Sunday, 26 January 2014

Schoolgirl Hitchhikers

If this title makes you think that this film should be banned then you're probably expecting a bit too much!  The narrative follows a couple of wandering young women ('natch - this is a Jean Rollin film after all) who look a little older than schoolgirls to me, although would still probably pass for university students.  Milling through the beautiful French countryside they discover an apparently abandoned chateau where they decide to spend the night exploring each other's bodies, etc.  They don't realize that a gangster is sitting around downstairs waiting for a couple of colleagues, but when one of the girls does bump into this guy she uses the opportunity to explore his body as well.  However, when the other gangster shows up with some sort of mistress who seems to run the show, they find that their pick-up - some expensive thieved jewels - are missing.  Immediately they suspect the two girls, so they go off to capture them (they left the same morning), bring them back and torture them into talking.  One of them escapes and acquires the 'skills' of a bungling local private detective and before long everybody is mixed up in a mystery of missing jewels, exposed flesh, and misunderstandings.
I wanted to see this one for years, ever since I read about it in a 90s copy of the essential obscurity review magazine Is It Uncut?.  It goes without saying that this film (known in French as Jeunes Filles Impudiques and directed under his porn pseudonym of Michel Gentil) abandons the horror elements of Rollin's better known work but remains undeniably a product of his eccentric imagination.  During the mildly titillating lesbian activities early on it looks like it could get boring - 80 minutes of sex is not of much interest to me in a film.  But fortunately Rollin brings in lots of idiosyncratic plot quirks that keep boredom at arm's length.  There are some mild elements of violence although I was surprised to find one aspect of the torture scenes had me looking away from the screen, and it wasn't even gory!  One of the main girls is Joëlle Coeur, a tarty but attractive young thing who also turned up in Rollin's Demoniacs.  The other actors here are typical props in the Rollin universe - functional without ever straying into award-winning territory (or anywhere near).

I picked up Redemption's US Blu-ray of Schoolgirl Hitchhikers with some hesitation after reading about cine-wobble.  Unfortunately it is present and quite distracting although thankfully not for the entire film, which would have made it completely unwatchable - I'd say it makes up around 40% of the shots at an estimate, and takes the form of a slight frame-to-frame jittering that is noticeable (and probably discounts trying to view this on a very large screen).  It's a terrible shame that this couldn't have been corrected (I suspect it would be either too time consuming and/or expensive for something with minimal target audience) but I am still glad to own this one.  There is occasional print damage, which I've no problem with personally, and the colours are washed-out/pasty, but these factors at least give it that currently in vogue grindhouse feel.  The film is presented in full HD at around 1.66:1 and detail is pleasing.  The French language mono audio is fine and English subtitles are good (I much prefer watching foreign language films on Blu-ray because subtitles actually look like normal text rather than Spectrum graphics!).  Nothing else is really provided as extra material except a few trailers (no booklet like the other Rollin releases) so this is fairly bare-bones all round.

This film has a little bit of a sense of humour (especially once the idiot detective and his strangely young pig-tailed female assistant are introduced), with a couple of fairly attractive lead girls and an intertwined plot about gangster theft and a mistress that seems like she wandered out of Fascination.  It's not a bad little piece but receives a frustratingly inconsistent disc release from what is otherwise one of my favourite companies.

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