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Roman Polanski
Catherine Deneuve, Yvonne Furneaux, Ian Hendry
Writing Credits:
Roman Polanski, Gérard Brach, David Stone

A sex-repulsed woman who disapproves of her sister's boyfriend sinks into depression and has horrific visions of rape and violence.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/28/2009

• Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Roman Polanski and Actor Catherine Deneuve
• “A British Horror Film” Featurette
• “Grand Ecran” TV Excerpt
• Trailers
• Booklet


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Repulsion: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1965)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 18, 2018)

A native of continental Europe, Roman Polanski made his English-language debut with 1965’s Repulsion. The first part of the so-called “Apartment Trilogy”, Repulsion introduces us to Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve), a Belgian manicurist who lives in London with her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux).

Carol finds herself totally turned off by notions related to sex, and she especially disapproves of Helen’s married boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry). These issues gradually impact Carol’s mental state and lead her down a dark psychological path.

As mentioned, Repulsion comes as the opening chapter in Polanski’s loosely-connected “Apartment Trilogy”. This theme continued with 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and concluded with 1976’s The Tenant.

I saw Baby first and then Tenant. Both films inspired very different reactions from me, as I admired Baby but thought Tenant acted as a half-assed, inferior remake of Baby.

I’d place Repulsion between the two but closer to Baby. While I prefer the 1968 film, Repulsion offers a drama with plenty of its own charms.

Both Repulson and Baby find themselves regarded as horror films, but they lean much closer to “psychological thriller” territory. These movies go down dark thematic paths and take a fairly subtle approach much of the time, traits not found in many horror tales.

While Baby dealt with fears connected to parenthood, Repulsion looks at sex and relationships. It does so in a way that paints Carol’s negative reaction as arguably the logical way to go.

Everywhere you look, Repulsion treats sexual relationships as sordid and ugly, with a catalog of screwy notions on display. We find pervs who pant on the phone, men who get off on masochism, women who treat men like boys, extramarital cheating, implied childhood abuse – what with all that, who can blame Carol for her extreme avoidance of sex?

Of course, that statement soft-peddles the seriousness of Carol’s pathology, as it’s not exactly healthy to go nutso as she does, even with the prevalence of deviance around her. Still, the film manages to depict a world in which flawed notions of sexuality abound, a factor that makes Carol’s descent more plausible.

Polanski stages all of this in a gradual, deliberate manner that draws in the viewer. We see small hints of Carol’s declining mental state, as she finds herself oddly preoccupied with various ephemera, but the film doesn’t shove radical “jolts” at us.

Because of this, Repulsion brings us a quietly unnerving tale rather than a trite “scarefest”. It progresses slowly but efficiently, with narrative elements that allow the movie to become more evocative and effective.

Though she gets little dialogue, Deneuve manages a strong performance as our lead. She conveys Carol’s psychological concerns without too much broadness and manages to carry the film well.

Dark and unsettling, Repulsion manages to explore sex and relationships in an unusual but effective manner. What it lacks in immediacy it makes up for in quiet menace.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Repulsion appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pleasing presentation.

Sharpness consistently seemed positive throughout the movie. A few wider shots displayed a smidgen of softness, but not in a way that created any distractions.

Instead, the film usually looked detailed and concise. I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent.

No issues with digital noise reduction occurred, as the movie presented a natural layer of grain. Print flaws also failed to cause concerns, as no specks, marks or debris manifested through the film.

Black levels looked deep and rich throughout the movie. Shadow detail also appeared clear and appropriately opaque; a few interiors could be a bit dense, but that stemmed from the source. Overall, this was a highly appealing transfer.

The movie’s LPCM monaural soundtrack wasn’t quite as pleasing, but it seemed to be good for its era. Dialogue remained easily intelligible, though the lines tended to sound a bit tinny, and some looping added an artificial air to speech at times.

Effects came across as acceptably clean and realistic, while the score showed reasonable pep. While the music lacked much range, those elements seemed concise and smooth enough. This was a more than acceptable mix for its age.

When we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary with co-writer/director Roman Polanski and actor Catherine Deneuve. Both sit separately for this edited look at the opening credits, cinematography, cast and performances, story and characters, sets and locations, music, dealing with censors, and connected domains.

Polanski dominates this track, as Deneuve appears infrequently. She tosses in some good insights when she does pop up, and Polanski covers the film well. He adds useful thoughts about the movie – and even a little self-criticism – in this engaging, informative piece.

A 2003 piece, A British Horror Film runs 24 minutes, three seconds. It offers notes from Polanski, cinematographer Gil Taylor, production designer Seamus Flannery, producer Gene Gutowski and executive producer Tony Tenser.

“British” looks at the movie’s origins and development, cinematography, sets and locations, cast and performances, Polanski’s work on the set, censorship and the film’s release. Though not the tightest program, “British” manages to become a fairly informative overview.

Grand Ecran goes for 21 minutes, 30 seconds and provides a TV excerpt from October 1964. It takes us to the set to observe parts of the shoot; Deneuve, Polanski and actor Yvonne Furneaux throw out some observations as well. I like this kind of “fly on the wall” material so this becomes a useful addition.

In addition to two trailers, the package concludes with a booklet. It mixes credits, photos and an essay from Bill Horrigan. As usual, the booklet adds to the set’s value.

Roman Polanski’s “breakout” movie, Repulsion holds up well after more than 50 years. Despite some dated elements, it delivers a dark, unnerving tale that continues to unsettle. The Blu-ray brings us very good picture along with largely positive audio and a decent selection of supplements. This becomes a solid release for an engaging film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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