The Grapes of Death

Production Year: 1978
Release Date: 04/23/2013
Studio: Kino-Lorber/Redemption
Collection Number: 1260

There's something in the water..Er..Wine, in this 1978 zombie flick about pesticide-infected wine that's turning all of France into rotting psychopaths.

Elizabeth (Marie-George Pascal) is traveling by train when she's attacked by a strange man with an even stranger skin condition.  Shaken and very scared she flees the train into the French countryside in hopes of finding help, what she finds are more of these strange tormented people who are slowly losing their minds.  Soon it seems that everyone in these small nearby villages are inflicted with the same problems.

To call myself knowledgeable of the work of Jean Rollin would be a flat out lie.  While I know of the director, I'm only mildly experienced in the man's work.  Rollin is a known auteur in the erotic vampire-romp category but he did manage to create a handful of more straightforward horror films which leads us directly to this 1978 film.

The Grapes of Death certainly has that dreamlike quality that a lot of his films are known for.  This rural area of the country is plagued with old villages and crumbling ruins, it's already the kind of place you don't want to be when the sun goes down.  Rollin certainly plays on that, when the film injects these infected people into the mix it certainly seems like Elizabeth is doomed.  There's also a paranoia evident throughout the film as even some of the more "normal" people she meets on her journey do not seem all that sane.  Every actor does their part portraying their roles as the tormented dead; hinging in some purgatory, still alive while their bodies decay.  While I will not spoil Brigitte Lahaie's role in this film I will say that she is great, most definitely one of the highlights in this movie.

The zombies in this one are in their own weird league, not exactly Romero-esque nor are they walking flowerpots like their Italian brethren.  They are a little more mysterious early on, showing a few signs of deterioration and being able to act "normal."  They will however eventually crack and if you find yourself in a village surrounded by them consider yourself screwed.  The SFX is pretty good and though there's not a lot of onscreen gore there is a great decapitation scene.

Kino-Lorber gives Grapes nice high definition transfer.  While the film shows it's age it's really to be expected.  The print isn't pristine but on the plus side it certainly has been untouched and is free of any signs of noise reduction.  There's an accompanying French 2.0 audio track that has a few of the same age issues, only in the form of a consistent "hiss," though none of these affect the film in a negative way, as mentioned they are to be expected with a film such as this.  Supplements-wise fans get a nice introduction by Rollin, an almost hour long interview with the director, a theatrical trailer for the film (along with five other Rollin trailers), and last but not least a nice booklet written by author Tim Lucas.

The Grapes of Death is at times slow moving, but it's a very effective horror movie.  The casual filmgoer might be thrown off a bit by the pace but for fans of European horror this is one not to be missed.


  1. It was hard for me not to compare it to Manchester Morgue, because of the early NOTLD influnece, I have to read your review of that MM gives me narcolepsy

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