To summarize the plot--a mysterious, nearly-mute woman is committing a series of murders of various seedy and dishonest characters all of whom are somehow linked to an Edsel. Dear readers--it does not bode well for a film when most of my thoughts were concerned with whether or not that was, in fact, an Edsel (prompting a film-pause and a Google search) and why a director as concerned with his visual vocabulary as Rollin selected the Edsel as the central image of the film. A giant American car, frequently the butt of jokes, that was made for 3 years over thirty years before the movie was made? The symbolism--it's somehow both rich and entirely uncompelling, when placed against the director's other familiar tropes.
This is a movie that is so slight in its plot (it's essentially ninety minutes of stalk-and-shoot scenes) that it would seem to be a frame on which to hang weird setpieces and strange imagery, particularly in the hands of a surrealist director. Early inklings of heavy weirdness (the young victim who stops to take notes to include in her memoir as she is pursued by the gun-toting madwoman, a hammer-weilding hooker, and a deserted carnival) are never capitalized upon, and the lack of supernatural elements can truly be felt throughout the film.
The film isn't all bad, and as a completist regarding this particular director**, I did find things to enjoy. Foremost among them was lead actress Tiki Tsang who, with her feline good looks and general air of silent, sinister craziness, is a strong candidate for Mrs. Tenebrous. There are several shots of Ms. Tsang sitting atop her houseboat in a flowing gown while looking thoughtful that make the actress look positively ethereal. Once again, Rollin proves himself a master of capturing the beauty of women on film.
I'm also a sucker for covertly-captured shots of New York City, and this movie's got them. There's a short interlude in Times Square that looks seedy and actually-kinda-marvelous. IT even includes some frames that were clearly captured through the window of a taxi while the camera sat on the cinematographer's lap! I love this kind of shamelessly rough-around-the-edges filmmaking--I think it really gives a low-budget film texture.
Classic Rollin themes are present, if in limited quantity. I smiled to see the killer emerging from a grandfather clock garbed in black velvet vampiric style only to go on to menace another character with a scythe. Sadly, Ms. Tseng is no Brigitte Lahaie, and this was very much not "Fascination." Still--it's nice for this fan to see the familiar tropes on-screen. The film's overarching theme is tragic romance, which Rollin handles expertly*** and--I'll confess--I think the ending does a lot to redeem the movie as a whole. OH! In case you were concerned with such matters--yes, dearlings, there are lesbians in this movie.
While the film certainly doesn't have the same sort of material to work with as Rollin's supernatural and erotic films, there are artistic shot compositions sprinkled less-than-liberally throughout. In a sequence where the murderess chases her victims through a series of piers on the Seine, there are several thoughtful moments that employ disarmingly simple visuals--a red raincoat, a series of marble slabs arranged in a row, a off-kilter view of a woman's retreating form.
It's hard for me to recommend this film--in fact, I won't recommend this film. The only elements the work contains that are at all remarkable can be seen to greater effect elsewhere in Rollin's body of work. Still--if I had to kill ninety minutes of my life on something only-semi-entertaining, I'm certainly glad said something contained as many lovely ladies as this film did.
*Tis true--the St. Mark's shop is closing and the store is moving down to First Ave. Sans-rentals. :*(
**OK, semi-completist. No one better mention "Zombie Lake" lest he risk a sound and unsexy thrashing.
***I stand by my conviction that one must be made entirely of stone to not be moved by the finale of "Living Dead Girl."