Grapes Of Death

Grapes Of Death (1978)
Synapse Films
Cast: Marie-Georges Pascal, Patricia Cartier
Extras: Theatrical Trailers, Director Biography & Filmography, Still Gallery, Interview

During the finale of ’The Grapes of Death’, one of the characters states, ’This is too damn crazy!’. And how, brother. French director Jean Rollin, best known for his artsy female vampire films, here takes a shot at making a zombie film, and the results are damn crazy indeed. A young woman (Marie-Georges Pascal) traveling by train through the French wine country is attacked by a strange man, causing her to flee from her rail car. Finding herself lost and alone, she seeks help in a nearby village, only to find that most of the inhabitants are homicidal zombies. The ’normal’ survivors that she finds either shun her help or have a secret agenda of their own. Thus, the woman is forced to fend for herself, attempting to reach the winery where her fiancé awaits. Little does she know that the vineyards may be the source of the disaster which is taking place all around her.

While some may consider George Romero’s zombie films slowly-paced, they’ve got nothing on ’The Grapes of Death’ (AKA ’Les Raisins De La Morte’). The film contains an incredible amount of padding and there are far too many scenes of people wandering through fields. To Rollin’s credit, the dream-like quality of the film works at times, and these scenes are reminiscent of the ’Blind Dead’ films. However, when the zombies attack, the action is strangely emotionless, leaving the viewer feeling detached from the proceedings. In addition, the scenes involving the zombie attacks are few and far between here. Fans of EuroHorror and especially Italian zombie films, may want to check this one out, to take in the French approach to the living dead. However, those who typically find European horror films to be to slow, will consider ’The Grapes of Death’ to be coma-inducing.

Synapse films plucks ’The Grapes of Death’ from obscurity and brings it to DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and is enhanced for 16×9 TVs. Given the age of this film, this transfer, which was taken directly from the original 35mm camera negatives, looks quite good. The image is very clear and sharp, showing few signs of distortion or artifacting. There are numerous noticeable defects from the source print here, but they are mainly small scratches and spots. There is a fine sheen of grain on the image, but it doesn’t detract from viewing. The colors look quite good, as the occasional splash of red or blue contrast well with the green and gray countryside. At times, the images gets a bit soft, or flickers, but this doesn’t happen often. The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack supplies clear dialogue and sound effects, free from distortion or hissing. The yellow English subtitles are clear and easy to read.

The DVD contains two theatrical trailers for ’The Grapes of Death’. One is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the other is full-frame. There is a 33-minute in-depth interview with director Jean Rollin here, in which he discusses his life, films, and career. This talk is interspersed with comment from Rollin regular, actress Brigitte Lahaie. Finally, the disc contains a still gallery and a biography & filmography for Rollin.