Night of the Hunted (The) AKA La Nuit des traquées (1980)
R0 - Holland - Encore Filmed Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (26th January 2007).
The Film

French director/writer Jean Rollin uses very similar themes in many of his films - his signature, one might say - but vampires, graveyards, countryside, the beach and the gothic mood is almost completely absent from “The Night of the Hunted AKA La Nuit des traquées (1980)”. Instead, Rollin introduces themes such as isolation, imprisonment and coldness in an almost futuristic urban environment. Still, what is a Rollin-film without eroticism, strange melancholy and impossible romance? So the story doesn´t steer too much away from the director's bread and butter.

The film opens in very Rollin-ish way and the director tells in the audio commentary that this was the scene that he pictured in his mind, and from which the whole story finally evolved. The young woman Elisabeth (Brigitte Lahaie) is wandering in the woods at night, only in her nightgown. A man in a car, Robert (Alain Duclos - back cover and some other sources list the actor as being Vincent Gardère, but at least in the booklet Rollin talks about Duclos) confronts the scared girl, who´s talking in a very confusing way - begging that Robert doesn´t take her back to the place where she has obviously escaped from. While Robert and Elisabeth drive away, another, naked, girl Veronique (Dominique Journet) is shouting from a distance; another fugitive. In Robert´s apartment, the memory loss of Elisabeth is getting worse and she doesn´t remember much from the dramatic events. She vaguely remembers Veronique and that they were together before Robert showed up. Veronique and Robert end up in the passionate, “larger than life” love making (soft core) and then Robert has to go away for while.

The honeymoon is over soon, since the mysterious Dr. Francis (Bernard Papineau) and his lifeless assistant Solange (Rachel Mhas) track down Elisabeth to the apartment and convince that she has to go with them to the “black tower” (no, Sauron doesn´t live there this time) - filmed in the old “Fiat tower” (now called “Framatome”) in La Défense business district in Paris. Only they can help Elisabeth, since her memory loss will be getting worse. She´s taken all the way to floor 35 of the big tower building, where she meets yet another girl, Catherine (Catherine Greiner), who has serious problems of coordinating her movements. Soon Elisabeth sees the various “patients” and their problems on floor 35, and re-unites with Veronique. It´s evident that they´re not in the average hospital but more like prisoners of some kind, observed by Dr. Francis, with the guards and security cameras. What´s this “black tower” and why are these people are kept there? What causes the various mental and physical problems - why has Elisabeth partly lost her memory? Who´s Dr. Francis and can Robert help the woman that he has fallen in love with?

“The Night of the Hunted” is a bit of an uneven film, but a very interesting and refreshing effort from Rollin. Like others have already pointed out, it has some similarities to the 1970s work of David Cronenberg and the cold and emotionless world - surrounded by apartment houses and the concrete and glass architecture, bringing a similar claustrophobic mood like that in e.g. “Alphaville AKA Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965)” by Godard. Many times you feel that a certain part of the town is abandoned, only the “black tower” is alive and only the wind is howling outside. Rollin´s imaginative eye can produce an effective visual world with a very limited budget and his strength with night scenes is also apparent - they´re again loaded with rough beauty and atmosphere. Rollin finds both ends of the night; the hostile, scary side and the comforting stillness.

The interiors of “floor 35” are very stripped down as well; a few beds and chairs, maybe with a couple of plants, but not much more. Empty hallways, long corridors and big spaces will alienate the viewer as it does the lead characters, trapped in the building and their own mind. The genuine “big brother is watching”-mentality is apparent; the strong will rule the weak and the weak will have to obey. Some rather unexpected influences for Rollin have been taken from history (WW2 and the “systematic killing” by the Nazis) and from the political events in the 1970s (Rollin mentions e.g. the “Stammheim trial” in West Germany, a time when the left-wing militant organization RAF was effective). I also felt that many scenes on “floor 35” are like that of a stage play, since the settings are so modest and compositions favour the wider shots. Later on we also see other visual locations in the rail yard with train cards and industrial scenery. In that time the story has already taken another, final route.

