Director: Jean Rollin
Screenplay: Jean Rollin
Starring: Brigitte Lahaie, Alain Duclos (as Vincent Gardère), Dominique Journet, Bernard Papineau, Rachel Mhas, Catherine Greiner
Running time: 92 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
The Night of the Hunted is an outlier in French film director Jean Rollin’s career. The usual ingredients are missing: there are no vampires, crumbling cemeteries, gothic atmosphere, or the iconic Dieppe beach. Aside from the opening, the rural atmosphere is also absent, replaced by a cold and stark cityscape. Yet despite this being so different to the rest of the cult director’s oeuvre, what’s left is one of Rollin’s most fascinating and best works – a masterclass in mood.
The film follows a group of inmates, led by Brigitte Lahaie’s Elisabeth, at a mysterious clinic in a high-rise building, who have all lost their memories to a past environmental accident. The opening scenes introduce us to Elisabeth, who is running from something in a rural landscape that immediately brings to mind classic ghost or horror stories. A male driver stops to try to help her and after they get to know each other, he leaves for work the next day, at which point a doctor breaks in to his apartment and takes Elisabeth to the aforementioned mysterious clinic.
It’s best to not know anymore and to just go in and soak up the atmosphere and otherworldliness that pervades the film, bolstered by some iconic imagery and a suitably off-kilter score by Philippe Bréjean (billed as Gary Sandeur) which enhances the strange mood. Much of the running time is spent meeting the characters who are confined to the clinic, the impact of their loss of memory on them and attempts to try to rekindle their memories or escape. It’s a sobering film and at times is very difficult to watch as many of the struggles with memory – or lack of – play out before our eyes.
The Night of the Hunted has a very clinical feel to it, particularly the main hospital setting, which feels like a precursor to the high rise apartment block in David Cronenberg’s Shivers: cold, harsh, confined, and minimalist. Despite it being so different to the rest of Rollin’s filmography, it definitely feels like one of his films as it’s got a very dreamlike and surreal feel to it, containing some incredible imagery and flourishes of claret and violence that are as sudden as they are memorable and impactful.
Performances are strong from the entire cast but particularly from Lahaie who oozes pathos and is captivating throughout, showing just why Rollin had chosen to give her increasingly bigger roles after working with her on the pornographic film Sensual Vibrations. She also appears in the director’s Grapes of Death, Fascination, The Escapees, Two Orphan Vampires, and Dracula’s Fiancee.
Rollin felt the film was a failure and described it as his worst – I’d respectfully disagree. Whilst it’s very different to the vampire films he’s best known for, it’s an extremely interesting, captivating, emotional watch, which contains some of his most striking images, excellent performances, and a pervading mood of despair.
The Night of the Hunted is released on 18th September 2023 on limited edition Blu-ray and 4K UHD in the UK and USA by Powerhouse Films on their Indicator label. Powerhouse Films have carried out a new 4K restoration from the original negative for this release and the results are outstanding. The image is incredibly sharp with a natural filmic quality, showcasing very strong detail and the striking imagery. Well done to those who carried out the restoration as it is a huge upgrade on previous home video releases. The disc contains the original French audio, which also sounds great, with no blemishes, and dialogue, effects and music each coming across well.
LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES
- Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative by Powerhouse Films
- Original French mono soundtrack
- Audio commentary with film expert Tim Lucas (2023)
- Selected scenes audio commentary with writer-director Jean Rollin (2006)
- Selected scenes audio commentary with Rollin and actor Brigitte Lahaie (2006)
- Jean Rollin Introduction (1998, 2 mins): filmed appraisal
- Perdues: ‘La Nuit des traquées’ (2023, 20 mins): updated documentary on the making of the film, directed by Rollin’s personal assistant, Daniel Gouyette, and including interviews with Lahaie and key collaborators Jean-Pierre Bouyxou and Natalie Perrey
- Jean Rollin on the ‘The Night of the Hunted’ (2007, 3 mins): the director in conversation at the Fantasia Film Festival, Montreal
- A Delectable Presence (2023, 16 mins): newly edited archival interview with celebrated performer Lahaie in which she recalls working with Rollin
- Forty Years Together (2023, 17 mins): producer Lionel Wallmann retells stories from his career-spanning collaboration with Rollin in this newly edited archival interview
- Alain Plumey at the Museum of Eroticism (2006, 15 mins): archival interview with the prolific porn performer, who acted in The Night of the Hunted and Fascination
- The Gulf of Emptiness (2023, 21 mins): critical appreciation by author and musician Stephen Thrower
- Le Pont (2023, 5 mins): Rollin’s collaborators Bouyxou and Lahaie discuss the film’s viaduct scene
- Inserts and alternative scenes: two soft sequences and a hardcore excerpt from Filles traquées
- Original theatrical trailer
- Image gallery: promotional and publicity material, and behind the scenes
- New and improved English translation subtitles
- Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with a new essay by Ruairí McCann, archival writing by Jean Rollin on the making of the film, an archival interview with actor Brigitte Lahaie, and full film credits
- Limited edition of 10,000 individually numbered units (6,000 4K UHDs and 4,000 Blu-rays) for the UK and US
The feature length audio commentary is suitably excellent, which is to be expected given it’s by the always reliable and authoritative Tim Lucas. Lucas packs in a wealth of information, including his own views on the film, details on the production including an overview of the actors and the film locations, and touches on the elements that feel like throwbacks to other films. It’s a fantastic commentary and the standout extra of the release.
