1973's Schoolgirl Hitchhikers was not only the first film that Jean Rollin would make under his 'Michel Gentil' nomme do porn, but also marked the first time he would work with the beautiful Joelle Coeur, probably best known to Rollin fans for her leading role in Demoniacs. This isn't a film that's heavy on plot and like the other Gentil pictures, it was made more for commercial reasons than anything else, but those familiar with Rollin's style will find plenty of his odd cinematic touches on display throughout the movie.
When the movie begins, we're introduced to two young women - dark haired Monica (Coeur) and pretty blonde Jackie (Gilda Arancio) - who have been camping in the woods. We first meet them as they're strolling together through the woods where they come upon an old abandoned house. After climbing over the fence they poke around inside for a few seconds and assuming it to be devoid of inhabitants, they hop into bed together for a little Sapphic softcore fun. Once they finish each other off, Monica wanders downstairs as Jackie sleeps. Here she realizes they're not along - a man named Fred (Willy Braque) is lounging around and he's carrying a pistol. She teases him and soon enough they have sex and once Jackie wakes up and joins in, the girls wander off, away from the house.
As it turns out, Fred is a thief, one member of a gang of three lead by a tough talking woman in leather pants named Beatrice (Marie Helene Regne). When she and the other male thief arrive and notice that the jewels Fred had stashed in the house are missing, they understandably assume that the girls took them. Monica winds up bound and captured while Jackie makes it into town to request the help of a pistol packing private detective (Francois Brincourt) and his sexy secretary (Reine Thirion). Though at first they don't believe her story, soon she convinces them and they head into the house to try and save Monica from the dastardly thieves once and for all.
There's really not much to the story here but Rollin paces the movie well enough. The film is very nicely shot with a lot of emphasis put on the atmosphere provided by the house itself. Though it was obviously quite ornate at one point in its history, at the time the movie was shot it had fallen into disrepair, though observant viewers will note the ornate woodwork and lovely stained glass windows which the director uses at one point to bathe his actresses in colored light. A strange looking mannequin with a skeleton hand keeps watch over the entry way while the opening scene in which our heroines stroll through the woods has an oddly charming fairy tale quality to it. The sex scene between Monica and Jackie, while obviously staged softcore style for the camera, is shot with a bit of tenderness to it. It's meant to titillate, and it does, but you do get the impression through the narration and the actresses' body language that they care for one another. This gives the rest of the movie a little more depth than it would have had otherwise.
The performances here are as good as they realistically need to be. The two female leads are fetching and plenty easy on the eyes as is the detective's secretary who also gets a romp in the hay towards the end of the movie that leaves little to the imagination. Rollin regular Willy Braque is decent as the main bad guy while Marie Helene Regne makes for an interesting female accomplice. Though he's not credited in the film, Rollin himself makes a cameo in the picture towards the end that's fairly amusing. Despite the fact that it's made fast and cheap with the intentions of exploitation, there's a playfulness to the film that makes it easy to watch. It's all wound up in this goofy, periodically rag time inspired score and it's paced well. At just under seventy five minutes it doesn't overstay its welcome and as goofy as it all is, it's also plenty entertaining. The film is also known alternately as High School Hitchhikers and Jeunes Filles Impudiques (which translates to Impudent Young Girls) and it involves absolutely no hitchhiking whatsoever.
Schoolgirl Hitchhikers arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.66.1 transfer in 1080p high definition. Most Blu-ray enabled Eurocult fans that have seen previous transfers in the Redemption/Kino line will be able to tell you that they don't do any sort of restoration on the elements they have for these titles. While some of the Bava and Rollin discs have been in great shape, Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is on the lower end of the spectrum. Though it was transferred from the negative, some image instability inherent in the elements due to a camera problem during shooting results in some noticeable jitter throughout the first half of the movie. On top of that, print damage in the form of horizontal and vertical scratches and specks is present throughout and colors are noticeably faded throughout resulting in skin that look a bit washed out. Some clean up would have probably made a difference here and some color correction could probably have helped, but on the plus side we definitely notice significantly more detail present here than on the past DVD release and a fair bit more depth and texture as well. This is noticeable not just in close ups but also in other shots from other angles. There's some noticeable texture in the bedroom scene with our two female leads, you can see the threads in the negligee and hair and facial detail looks considerably better than standard definition could provide. You can also tell in close up shots of Gilda Arancio that she's wearing a blonde wig where this might not have been obvious on DVD and definitely wasn't obvious on VHS. Those who have seen the movie before know that it's never going to look amazing. Previously the easiest way to see this movie was in the Grindhouse Experience boxed set put out as a twenty film budget release a few years ago. That version was full frame and about ten minutes shorter than the version included here, which is completely uncut. The movie was also released to DVD by Salvation in a non-anamorphic transfer that suffered from nasty PAL conversion issues that offered better color than the Grindhouse Experience and which was uncut, but yeah... non-anamorphic and PAL conversion issues? No thanks. So as imperfect as transfer is, it is likely the best we're going to get for some time and a noticeable improvement over past releases of the film.
French and English language options are included, both in LPCM Mono format, with optional subtitles (not dubtitles - they translate the French track which has some slight differences) included in English only. There are times where things sound a bit flat but overall the audio isn't bad here. The levels are properly balanced and the repetitive but completely appropriate score is here with enough punch and resonance to be as effective as you'd hope it would be. There are a few spots where you might pick up on some hiss or scratches but those problems are infrequent and minor.
Extras are slim, limited to a static menu offering up chapter selection and trailers for a few other Jean Rollin titles available on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino/Redemption.
Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is not a high note in Jean Rollin's career but it is historically significant in his filmography and also an enjoyable quirky picture with enough sex and violence to appease fans. The Blu-ray debut from Kino/Redemption under the Jezebel label isn't going to wow anyone and the transfer certainly could have been better but it would seem to offer up the best version available on domestic home video and it comes recommended for fans of Rollin's work.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.