Les Raisens de la Mort

a.k.a. THE GRAPES OF DEATH / PESTICIDE
Rush Productions [1978] 90′
country: France
director: JEAN ROLLIN
cast: MARIE-GEORGES PASCAL, FELIX MARTEN,
cast: SERGE MARQUAND, BRIGITTE LAHAIE
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There was something of a craze for zombie films after George Romero’s smash success NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and the growing exploitation industry was more than happy to provide. The years immediately following saw the rise and fall of the BLIND DEAD series, Bob ‘A CHRISTMAS STORY’ Clark’s CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, and the under-seen Spanish / Italian co-production LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE [recently re-released on disc as THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE]. This momentary surge in the popularity of the undead would prove minor in comparison to what was to follow, with Romero’s sequel DAWN OF THE DEAD jump starting a world-wide gore craze that continues to this day.

Sneaking into French cinemas just months before Romero’s second DEAD film saw its first European release was LE RAISENS DE LA MORT, a little-known effort from French director Jean Rollin, who was best known then, as he is now, for directing a number ofBava-inspired Gothic vampire eroticas . Rollin’s film took considerable inspiration from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but capitalized on the 1970′s disaster boom and the post-THE BIRDS demand for ecologically-minded horror as well. Though derivative in many ways, RAISENS was hardly deserving of its fate. Lost in the shuffle when DAWN OF THE DEAD exploded onto European cinema screens, it wouldn’t see release of any kind outside of its native France until the early 1980′s. Even then it would remain an obscurity, overshadowed by largely inferior productions [think HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD,ZOMBI HOLOCAUST, and BURIAL GROUND] that had broader appeal due to their high quotient of ‘hard-gore’ effects.

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