Color, 1980, 94m.
Directed by Raphaël Delpard
Starring Isabelle Goguey, Charlotte de Turckheim, Betty Beckers, Michel Debrane, Ernest Menzer, Michel Duchezeau
Synapse (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

After a spat with her boyfriend Serge (Duchezeau), pretty young Martine (Gregory) takes a job working as the new nurse at Deadlock House, a creepy retirement home with an abnormally high staff turnover. The other nurse, Nicole (de Turckheim), seems nice enough, but the head administrator Hélène (Beckers) is more than a little odd, treating her charges sternly while referring to them as “warriors” and continuously playing one song on the piano. One night Nicole is chased down a hallway by the crazed residents who turn out to be quite a bit older than they appear… and they all like to consume human flesh, with Nichole as their latest banquet. However, when one of the cannibals ignores the rules and makes off with the young girl’s heart, the group threatens to tear itself apart with feuding… and Martine is running out of time before they choose her as their next meal.

While Jean Rollin was certainly the most important French horror director before the 21st century, he wasn’t the only one. One example is Raphaël Delpard who briefly dabbled behind the camera in the 1980s with a handful of films, most notably Night of Death (La nuit de la mort!). This one doesn’t even try for the poetry or surrealism of Rollin, opting instead for a straightforward gore film with long, static, unsettling camera shots suddenly exploding into creepy chase sequences as young women are pursued up and down hallways and stairways by the leering, middle-aged villains. The real payoff comes in the last fifteen minutes as the majority of the cast is bumped off in an increasingly ridiculous string of bloody attacks that leave hands, heads, and other body parts littering the screen. Unfortunately it also tacks on a completely needless and mean-spirited final shock ripped off from Castle of Blood, but otherwise this is good, disreputable, down-and-dirty splatter with a unique French twist.

Though its technical aspirations never lift much above your average Eurociné production, Synapse has treated the first English-friendly release of Night of Death quite nicely with a very solid anamorphic transfer. The mono audio sounds fine, and the creepy soundtrack really gets under skin enough to merit a separate release on its own someday. Only de Turckheim went on to do much of note, and her scandalously bloody (and extremely naked) early appearance here is totally unlike her more famous respectable fare like Claude Lelouch’s Edith and Marcel and Volker Schlöndorff’s Swann in Love. Not surprisingly, it’s unlikely she’ll ever do a commentary for this film, but this bare bones edition should be fine for anyone hungering for some vintage undiscovered grue.

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