What doesn´t fare so well are the exploitation-scenes that are spread here and there in the film, partly to please the producers and a certain group of viewers. I have no objection to sex and violence in movies, but I can´t help thinking that a few of them were just added to the film to spice it up, rather than them serving the narrative process. The first “soft core”-scene is actually quite important and well made and some of the violence is effective (involving scissors and a hammer), but the middle section of the film is not always that solid storytelling and is the weakest part of the film. The strong ending will most likely please many and is another proof of Rollin´s abilities to provide strong visuals and emotions on the screen. He can lose his grip many times during the film with cheap tricks of sex and violence, but with a few stronger scenes (like the ending) he can patch the holes again and leave the positive (and moving) taste for the viewers. As is often true with his films, “The Night of the Hunted” is also a romantic story - the audience just have to be patient and find that aspect from his films.

Video

“The Night of the Hunted” is part of the “third wave” of Jean Rollin CE-releases by the Dutch company “Encore Filmed Entertainment”. The film is presented in Anamorphic 1.78.1 and like most of the earlier releases, it looks quite good. Black levels and colours are solid with a good amount of detail. There are some film artifacts in selected scenes with minor print damage (some scenes are in a more rough shape), but overall I was still quite pleased. Some of the night scenes can be a bit “noisy” (the company could´ve used a “dual layer” disc and gotten a higher bitrate). The film includes a few “soft core” scenes (along with nudity), so this is the same version released elsewhere, not including any “hard core” footage. “Single layer” disc is “R0”, the film runs 87:39 minutes (PAL). It has 12 chapters.

Audio

The film includes one audio track, the original French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. Again, “Encore” has also included several foreign subtitles, 11 of them: English, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Polish. There´s some steady hiss in the background, but it doesn´t rise to the level of being distracting. The dialogue and music is clear, so this is a quite decent Mono-track.

Extras

The earlier Rollin-releases from “Encore” were 3-disc sets, but now the company has moved into 2-disc releases. This is actually a wise move, since many of the earlier extras were unnecessarily spread over 3-discs. The set is still packaged in a classy foldout digi-pack, which is placed in the sturdy cardboard slipcover. Along with the discs there´s a 32-page book in English.

Disc 1

The first disc has the film in Anamorphic 1.78:1. Only extra is a French theatrical trailer, running 3:16 minutes.

Disc 2

The second disc includes the film (again), but this time it´s the shortened version and including 2 different commentaries:

-First audio commentary is with director/writer Jean Rollin and the lead actress Brigitte Lahaie (in French, with optional English subtitles). It runs 63:44 minutes. It´s really good that both of the participants speak their native language (with English subtitles), since that´s the way to go if you ask me. Lahaie first introduces herself, telling that “The Night of the Hunted” was her first “real part” with a real character (although she had done a few other Rollin-films before; “The Grapes of Death AKA Les Raisins de la mort (1978)” and “Fascination (1979)”). Then Rollin is explaining the story and some themes of the film and for the rest of the film they´re talking together. Rollin is still dominating the commentary, telling his views and goals with the film, but Lahaie is a witty personality and gives some of her recollections along the way. They reminisce about the actors and the production (it was shot roughly in week). It´s quite interesting that ex-porn actress Lahaie (even when the film is a positive surprise to her after all these years) is clearly not that keen on the (unnecessary) sex scenes in the film and Rollin explains how they were partly added to please the producers. Rollin also talks about his film festival experience in Italy, where the audience laughed for the film, but cheered for the ending. Note, that there are some lengthy gaps in the commentary and it comes around a minute or so “too early” compared to action in the screen. Not a deal breaker, but can be a bit confusing (they talk about the plant in the shot, which then comes one minute after the comment).

-Second audio commentary is with director/writer Jean Rollin and the moderator, in English (no subtitles). It´s running 49:03 minutes. Again, Rollin tells about the original idea with the story and gives some background of his motives. Rollin says in the commentary that the film is “not very good” - a “B-picture” and it was probably too ambitious project for the short shooting schedule (mainly shot in two weekends, when the “Fiat tower” was empty) and the low budget (which was in the same league with porn-films back then). You can also sense how difficult it was to try something “different”, since the producers e.g. wanted to remove the scene where Catherine is desperately trying to eat (but can´t coordinate her movement), saying that “she is not even naked”. Like always, Rollin also talks about his actors, which is always interesting. In this film, many were from the porn-scene and friends of the director.

