‘The Escapees’ Is the Rollin Film That Almost Got Away

Jean Rollin himself may not have thought highly of The Escapees, but fans of his style will appreciate this new DVD release.

In the interview that accompanies the new DVD edition of The Escapees, the late filmmaker Jean Rollin explains that he considers it a failure, too long and too talky, and that basically it went unreleased until he let it show on TV. His assessment is fair in comparison with his more ethereal accomplishments. However, fans of his style and obsessions will appreciate even this minor glimpse of what’s clearly a Rollin film.

Like so many of his movies, it’s about two waifs wandering the world. This time they’re not vampires or zombies, although one of them might as well be, for Marie (Christiane Coppé) begins as an almost catatonic inmate in a girls’ home where Michelle (Laurence Dubas) is her opposite: a loud troublemaker in a straightjacket. When Michelle somehow triggers Marie into a responsive state, they run away and spend time with gypsy entertainers, then a nightclub, and finally the swanky house of a rich pervert who wants the girls to join an orgy. It doesn’t go as planned.

Rollin blames a talky professional screenwriter, saying he tried to combine his own script with the new script while filming. This may explain the bizarre sequence where the girls are told the same news in two different ways (that a friend wants to take them to Brazil) and they react with surprise both times. The opening scenes in the asylum have privileged moments of sombre dreaminess, but yes, Michelle talks too much and too repetitively. A graceful moment where Marie ice skates (pinpointed by what must be an imaginary spotlight) leads to another long dialogue that Rollin dislikes. Apparently, he didn’t enforce his will as strongly as he might have during filming.

We return to harsh, dreamlike sensations after the explosive climax. Despite the several intense and/or languid moments of visual poetry, this wayward movie would be a bad introduction for neophytes to Rollin’s world. It’s for connosseurs who have already tasted his best dishes and are looking for one last sour and tangy aftertaste. This HD remastering for Blu-ray is surely the best the movie has ever looked.

RATING 4 / 10