Blood and Roses (Roger Vadim / France-Italy, 1960):
(Et Mourir de Plaisir)

To die of pleasure or to live in temptation, the Roger Vadim delectation as an ancient tale recounted aboard a modern airplane (cf. That Obscure Object of Desire). Roman landscapes for the Gallic eye in the Hammer style, and there's the Austrian heiress (Annette Stroyberg) in her bedroom wiggling to Latin pop. Her cousin the Count (Mel Ferrer) honors his engagement outside with a bal masqué, the camera rises from a belle and her caped ravisher ("It's good to be scared") to lend a Tiepolo view of the revelers. Nazi ammunition set off by fireworks prefigures Herzog's Signs of Life, slanted crucifixes and a roving POV shot prepare the possession scene in the catacombs. Thus a new desire for the glazed heroine, who takes to stalking the grounds for bottle-necked beauties, her cousin's fiancée (Elsa Martinelli) in particular. "Strange things are happening in this house..." From Laclos to Le Fanu, the creamy bourgeois vampiress contemplating her own flesh before the roué-auteur, an erotic trance. The lethal seduction of a young maid proceeds from the chalet under a low lamp to the woods at half light, a pair of little girls yearning for morbid excitement stumble upon the body. (Elsewhere, servants in the kitchen are photographed by Claude Renoir so Vadim can sketch The Rules of the Game in Technicolor.) "Kinky tendencies" abound, Cocteau's liquid portal for a monochromatic interlude, the ancestral white gown finally stained with blood. The luscious silliness reaches its apex in the manor's greenhouse, Stroyberg and Martinelli soaking wet with roses and pricked fingers before the Count curtails the moist encounter: "You'll soon be my wife and I don't want you sneezing." Jean Rollin takes it from there. With Alberto Bonucci, Gabriella Farinon, Serge Marquand, and Marc Allégret.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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