-The first interview -featurette is with actress Brigitte Lahaie (in French, with optional English subtitles), running 17:04 minutes and recorded in Paris, 2006. Very elegant and smart Lahaie talks about her porn background and how she met Rollin during the production of one of the XXX-rated film (Rollin directed several under pseudonyms). She also likes horror-films, so Rollin-films were not a new territory to her. Lahaie gives some anecdotes of “The Grapes of Death” (She was often naked and freezing, and due to her XXX-rated background, the cast didn´t like her), “Fascination (1979)” (good experience, with great memories) and of course “The Night of the Hunted” (another good experience, although Rollin wasn´t that good directing actors and was somewhat afraid to shoot many takes). Lahaie also did a few “bigger movies” (small parts, though), such as in Philip Kaufman´s “Henry & June (1990)”. She also worked with Jess Franco in the late 1980s, but she doesn´t really talk about those films in this interview. Also Lahaie admits that the horror/fantasy-genre doesn´t really exist anymore in France (perhaps on television, in some degree) nor in many other European countries, which is of course a real shame.

-Second interview -featurette is with Lionel Wallmann, who has served as a producer/production manager in selected Rollin-movies (like in this one). The interview is in English (no subtitles) - running 17:38 minutes, and recorded in Paris, 2006. Wallmann is a real character, an ex-race car driver from Belgium, who moved to the movie business through foreign sales and from there to producing. He has known Rollin for over 40 years and they´re obviously old friends. Wallmann has very broken English and I have to say that I missed a few of his anecdotes along the way because of that. He´s still very funny to listen to, and his warm laughter will fill the gaps of the stories that you don´t understand. One good example of the low budget nature of these films is that Wallmann cooked for the cast & crew during some of the productions - a bit unusual for the producer, I would say.

-Last interview -featurette is with actor Alain Plumey - AKA Cyril Val), who is now the director of the “Museum of Eroticism” in Paris. The interview is in French, with optional English subtitles, running 13:57 minutes. Plumey is a veteran porn actor from the “golden days” of French XXX and another unique character when it comes to interviews on this DVD. He plays the bold, “evil guard” in the film and takes the rather “philosophical approach” to the interview. He still manages to tell something about his background (he was a stage actor and was writing plays after he got into the porn industry) and his influences. He also talks about the “technical restrictions” of shooting non-porn films (mainly meaning 35 mm-film and all the lighting etc). Featurette also shows some of the items, photos and paintings of the museum, which opened in 1997 and now gathers thousands of visitors per year.

-Photo gallery runs 5:16 minutes, including several b&w and colour photos from the “behind the scenes” and from the film.

-Alternative scenes - “Hard Version” includes some scenes that were included to some markets and theatres. Material is still more like “soft core” than actual porn, but now longer and more explicit. There´s no audio, only some music (same with the “Easter Egg”):

1) “Deleted XX Scene A” (7:06 minutes) includes the “sauna scene”, which is now longer and which from approx. the 2:24 minute mark changes to a scene involving the guard (played by Alain Plumey) forcing one of the blonde “inmates” into his sex games. This is not the same set-up as in the film and now (even when the scene is not that XX-rated after all) the scene is quite rough, longer and not very pleasant.

2) “Deleted XX Scene B” seems to be pretty much the same when it comes to content, but this time the time code divides the scenes; “Sauna scene” runs 2:22 min and the other 5:16 min. It´s in better quality and with more vivid colours.

-One Easter Egg is also included (there are various ways, you can just play with your remote to find it): Go to the “Alternative scenes” menu and highlight “Main”. Press “left” and the bold text “Bonus!” is highlighted. Press “enter”. You´ll get more alternative scenes (9:25 min), that were probably shot for some other XXX-rated film, but were now used as inserts in “The Night of the Hunted AKA La Nuit des traquées” to create a XXX-rated variant called “Filles traquées”. Here the actress Catherine Greiner is having sex in two different situations. This material is full on 1970s porn, so take note and clear all the over-sensitive people from the room.

-32-page book in English is also included, which includes colour and b&w photos and “La Nuit des traquées” essay by Rollin himself. Plenty of info is included, since Rollin has his unique style of telling stories.

Overall

“The Night of the Hunted” is a different Rollin-film and in some ways echoes the end of the certain era for him and the start of the new, artistically less satisfying one (1980s). Not one of his best films and probably partly a disappointment for those who favour his vampires and gothic-atmosphere, but definitely well worth a watch in many ways. The DVD package from “Encore” is again in a high level and made especially for the fans of Jean Rollin. Go and grab it.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Encore Filmed Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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