a place where a lot of people are being held. The doctors are trying to cure them, and to cover up what really happened to them. It seems that there was a leak at a nuclear power plant, and everyone who passed by there before the leak was contained was exposed. This caused them to lose their memory, and to eventually succumb to massive anxiety, loss of moral control and ultimately, they turn into living vegetables, able to walk around, but unaware of their surroundings. Elysabeth hasn’t reached that point yet, but even though she’s lost her memory, when people start getting murdered in the institution, she knows she has to try to escape. She calls the guy whose number is on the note she’s carrying to see if he can help her and her friend escape, but when he comes to her aid, he may be in just as much danger as they are. Someone in power doesn’t want the secret of the leak at the power plant exposed, and the doctor and his assistant, along with their security team, will do whatever they have to to make sure it stays a secret.

The back of the case on this film says that Rollin was given absolute freedom with this film to do whatever, within the budgetary constraints, but he was forced to rush through it with absurd time constraints, leading to it being a compromised film. While I can see certain areas where the film could have been clearer about some things, I actually think this was one of Rollin’s best films in many way. I’m not a Rollin fan at all, so for me to say that this film was pretty decent, that’s saying something.

Wo what was decent about it? Well for one thing, it was mysterious. As you wind your way through the film, there’s this sense of mystery about what’s going on, but then as the film progresses, you find out more and more what the real story is. There’s something so vague about it all, that it sort of draws you in and makes you want to keep watching to see how things play out.

The look of the film is pretty typical for a film from 1980, and the acting is as well. If you’ve seen any films from 1980, and particularly French films, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this film looks like and how the performances are. There’s something very cold and industrial about the way films from this era looked and felt. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of vibrancy in the color or what it is, but you see this sort of a "cold, unfeeling world" look in a lot of the films from the 70’s and early 80’s.

Brigitte Lahaie is actually quite a good actress. It was nice seeing her in this film after having just seen her in the other Rollin film I reviewed this month, Grapes of Death. She had a smaller part in that film, but in this one, she’s the star and the main focus of the story. I would imagine that whle delivering the lines as you play an amnesiac would be fairly easy. The difficult part is giving people that impression physically through your facial expressions and your physical performance, which is something she pulled off exceedingly well in this film. To be honest, I think Rollin should have had her star in Grapes of Death as well, as I think she’d have done a better job in the lead role.

There are aspects of this film that seem to come out of nowhere though, that don’t actually involve the main characters, like when one of the patients succumbs to the anxiety and starts killing people randomly. The doctors knew that would eventually happen to them, so when they got close to that point, why didn’t they isolate the ones who were showing signs of that? There are little things here and there like that that don’t make sense, but all in all, it’s really quite a good suspense thriller. I do have to say, I thought the ending was pretty stupid and unrealistic. I won’t spoil it here, but it really is pretty lame. Other than that though, the film is actually pretty decent, and I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Rollin film, but I can actually recommend this one. Between this one and Grapes of Death, it’s actually been a good month for Rollin films, so give ’em both a look. They’re worth checking out.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.