I have an Amazon Prime account. Literally no idea how I got it, or when, but I do, and I quite like it. I even got the complete DVD collection of Laverne and Shirley for a really neat price! Another plus I recently discovered was the fact that I was able to watch Jean Rollin movies on Amazon, and for free to boot! HA! Fuck you, Redemption DVD! Force me to fork out forty to fifty dollars for a single DVD, huh? Take a whole year to send me the stock I ordered, then ignore my emails for six months, huh? Well screw you guys, I'm watchin' all these Jean Rollin movies for free now! Rant over...
...But seriously, I ordered a vampire movie, and what I'm about 90% percent sure is surrealist and futurist fetish erotica by Michael Ninn in December of 2014, and I'm still waiting for them! *sigh*
It's once again Holly Horrorland's annual Vampire Soiree, and once again, I'm looking at the works of French filmmaker Jean Rollin. For those unfamiliar with his work, he predominately made artsy lesbian vampire movies, when not directing porn flicks to finance them. Those particular films of his had such titles as Sex Vibrations, Hyperpenetrations, Fill Me...Round 3, Little Girls on Heat, Come in Quick...Quick, I'm Wet!, and Disco Sex! Today, I'll be looking at four of his vampires movies. I was originally going to also look at Living Dead Girl, and Two Orphan Vampires, but not only has my internet been intermittently super slow/not working lately, but the former movie isn't really a vampire movie (it falls more into the zompire category), and the latter, from the 90's, might be a little out-of-place in a post talking about Rollin's 1969/1970's efforts. I'll look at those two flicks at a later date.
The Nude Vampire
Pierre, son of a wealthy businessman and scientist, is suspicious of his father's activities, and quickly uncovers many sinister things after encountering a mysterious woman being chased by eerie figures. The trail to find her leads Pierre to a suicide cult, where he witnesses the woman drinking the blood of one of the group's newly-deceased members. Eventually, after both opposition from his father, and aid from a mysterious figure, Pierre is invited to his father's chateau, to find out the truth...
While not as abstract as Rape of the Vampire, this movie is still one of Rollin's weirder entries. It's not even technically a vampire film. At first, the story has a very scientific approach to the vampirism, but things gradually become more complicated, and the revelation of what these people who just so happen to subside on blood if they so choose are is definitely a strange one, and pretty original.
The story and dialogue is pretty minimal in the first half, but picks up in the second. The Nude Vampire's plot definitely becomes quite compelling, and thematic. It's not perfect though. Unfortunately the suicide cult adds nothing to the movie, and are really only present for a five minute scene early on, then never appear again, except in passing mention every now and then. It's really disappointing, as a suicide cult is a cool concept to have in a movie like this.
Rollin's direction in The Nude Vampire is phenomenal! The breathtaking locations complement the direction amazingly, resulting in some fantastic shots, several done all in one take. There's one scene near the end, when the vampires invade the chateau, and it's a marvel to look at, it really is! This movie also represents a jump to colour for Rollin's films. While the black-and-white nature of rape of the Vampire helped with both its Gothic, and antiseptic nature, Nude Vampire is vibrant and colourful.
Unfortunately, the effects are beyond laughably awful in places, made worse by some of the acting! There's one scene where a woman shoots herself in the head, and there's no effects at all! She just holds the gun up to her head. we hear a shot, and she deliberately closes her eyes and gently lies down! There's no blood, no flash, she doesn't react at all, and the gun never moves either! Another amusingly badly made moment is when the Castel sisters are injured and knocked down a flight of stairs. One of them just keeps on rolling and rolling until she gets to the bottom step, looking incredibly unconvincing in the process.
The acting in The Nude Vampire is ok. Caroline Cartier/Christine François looks good as the titular vampire, but like I said above, the character barely does a thing, so she can't really sink her teeth into the role. Olivier Rollin is a decent lead, but is a little too nonchalant in places, like in his reaction when told of his friend's demise.
Overall, The Nude Vampire doesn't start off brilliantly, but it gets better as it goes along, and come the end, it's definitely a fascinating movie! Flawed, yes, abstract, definitely so, but never boring, dull, or pretentious...
