Thanks to DVD labels like Redemption, sexy art horror from France saw a huge resurgence in the late 1990s and early '00s – at least among freaks like yours truly. Directors Jean Rollin saw their films getting the remastered release treatment in the U.S. and many of us were discovering these films for the first time.
"Blood Rose" ("La Rose écorchée" ) finally made its way to DVD in 2007 in the U.S., and while this film has long been heralded as a masterpiece of the early 1970s sex-horror genre, it's not a uber-classic. But it is worth any self-respecting horror fan's time. It doesn't hurt that it features two rapist dwarves wearing animal skin furs. During its 1970 release in the U.S., it carried the tagline "The First Sex-Horror Film Ever Made!"
Lemaire (also seen in the superior "Spirits of the Dead") plays an aging painter whose wedded bliss to gorgeous Anne (Any Duperey) turns to tragedy, when she nearly gets in a catfight with his former lover and falls into a fire, in a pretty hilarious scene. She is of course horribly scarred. The great Howard Vernon plays a surgeon who may be able to return her to her former beauty, but he'll need a live victim to do it. So women are brought to the artist's chateau in order to get a face. The dwarves, who were the painter's longtime servants, are charged with capturing the girls.
This sort of theme comes up frequently in French horror, "Eyes without a Face" being the first. It wasn't 20 years ago that Vernon was actually in another French fear film called "Faceless."
There are some great gothic elements here and a plethora of beautiful and for the most part naked women. There's also some excellent Rollin-esque atmosphere.
A little slow, a little funny, a little predictable, and very atmospheric, "The Blood Rose" is well worth watching, although it's no masterpiece. The film delivers some pretty good make-up effects when we get a good look at the scarred wife.