The disc also contains two scene-specific commentaries. The first runs for 50 minutes and is with Jean Rollin, and the second runs for a similar time and is with Rollin and Brigitte Lahaie. Both feature excellent recollections about the film.
The intro from Rollin, though brief at 2 minutes, is a welcome addition.
The updated documentary on the making of film runs for 20 minutes and contains interviews with several cast and crew members and critical assessments from the incredibly knowledgeable Daniel Bird. It’s illuminating and insightful, particularly drawing comparisons to the experiences of the main characters and the Baader-Meinhof Group in Germany which was as an inspiration to Rollin for the story.
The interviews are collected together under a ‘cast and crew interviews’ menu on the disc and begin with a 3-minute interview with Rollin, who talks about the film’s lack of success which led to hardcore sequences being shot. There’s a little bit of repetition with other extras but is still good to have for completeness.
The three remaining archival interviews are all great, packing a lot into their short running times. The Brigitte Lahaie interview runs for 15 minutes and, as well as a discussion of the film, contains a lovely but brief overview of her career, including her views on horror at the time. It’s a great archival interview.
The Lionel Wallmann interview is 16 minutes long and provides a good overview of his role in productions. It’s a more general overview of producing low budget films overall, rather than specifically focused on this film, but there’s some lovely anecdotes (I particularly enjoyed Wallmann’s memories of cooking meals for the cast and crew on set). Fascinating.
The Alain Plumey piece runs for 15 minutes. Plumey was an adult film star who also had roles in both The Night of the Hunted and Fascination. The archival interview was filmed at the subsequently closed Museum of Eroticism in Paris, where he was director at the time. It contains some recollections of working with Rollin. There’s also a nice anecdote about the reason for his pseudonym Cyril Val.
A highlight of the package is The Gulf of Emptiness, a 21-minute appreciation by the always excellent Stephen Thrower. He puts the film in the context of Rollin’s filmography and observes what makes it so special, despite being so different from the director’s other films. Thrower also highlights why Rollin wasn’t a fan of the film and perfectly describes it as a meta reflection of his other films, finding horror in the absence of things Rollin was usually attracted to. Highly recommended.
Le Pont is a 5-minute discussion about the film’s iconic viaduct scene with Rollin collaborators Jean-Pierre Bouyxou and Lahaie. The interviews were filmed at the same time as those for the documentary, making it effectively a deleted scene from the ‘making of’.
The inserts and alternative scenes run for 17 minutes and contain three sex scenes.
Rounding out the on-disc package are the film’s original 3-minute theatrical trailer, which is suitably abstract, and an image gallery containing almost 60 promotional and behind-the-scenes photos.
The limited edition exclusive 80-page book is up to Indicator’s usual high standard, filled with insightful writing and interviews, and plenty of images. It opens with a new essay by Ruairí McCann which places the film in the context of the director’s other works and provides a neat overview of the movie. The other three articles are all interviews – two with Rollin, and one with Lahaie. All are excellent.
Powerhouse Films have produced the definitive edition of The Night of the Hunted, packing in an outstanding 4K restoration and a wealth of archival and new extra features covering everything you’d want to know about the film, all beautifully presented with gorgeous packaging and an excellent and info-packed booklet.
There will eventually be 20 Rollin films released on the Indicator label and, based on the evidence so far, they should all be outstanding releases and a fitting tribute to the late director.