The Shiver of the Vampires
Rollin's third film, also known as The Thrill of the Vampires, which brings a different context to the use of Shiver in the title than one's first assumption would be. Still doesn't have much of anything to do with the movie though...
Newlyweds Antoine and Isle are heading to the home of the latter's cousins on their way to their honeymoon, but quickly notice something amiss when they find out that their relations are apparently dead. However, when they come to the castle, the cousins are alive and well, but with a suspicious aversion to sunlight. As Isle is alone, malevolent vampire Isolde seduces her hypnotically, beginning the process of turning her into one of the undead...
The story to Shiver of the Vampires doesn't have a whole lot to it, but it's decent.
I didn't like the leads in this movie at all. Isle is almost immediately hypnotized/brainwashed by Isolde, and is, while Antoine is just plain dumb and jerk-y. To me, the true protagonists were the two scheming handmaidens, and I was really glad to see them not only indeed still have an ulterior motive, but also a happy ending together! They also deal with the vampire problem a hell of a lot more efficiently than Antoine, even saving his ass in the climax! It's just a shame he's such a useless hero that he waits until after the two cousins give Isle the final kiss of the vampire before leaping down to try and rescue her. The dumbass had no reason to wait, but he does, and you can imagine how well that turns out for him.
In a decidedly opposite role from his more benevolent turn in The Nude Vampire, Michel Delahaye has a lot of fun along with Jacques Robiolles. The two act the hell out of their kooky characters, with their over-the-top demeanors, dramatic gestures, and finishing each-other's sentences, etc., while Dominique (just Dominique) is seductive and evil as Isolde. Marie-Pierre Castel and Kuelan Herce are stoic in the first hour, before becoming a ball in the last third! They're great fun!
While the story didn't really seem thematic at all, there's definitely subtext here, including forbidden desire. They're not deep or explored enough to be considered themes though.
The dialogue is really good in places, but amusingly bad in others, partially due to the acting. Early on, the newlyweds are driving to Isle's cousin's abode, but as they stop for directions, a villager tells Antoine that the occupants of the castle are dead. He goes back to the car and says calmly and nonchalantly "I hope this doesn't upset you, but your cousins are dead."! And the bride's reaction is super calm too!
The direction here is very good, with great imagery to back it up, too, most notably the scene where Isolde comes out of the grandfather clock. There are also quite a few stylistically shot scenes where the camera spins around, all in one take. The scene where the two vampire cousins explain their backstory to Antoine is really well-filmed, but an earlier moment like it at the dinner table isn't as good. Neither is a scene near the end when Antoine is running towards the camera, where instead of turning upside down while filming, the movie instead jump-cuts to the camera being upside down, and Antoine running the opposite direction, so it has the effect of the actor just having run into the camera, rather than stylistic direction.
The soundtrack is probably the most distinctive thing about Shiver of the Vampires. This is a Gothic tale, but the soundtrack is positively groovtastic! I'm not sure why it has such a rockin' 70's score, and while the villains may dress in hippie-ish outfits at times, and some establishing shots of the castle are lit like a disco, it really doesn't have any reason to be how it is. However, it's a nice addition regardless, and makes the film feel more unique.
The effects here are mostly pretty ok, and the vampire fangs are definitely more convincing here than they were in Requiem for a Vampire. The locations used are gorgeous too! I wasn't keen on what happens to the vampires hit by sunlight at the end. Rather than disintegrate, or anything like that, they just vanish with a jump-cut.
There's of course plenty of nudity here, and most amusing is when Isle first undresses. I guess Rollin didn't want to waste any time, so when she takes off her wedding dress, she's already buck naked under it! I guess she didn't want to waste any time before getting some honeymoon action...
The Shiver of the Vampires was a little too uneventful for me, and I didn't like the two leads, but it's not bad at all, and definitely worth a watch for vampire fans.
