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The Night of the Hunted (1980)

Kino Lorber Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/23/2013

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/1/2013

Is diversity a good thing? We are often quick to criticize those who do the same thing over and over, but on the other hand, if you find something which you are good at, shouldn't you stick to it? French director Jean Rollin made a name for himself (in some circles) making movies with titles like The Living Dead Girl and The Nude Vampire. His movies often played like horror tinged erotic fantasies, as he loved to exhibit women clad in gossamer nightgowns walking across the French landscape. But, Rollin, who directed over 50 movies, also liked to show that he was also more than just a French nudie guy, and so he occasionally branched out with movies like The Night of the Hunted.

As The Night of the Hunted opens, Robert (Alain Duclos) finds Elisabeth (Brigitte Lahaie) walking along a country road clad only in a nightgown. She seems disoriented, so he takes her back to his apartment. Elisabeth reports that she doesn't know how she got on the road or where she'd been. She states that she forgets things as soon as they happen. Robert pledges to help her and then promptly leaves her home alone the next morning. As soon as Robert leaves, Dr. Francis (Bernard Papineau) and his assistant, Solange (Rachel Mhas), arrive and take Elisabeth back to their medical clinic which takes up an entire floor of an apartment building. There, Elisabeth is placed with others like her who can't form concrete memories. Still Elisabeth, along with fellow patients Veronique (Dominique Journet) and Catherine (Catherine Greiner) know that they don't like being prisoners of Dr. Francis, so they decide to escape. Meanwhile, Robert searches for Elisabeth.

So, how did Rollin do with his change of direction? Not very well. The Night of the Hunted isn't a total disaster, but it is a victim of its own circumstances. As noted below in the extras section, the movie was written in one day and shot in ten. Once you've seen the film, these numbers don't come as a surprise. The screenplay is more of an idea than a story. A woman escapes from a facility for people with memory issues and is forced to go back there...and that's about it. As with The Grapes of Death, Rollin waits until the last few minutes for someone to explain what is happening. By that time, we may be so bored that we don't care.

This may sound odd, but The Night of the Hunted has the kernels of something which could have been made by (or may have influenced) David Cronenberg. The anonymous clinic with its mysterious doctor, combined with the sterile interiors housed in the black office tower are certainly reminiscent of Cronenberg's early works like Shivers, The Brood, Rabid, and Scanners, when the entire world seemed to be overrun by malevolent doctors doing odd experiment in isolated facilities. The difference between one of Cronenberg's films and The Night of the Hunted is that Rollin never gets to the next step in the story. There's some talking, there's some walking, and we learn that Elisabeth wants to escape, but there's no real tension or emotion here. Knowing that Elisabeth was taken there against her will isn't enough -- in order to cheer for her, we need to know why she wants to leave.

The issue here is that Rollin may not have had, in both budget and talent, what it took to get the film to the next level. We don't need an extra feature to let us know that this movie was made on the cheap, as the bulk of it features people walking up and down hallways. (In scenes which were probably shot at night when the office employees weren't there.) So, we never see any part of the set which actually looks like a medical clinic. The lack of much action means that the pacing feels very slack at times. In lieu of action, Rollin gives us sex scenes, including one which goes on for 5 1/2 minutes! The pacing isn't helped by moments like the one where Elisabeth and Veronique are attempting to escape and they take the escalator -- and by that I mean that they casually ride it down, as if they were at the mall.

Somewhere inside The Night of the Hunted is a good movie which is just dying to get out. However, in its current form, the film is only a slightly entertaining curiosity, especially for those who are more accustomed to Rollin's other works.

The Night of the Hunted takes place in a world where average people can be great marksmen while shooting from the hip on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino Lorber Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 38 Mbps. This looks like a theatrical print, as the film is littered with black dots, scratches, and jumpy splices. For some, this will have a "grindhouse" feel, but it didn't work for me. That aside, the colors look good and aren't washed out. The image is never too dark, but the picture does look fairly flat. The Disc carries a LPCM 2.0 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The English subtitles are easy to read. The track doesn't contain any dynamic effects, but there's no obvious hissing or popping.

The Night of the Hunted Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We get a 90-second "Introduction by Jean Rollin" where the director gives a brief overview of the film. If I understood him correctly -- he's speaking broken English here -- he stated that he wrote the film in one night and shot it in ten days. Rollin continues talking in a "Filmmaker Interview Excerpt" (2 minutes) where he gives a slightly more detailed history of the movie. There is a discussion of how sex scenes (which are shown) were added to the film. Speaking of which, the Disc offers two "Deleted Sex Scenes", which Rollin kept so that the explicit nature of the movie could be adjusted. One is new and the other appears in an altered version in the movie. The final extra is a TRAILER for The Night of the Hunted.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.