Truly in love or truly mad? One has to be so in order to go so far as to lure young women into one’s home to murder them so that their skin might be used to aid in the restoration of one’s disfigured wife. Such is the case for Philippe Lemaire who takes the lead in La rose écorchée or The Blood Rose as known in North America. The man plays Frédéric, a painter who falls for Anne, a beautiful young woman as portrayed by Anny Duperey. When a tragic accident befalls Anne, she is horribly scarred and burned and he means to make her whole again, so in love is he. Things turn sour though when the lot of them – husband, wife and servants become murderous and employ the talents of a surgeon, played by Howard Vernon, so that Anne might be restored.
Claude Mulot directs this atmospheric, almost dream-like affair and does so with a steady hand. While the film is firmly set in the horror and exploitation genres, it also tends to have Gothic leanings with its use of pastel colours, the large castle-like house belonging to Frédéric, the villains as represented by Lemaire and Duperey and more. The only thing missing in all of it is the classic hero, the man who will rescue the damsels in distress and by the end of it all; Mulot throws in a little twist and a moment of redemption. Visually, the film is a beautiful one and there is much to gaze upon, thanks in part to Roger Fellous’ photography that makes everything look quite sumptuous. Also aiding in the effort is the music by Jean-Pierre Dorsay which at times can be quite haunting, but suited to the look and feel of the film. By all accounts, it is put together well and draws the viewer completely within this sordid world.
Lemaire is perfectly cast as the man whom everything revolves around. He plays the heartbroken, morally compromised painter quite soundly and Duperey matches him as the object of his affection. Whether it is love or madness, it seems as if one cannot exist without the other in Frédéric’s case. The fact that he will do whatever it is his wife demands of him in order to restore her beauty, despite loving her just the way she is, is not just the simple act of standing by the woman he married. It is more than devotion and Lemaire brings that across well, though when he soon realizes that perhaps things have gone too far, the shift in attitude is seamless. The film is stacked with beautiful women, that which the genre is known for including Elizabeth Tiessier, Valérie Boisgel and Olivia Robin, not to mention Duperey. To put things over the top just a little more, Lemaire’s servants are a couple of dwarves named Olaf and Igor, played by Johnny Cacao and Roberto respectively.
There is a lot to love in The Blood Rose, especially the subtle use of horror throughout. The greatest monster to ever appear in a horror film is man itself and here it takes the shape of a woman damaged in mind and body and by association, the man who loves her. Love makes a man do things he normally would not and The Blood Rose is a picture about that very situation, though can one honestly say they would not do the very same?
3.5 out of 5