[groovtastic isolde in clock, isolde clothes, multicoloured castle, goldfish skull statue, dead preserving, library: nudes, v-neck cloak red cemetery clock, bite]
Lips of Blood
Thirtysomething Frederic is at a party with his mother when a spots a picture of some familiar ruins. Reminding him of a night from his childhood when he found a kindly teenage girl at the ruins (long thought to be a dream, thanks to his mother's insistence), Frederic goes on a journey to find the source of the photograph, and find the ruins, despite increasingly violent opposition. During his travels and investigations, Frederic also accidentally releases four vampiric women, who bring bloodshed wherever they go. Guided by recurring visions, Frederic goes forth, desperately trying to literally find the woman of his dreams...
Lips of Blood is quite a good movie, if not a great vampire movie. It's an all-in-one night story (well, actually two, but same thing), and I didn't realize that going in, so naturally I found the first third a little too uneventful. It's not slow, boring, or poorly paced, but too little seems to happen in the first third of a pretty short movie. It being an all-in-one-night tale partially justifies this, but not totally. The first act probably could've been trimmed by about ten minutes or so.
The story is pretty simple, and not a whole lot happens, but it's never dull. The vampires aren't quite an afterthought, but almost, as the crux of the plot is following Frederic trying to find a woman from his dreams, all the while, the four vampires just happen to kill people. It also doesn't really help the connection between Frederic and the female vampire when they only had one scene together before the conclusion. I understand why, of course, and it makes sense, but that hurts the film a bit. It's not all bad, though, as the scene when Frederic is talking to the vision of the woman in the hospital is really good! I must admit confusion at the ending, though. At first I thought it was akin to the end of other Rollin films, with the vampires resigning themselves to death to protect people, and end their curse with them, but I'm not sure if that's what's happening. I suppose it all depends on how you interpret Frederic's dialogue. Speaking of interpreting dialogue, I think there was a subtle Gaston Leroux reference in this movie.
The film's plot thrust of following a dream in reality, is a highly interesting concept. Dreams can be fascinating things, and sometimes they seem so real and compelling, one almost feels the desire to go looking for them in the real world, as crazy as it may seem. I've felt like doing that too, after particularly interesting and vivid dreams.
The movie's vampire action is decent. The four women mostly act as guardian vampires to Frederic, killing those who mean him harm (or anyone else who gets in the way, including a cameo from Rollin himself). Seriously, who wouldn't want a guardian vampire? You know they've got your back!
There's not many effects in this movie, but what there is is ok. The fangs look good, too! Definitely a step-up from cardboard fangs.
The direction here is quite good, and the imagery is fantastic! The ending shot is stunning in theory, but unfortunately, real life gets in the way a bit, and the coffin gets stuck against the series of wooden posts by the shoreline, and a jump-cut has to bail the ending out and send the coffin out to sea.
Another aspect to the imagery in Lips of Blood is what the vampire women are wearing, coupled with the locations they're roaming come the final act. The way the diaphanous robes flow around their otherwise nude bodies as they stand in these grand ancient places reminds me of paintings and illustrations of Greek myths, and in a way that most other films don't (what with Hollywood being a lot more prudish about nudity than France).
The acting is pretty decent. Jean-Loup Philippe is a pretty fine lead, while Rollin mainstay Nathalie Perrey is quite good! Catherine and Marie-Pierre Castel are here again as twin vampires, and are really good! Mireille Dargent also shows up briefly. And finally, Annie Belle (credited as Annie Briand) really fits the part of the mysterious vampire physically. As for her acting...I dunno. When watching performances in other languages, there are some you can tell are great, others you can tell are awful, but then there are the ones where you'd need to know the language to tell.
Finally, of note about Lips of Blood is that Rollin also made a hardcore version, called Suck me, Vampire! Apparently made when Lips of Blood didn't make much money at the box office, Rollin shot some extra scenes with the same actors, plus new ones, added new narration, and edited the movie in a different order, resulting in what sounds like a fascinating Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead type companion piece. There's a fantastic, lengthy, and comprehensive review of the movie on its IMDb page.
