Tuesday, January 24, 2023

DONT DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1971) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)


Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: Unrated 
Duaration: 102 Minutes 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Audio: French DTS-HD MA 2.0 Dual-Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Joël Séria
Cast: Jeanne Goupil, Catherine Wagener, Bernard Dhéran, Gérard Darrieu, Marc Dudicourt, Michel Robin, Victor Davis

The French film Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1981) is based on the shocking true-crime story of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hammond, a tale of two murderous young women that also inspired Peter Jackson's more accurate Heavenly Creatures. In it a pair of young women, Anne (Jeanne Goupil) and her best friend Lore (Catherine Wagener) attend a strict Catholic school were they relish in causing a stir. They're a mischievous pair and delight in causing mayhem; taunting the priest with made-up tales of lurid acts during confession, reading forbidden erotic books under the covers at night, peeping and tattling on a pair of lustful lesbian nuns, and tormentinga pair simple-minded men for the sheer pleasure of being bad.

When school is let out for the summer Anne's parents leave her alone at their chateau with only the caretaker looking in on her from time to time, and with her newfound freedom she is able to spend her every waking hour with her wicked bestie Lore. The devious things they get into over the summer break are quite naughty to say the least, the pair are in a downward spiral of sinful acts that eventually gets the better of them. It's a twisted coming of age story, with the young women using their blossoming sexuality and innocent looks to carry-out neinous axts, among them  poisoning the groundskeeper's beloved caged pet birds one by one just to see him anguish over the loss, and setting a neighbor farmer's barn and fields on fire simply out of spite. 

One night while riding their bicycles they come upon a man whose car has broken down on the side of the road. They invite the man back to the chateau, offering him alcohol and stripping down to their underwear while flirting with him. When he takes the bait things quickly get out of hand, the girls end up committing the most serious of sins, which sets in motion a series of events that attract the authorities and threaten to expose their diabolical deeds. 

I can imagine the outrage and controversy that would have erupted when this film was first shown in the early seventies, a film two young women playfully committing their souls to the devil and acting out all manner of blasphemies, including a holding black mass at a disused chapel located on Anne's expansive property, one that nearly ends in the death of Anne's simple-minded groundskeeper who is recruited to partake in the devilry. It's pretty shocking stuff, mixing wicked teens girls, budding sexuality, and blasphemy is always gonna ruffle the stodgy feathers of society, and this is one is deliciously transgressive, though without being over-baked in the sexuality department, though there's plenty of scenes of the young women using their sexuality for wicked purposes.  

As dark and demented as the material is the film is expertly directed, the material is executed with a deft hand, which is quite impressive when you consider that this was Joël Séria first feature film. The story is quite scathing in it's criticisms of religion, balancing the demented amoral acts of the young women with the hypocrisy of the church, though painting most of the grown-ups as either clownish or boorish. The performances from Goupil and Wagener are key to the film's success, this easily could have been played with an over-the-top energy dripping with camp but they turn in naturalistic takes on the characters that make it all the more alarming, offering a psychological underpinning to their satanic shenanigans that is absolutely seductive in it's naughtiness and surprising in it's depth. 

This is quite a transgressive gem and easily is a contender for my favorite film discoveries of 2023, it's a film that enthralled me from the get-go and that I've been thinking about for days ever since I saw it, it's a wildly wicked coming of age story, one that  comes highly recommended. 

Audio/Video: Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1971) makes it's HD debut on region-free Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro with a new 4K  restoration from the original negative. There's a velveteen layer of film grain with wonderful textures and fine detail in the close-ups, and the colors are refreshed, particularly the green of grass and woodlands areas. Black levels are pleasing and skin tones look organic and natural. Audio comes by way of French DTS-HD MA 2.0 dual-mono with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is clean and well-balanced and there's some modest depth to the score composed by Claude Germain and Dominique Ney.

Archival extras include the 15-min Settling the Score - Archival 2006 Interview with Joël Séria wherein the director talks about the inspiration for the film and censorship issues he faced. The 12-min The Devil's Advocate - Archival 2006 Interview with actress Jeanne Goupil features the actress who played Anne reflecting on the making of the film, her experiences on set, working with Catherine Wagener, and her thoughts on the film. Hellish Creatures - Archival 2006 Interview with writer/critic Paul Buck runs 12-mins and Buck talks about seeing the film in college and it's effect on him, as well as detailing the true crime case of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hammond, which is also the basis for Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, with he later being a more accurate presentation of the facts.

New extras come by way of a new Audio commentary from Kat Ellinger, plus a new 22-min Interview with director Joël Série. Ellinger's commentary is fantastic as she dissects this bit of transgressive cinema from the top down, her thoughts on the film are quite interesting and few address the issue of female sexuality in cinema the way she can. The new interview with Série offers more depth and detail about the film, he talks about the influence if his own upbringing on the film, casting issues while making the film, censorship and distribution issues and plans for a sequel. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sides sleeve of artwork featuring an illustration by Gilles Vrandx. 

Special Features:
- Brand new restoration from original negative
- NEW! Audio Commentary from Kat Ellinger
- NEW! Interview with director Joël Séria (22 min) 
- Settling the Score - Archival 2006 Interview with Joël Séria (15 min) 
- The Devil's Advocate - Archival 2006 Interview with actress Jeanne Goupil (12 min) 
- Hellish Creatures - Archival 2006 Interview with writer/critic Paul Buck (12 min) 
- Mondo Macabro Previews (13 min) 

Screenshots from the Mondo Macabro Blu-ray: