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on January 26, 2004
Jean Rollin is a name instantly recognizable to hardcore horror genre fans, but meaningless to nearly everyone else. That is too bad because this French director concocted some of the sleaziest, most unusual films ever made during the 1970s and 1980s, films usually imbued with hypersexuality and bloody violence. I have often tossed Rollin's name around in impolite company with seeming aplomb even though I had never seen even one of the man's films. You read enough plot synopses about someone and you start to feel as though you know every intimate detail about their work. What I did hear from others about this director oftentimes did not bode well. He is apparently well versed in schlock filmmaking--which in and of itself is not a problem with me, a true lover of bad cinema--but several of his films continue to draw raves from a selected minority of genre fans. Well, I finally sat down with a Jean Rollin film, his 1979 effort "Fascination," and was pleasantly surprised with the results. As I viewed the film with a growing sense of intrigue, I began mentally composing a list of other films from this director that I should watch in the near future.
"Fascination," set in rural France sometime in the early twentieth century, is a story about vampires. Initially, this plot did not interest me. Vampire films have been done to death over the years, and I rarely express any interest in this popular mainstream staple. I plunged ahead anyway. A gang of criminals roams the countryside, waylaying and robbing hapless travelers who happen to pass by. Simultaneously, at a nearby castle, a group of women who regularly drink blood in order to stay young plan a very special nocturnal gathering. These two seemingly diverse events converge in the form of Mark (Jean-Marie Lemaire), the leader of the band of robbers who suddenly decides to double cross his companions. In the ensuing chase, Mark barely escapes with his life by seeking refuge in the aforementioned castle. As his partners in crime lurk outside, Mark meets two young, beautiful women named Elisabeth and Eva in the castle (Franca Mai and Brigitte Lahaie respectively). At first, he holds them hostage, but he slowly lets his guard down as he gets to know these two on a personal level. Elisabeth and Eva keep mentioning a mysterious gathering of women about to take place in the castle this very evening, but Mark is too busy fending off his enemies outside to take much note of this talk. When the other women do show up, the criminal takes great joy in playing games with these enigmatic ladies. The conclusion of the film has several interesting twists and turns, but it is sufficient to say that several members of the cast meet their doom by the time the credits roll.
What I liked best about "Fascination" is the style. If I had to choose something to compare with Rollin's film, I would say Paul Morrissey's "Blood for Dracula" and "Flesh for Frankenstein" most closely resemble "Fascination." The set pieces look great in a chintzy way, the costumes look nice as well, and a mood of brooding despondency hangs like a pall over the whole film. Like the characters in Morrissey's two films, the cast of "Fascination" gives off a distinct sensation of seediness. The people in this film exude decadence. Moreover, the behavior exhibited by Mai, Lahaie, and several of the actresses certainly add an element of sleaze to the general proceedings: "Fascination" overflows with gratuitous nudity and soft-core sex. This contrast between lowbrow behavior and plush scenery gives Rollin's movie a distinctive flair. Sure, the whole thing looks like it was shot on a shoestring budget, but at the same time it looks better than its financial limitations.
The DVD version released by Image does offer a few extras, such as a Rollin filmography and a few trailers. All of the dialogue is in French but adequately subtitled. In fact, the language of the film is one of the things that impressed me. I know a bit of French, and I could follow along with most of the dialogue because the actors spoke slowly enough for me to understand what they were saying. I don't know if this was due to the wooden performances of the cast or because I just clicked with the language. Either way, it was kind of neat to listen to a film in French and understand the darn thing. Digressions aside, "Fascination" was, to me, a fascinating film well worth watching again. If nothing else, tune in to see a semi-nude Brigitte Lahaie swinging a cheesy looking scythe on the drawbridge of the castle, a scene that must be seen to be believed.
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on November 3, 2003
let's face it, folks! you can say whatever you want about this film or any other jean rollin film but you must understand a few things. very few directors anywhere in the world have been as prolific or artistic as mr. rollin & even fewer can create such wonderful imagery on such small budgets. fasciantion is a splendid example of eerie suspense with a subdued pyshcological twist & i could easily watch this film over & over. the opening of the film is really quite simple as it deals with a thief who has cheated some other rogues out of some money & now has to run for his life. as fate or luck would have it, he ends up in a chateau where he finds two young & beautiful servant girls alone. as the viewer can guess, something horrible will happen eventually but we are lead to these horrific events with the greatest of ease while being left in suspense at all times. there is a great deal of flirting & teasing amongst the thief & the two servant girls which incude some rather sexy but soft sex scenes which rollin is generally known for. after the rogues are killed(this is the most hilarious death sequence i have seen in some time), we are introduced to more weird, upper class women who appear to be having some sort of midnite ritual & they are eager to include the thief. ok, stopping there. you will have to experience the rest & i dare you to sleep well with this one on your mind. some of you will be better off watching this one with the lights on. my favorite sequence invovles the ever-sexy Brigitte Lahaie carrying a scyuthe in her hands & dressed in a black robe. this is sexy, eerie, & ironically funny all at once. jean rollin is trying to show us that quite often the blood that runs from our bodies may be of more use than the body itself. oooooo, scary! enjoy it, folks. i certainly do.
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on November 1, 2003
This little seen cult flick is mostly recommended for those who like art melded with their gore. Personally for that I would watch BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (1978) or THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972); but this is the first Jean Rollin film I have ever seen so cut me a little slack.
Set in France in 1905, the movie opens with a pair of attractive young women drinking ox blood fresh from the local slaughterhouse as part of a bizzare therapy prescribed by their doctor. Predictably as a result of this they become addicted to blood, & soon reach the point where animal fluids don't work well anymore so they logically advance to human blood. Hiding out in a castle, the ever growing band of lovely female vampires, tired of feasting on their own gender; select two of their brethren to seduce young men & slaughter them for their blood. No mean feat, since (speaking as a heterosexual male) guys do about 90% of their thinking with their nether regions anyhow, so the mission is about as straightforward as finding ice in Antarctica.
FASCINATION is a pretentious arty film directed by cult fave Jean Rollin; there are a few lesbian sex scenes & some nudity but not enough to make the movie worthwhile, even given the brief running time (approx 78 mins). The gore scenes are boring too, & make one pine for the masterful works of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Who would have though a French exploitation film about two gorgeous bi-sexual female vampires could be so bloody boring? FASCINATION may rate as essential viewing for arthouse ponces but horror/cult movie fans will be disappointed.
However, if you enjoy this you may want to check out the Hammer horrors THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971 aka TO LOVE A VAMPIRE) & VAMPIRES (1974 aka DAUGHTERS OF DRACULA)- all of which are mediocre too, in my opinion. But I WILL give Jean Rollin a second chance & rent LIVING DEAD GIRL at some stage.
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on February 9, 2001
One of, if not the best Rollin flick. Rollin films are either real good (Fascination, The Shiver of the Vampires) or real bad (Night of the Hunted, Requiem for a Vampire). This one is superb. It goes above and beyond his other films in almost every aspect: plot (comprehensive and fluid all the way through), character development, character dialogue (yes, even Brigitte Lahaie has more than 5 lines in this movie), the true horror element (definitely his scariest and eeriest film), and suspense.
The confrontation scene between the scythe wielding Lahaie and the female thief is very stylish and effective! In fact, Lahaie does very well in this movie, far above and beyond her awful turn in Night of the Hunted. I hated her in Night of the Hunted, loved her in this.
A couple of down notes though, about the DVD. The quality of the transfer is not very good, with marks and splotches flying by in several scenes. Also, this isn't the DVD makers fault, but the theatrical trailer has several scenes which were really not in the film. I mean they were all scenes that were in the flim, but they were shot differently for the trailer. It seems Rollin used different takes for the trailer. Weird.
Overall, the movie gets 5 stars, while the DVD quality would get only aobut 3 1/2.
This film is scarier, wittier, more suspenseful, more original and more entertaining than any horror film I've seen released in the past 10 years. They simply don't make them like they use to, and probably never will.
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on April 9, 2003
Director Jean Rollin and bodacious French actress Brigitte Lahaie have combined on a number of very special (if somewhat flawed) supernatural films. "Fascination" is probably the very best. A coven of beautiful vampire women, a criminal on the run, Lahaie in Grim Reaper's black carrying her giant scythe... all memorable elements in an etheral film that is more mesmerizingly compelling than narratively intact. Relax and enjoy as Rollin and Lahaie manipulate the images that will fascinate your mind.
This is the kind of horror film that incites more unsettling echoes later on as opposed to shocks upon initial viewing. In the end it is well worth watching.
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on August 15, 2001
This film embodies a lot of why i find these Euro horror/sleaze films so interesting.The way its filmed,the camera seems hand-held all the way through!!Just for some of the imagery this film is worth it.The abbatoir at the start,the infamous Brigitte Lahaie with sythe scene,when the main character(i forget his name-but who cares!!)is running up to the castle its very eerie with the washed-out,watercolours of the woodland behind him. Lahaie really makes this film stand out for me,she is BEAUTIFUL. Aestheticly this film really is a treat to watch.Im now hooked on Rollin,im getting Living Dead Girl next!!
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on October 9, 2001
I suppose it's bad taste to expect something to be "perfect," whether that would be a work or art, music, film, or anything else for that matter. Regarding Jean Rollin's decadent "Fascination," I found it extremely eerie and haunting, yet not perfect by all means.
Rollin had talent but seemed to waste it on the silly lesbian sex scenes and constant nude scenes which to me were amusing rather than sensual.
It's too bad he didn't concentrate more on the Gothic and surreal aspects. If so, he might be as well known as, say, Dario Argento, Fulci, Bava, or Michele Soavi.
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on January 17, 2000
Once again, the prolific french director, Jean Rollin, provides the bored horror film market with a true classic. Fascination is a bizarre foray into the twisted realm of two women who seek to entice unwary men into their devilish world of evil. As with all Rollin films, Fascsination is ripe with symbolism and grotesque imagery which puts most current horror films to shame. For those of us who have seen way too many horror films, Rollin's Fascination will renew our faith in the genrea-check it out.
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on July 20, 2001
fascination is eerie and erotic. thats what makes it interesting. its about vampires but not the mythological kind, just ordinary people who like to drink blood. high society french lesbians who drink ox blood as a cure for anemia and apparently decide to try human blood and decide they like it. the film has its flaws. its slow at times and it has its inconsistincies. but in spite of that it certainly holds your attention, this is no run of the mill vampire or horror film
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on April 16, 2001
Jean Rollin once again re-invents the vampire thriller in this tale of a not so gentleman bandit trapped in a web of insanity and intrigue between double crossed partners and blood drinking sapphic femme fatales. Horror fans may see the twist coming and find the pacing a tad slow, but its watching the dream play out in its own sweet and torturous manner that intoxicates. Recommended.
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