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5 customer reviews

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(Jul 24, 2007)
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Product Description

As a weary sailor named Jan (Matthieu Carrière) sets foot on dry land, he is mysteriously abducted and awakens in the isolated mansion of Malpertuis. There, he is reunited with his sister Nancy (Susan Hampshire) and an eclectic group of distant relatives, each summoned by his dying uncle Quentin Cassavius (Orson Welles). Cassavius wishes to will all of his heirs an equal portion of his fortune. However, in return, each must honor his dying request: They are to remain within Malpertuis for the rest of their lives, the last couple to marry.

Trapped on the grounds of the sprawling mansion, Jan investigates as those who try to flee are dispatched in peculiar ways. Jan slowly spirals into madness as he realizes his uncle's true intent and the nightmare world of Malpertuis takes hold.

Based on the classic fantasy novel by Belgian author Jean Ray, Malpertuis was director Harry Kümel's follow up to the acclaimed Daughters of Darkness. Barrel Entertainment is proud to present Kümel's surrealist masterpiece in two distinct versions: The quickly-assembled English-language edit that premiered at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, and the newly restored Dutch-language director's cut--re-edited to 119 minutes as Kümel intended and presented here in a new high definition transfer.

Even for Europe in the high-baroque 1970s, Malpertuis--also known as The Legend of Doom House--is one strange cinematic beast. Flemish filmmaker Harry Kümel's primary-colored fever dream, heavy on the reds and blues, opens as young sailor Jan (the androgynous Mathieu Carrière) goes on leave. Time and place are not indicated, but the dialogue is in Dutch and the townspeople appear to have stepped out of a Breughel painting.

While searching for his boyhood home, Jan wanders into a crowded cabaret, where he's propositioned by the ravishing Bets (French vocalist Sylvie Vartan) before being accosted by the devious Dideloo (Michel Bouquet). When he awakes, Jan finds himself in Malpertuis, labyrinthine mansion of his Uncle Cassavius (a putty-nosed Orson Welles). Other lodgers include taxidermist Philaris (Charles Janssens) and resident madman Lampernist (Jean-Pierre Cassel). After reuniting with his sister, Nancy (Susan Hampshire, who plays four parts), Jan falls for Dideloo's secretive daughter, Euryale (Hampshire). Then Cassavius reads his will to the entire clan. It stipulates that all beneficiaries must remain at Malpertuis. The last one standing will inherit the estate. And with that, the bodies start dropping until Jan unlocks his uncle's secret.

Based on the horror-fantasy novel by Jean Ray, Malpertuis followed Kümel's "erotic nightmare of vampire lust" Daughters of Darkness. His adult fairytale represents the epitome of surrealist cinema--aided immeasurably by the atmospheric cinematography of The Go-Between's Gerry Fisher. Originally released in an edited English version, the director has restored the original language and length. This two-disc set includes both editions plus commentary, liner notes, an interview with the filmmaker, and featurettes on Hampshire, Ray, and Welles, who was "very disagreeable" on the set. Look sharp in the cabaret sequence for a cameo from Vartan's then-husband, Johnny Hallyday, as a sailor. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Orson Welles, Susan Hampshire, Michel Bouquet, Mathieu Carrière
  • Directors: Harry Kümel
  • Format: NTSC, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Dutch, English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Barrel
  • DVD Release Date: July 24, 2007
  • Run Time: 119 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QQLV0G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,467 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Malpertuis" on IMDb

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mike Liddell on July 26, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The directors cut
Amazon provides a thorough plot explanation so i won't go over it again, however what exactly is Malpertuis? In Film Comment's July/August 2007 issue it earns there Editor's pick of the month, Gavin Smith says to try to "imagine a hammer movie co-directed by Jean Cocteau and Raul Ruise and your getting warm.
Malpertuis is a haunted house movie filled with dreamlike horror, one of the best, weirdest, and creative I have ever seen. As we see lanterns being put out by some sort of creatures lurking in the dark, we don't see them just hear there childlike evil snickering. What is in the attic and what experiments have taken place in the basement? The movie is filled with eroticism most of which is attributed by Susan Hampshire who plays three roles a virginal sister, Medusan cousin, and a sexually devouring aunt all equally sensual and sexual. Throw in some drama and even science fiction and you have something for everyone. In the 15 page booklet included with the dvd it spots H.P Lovecraft as an influence for writer Jean Ray who wrote the novel Malpertuis.
The story starts with an illustration of Alice in Wonderland and from there we as viewers are taken for a trip through a rabbit hole ourselves.
The scene where Orson Welles who plays the patriarch of this curious clan tosses out witty insults to them from his death bed degrading every member of his family, who await his death with glee is a classic.
Orson Welles character Cassavius has alot in common with Citizen Kane. Both will die alone, even though Cassavius has family there he is still alone. That is not a plot spoiler he dies somewhat fast and i believe it is in the amazon review as well.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Annoymous on May 23, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
My only previous viewing, of this incredible film has been a very poor quality video tape, released by MPV, Motion Pictures on Video in 1987 and running ninety minutes. Having read about this work in an encyclopedia of Horror cinema, nothing could have prepared me for this intense, captivating vision which induced feelings of great humbleness, childlike wonderment and joy in this adult viewer. Film as art, beautiful, haunting, arresting the senses like little else.

I urge anyone who loves film to support Barrel Entertainment and purchase this incredible 2 disc package, for more information take a look at Barrel's website.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Salas on April 16, 2009
Format: DVD
This gorgeous art-house shocker is a winner, but I'm one of the few who prefer the 1971 theatrical cut to the 2002 directors cut. (Thankfully, both are included here.)Why, you may ask? Didn't the director restore all the missing footage and present the film as intended to be seen? Well, sort of. He also REMOVED certain shots and dialogue that were in the original, mostly the more campy, fantastical bits. This is similar to what happened when Picnic At Hanging Rock was restored - the director took a look and said, "Whoops! Kitsch!!! Cut it!" Now, however embarrassed you may be about past work, why edit a restored version and present it shorter, or at least incomplete?
Sylvie Vartan's song and dance number in the club Venus is butchered here, intercut with dialogue.
A lot of the new version's editing and fades seem a bit abrupt and unpolished, why not bring in the best in editing for such a prestigious project?
Another peeve, why present the "uncut" restored director's cut in DUTCH, when it was shot in English sync-sound? We are even shown behind the scenes footage of the cast doing their scenes in English, which makes it weirder.
Well, at any rate, the director's cut looks gorgeous, much better than the theatrical version on disc 2, sadly. I do agree with the new, more slower pacing... and the added scenes all work brillantly. If only they had just added them in English and not messed with the rest of the film.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Blood of Roses on September 15, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For anyone who is into very esoteric cinema in the vein of " Black Moon" (another wonderful surrealist movie), you will appreciate " Malpertuis"! Surrealism, in part, is existentialism face to face with horror. The deepest theme of Malpertuis is the face to face encounter of each new generation with the legacy of horror inherited from a previous generation. Inevitably, each new generation either embracing that legacy, or forfeiting it, must come to confront itself, and determine its own destiny. On a secondary level is the cautionary allegory about the political and social identity of European youth coming of age in post WWII Europe with the legacy of Nazism and the notion of 'the master race'.

The other reviewers give you a synopsis of the story, so I won't duplicate it here. However, characterizing Nazi Germany as a deranged State, Malpertuis presents a subliminal examination of the relation between the individual and the State, and the ultimate responsibility of the individual to determine his or her own destiny by the choices made, bearing thematic resemblance to " Sauna", a very excellent existential period horror piece the main theme of which is this very relation.

Harry Kumel is an excellent director, and it is fortunate that he was able to work with Orson Wells, allowing him to essentially direct himself. Orson Wells gives a great performance, and knew exactly how to accentuate the underlying horrific elements of the story.
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