Lips of Blood is another fine vampire movie, and while not as eventful as others, and despite lacking a great deal of vampire action, I definitely recommend it!...
(10:47 27 36 41:40 0 49:12 50:51 58 1:08:57)
Unscrupulous thief Mark tries stealing gold from a group of bandits, and despite failed attempts at taking one of them hostage, he manages to escape. As they chase him, he finds a near-empty chateau, populated by only two strange women, who act afraid in front of him, but it soon becomes apparent that Mark is the one who should be scared...
Fascination is perhaps one of Rollin's best films. It tells a pretty simple story, but that goes a long way. It's really enjoyable, with plenty of twists and turns. These two girls are messing with Mark something fierce! Fascination is so compelling that I didn't even notice over half the movie had gone by before the first death occurred. At only 81 minutes, it moves very briskly, and the tension mounts really well as it goes on.
The plot ended up very different to what I was expecting based on the first half. I thought the whole film would be about Elizabeth and Eva, masters of the chateau, playing a sadistic game of cat and mouse with Mark, and the other thieves, slowly thinning them out, but on the contrary, Eva kills all the thieves in one fell swoop, and then we're left alone with Mark as nightfall comes, and the three are joined by a larger cadre of sinister women, who end up kinda upstaging Eva, which is a shame. She was a really good villain, but she ends up being second-tier when the other women show up. The film also didn't go the route I was expecting with the female bandit. I thought she'd end up teaming up with Elizabeth and Eva. Girl power! Now, aside from the wasting of Eva, the second half of Fascination isn't at all bad. It's still very good, even if it didn't go the direction I was hoping it would.
The dialogue is quite good, and definitely twisted and funny in places. There's one really good line that suck out to me-"Like Danger, you're attractive, but there the likeness ends". There's a pretty poor line at the start though, in the slaughterhouse, which is pretty clumsy exposition establishing not only the year the movie's set in (1905), but the specific month, too!
Fascination is very much a female-heavy movie, and that's awesome! Fabulous actress, and porn starlet Brigitte Lahaie is both incredibly menacing, and vulnerable in places as Eva, while Elizabeth seems to be the more emotional one, yet you never know if she truly is, or if she's just completely off-the-wall insane. Franca Maï does a fantastic job with her characters' various facets, and her performance is doubly and triply impressive if Wikipedia and IMDb are to be believed in stating that this was her first ever acting role!
Mark, on the other hand, is as dense as a neutron star! The guy is the most trusting hostagetaker ever, and is so totally oblivious and/or forgiving to everything around him that it's borderline funny. Throughout the whole film, you come to crave his inevitable bloody demise more and more, and far from being frustrating as that easily could be in other films, it's handled really well here.
The rest of the film's acting is fine. Jean-Pierre Lemaire is fun to watch as the arrogant and doomed Mark. The bandits don't get to do much, while the evil women are all pretty interchangeable. There aren't any bad performances though.
The effects once again leave something to be desired. People have fake blood smeared on them to look like injuries, and that's it, while someone else just squints their eyes to show that they've been slit open, and later on when we see their corpse again, the eyes are fine. Also amusing is how the guns in the film, namely Mark's, seem to have bottomless ammunition.
The score is quite good, and great in places! The opening track is reminiscent of Castlevania 64/Legacy of Darkness.
One last thing to note is that Franca Maï sadly passed away in 2012, and despite not acting in much after Fascination, she did become a successful author, as well as a singer, photographer, and poet! That's awesome! Apparently she wrote dark romanticism, which sounds reminiscent of some of Rollin's oeuvre.
Fascination is by far Rollin's most normal film, but not in a bad way. It still has all of his conventional touches, and is a perfect introduction to Jean Rollin's filmography. Now, as for the question you've probably been wondering for this whole review-Is Fascination a vampire film? Not telling...
France definitely is a creative place for horror, and these movies are fine examples of that! Whether they be high-concept vampire tales, borderline hippie-inspired almost-black comedies, or straight horror films (but not straight, if you know what I mean. Wink wink), Jean Rollin almost always offered something fascinating (pun fortuitous, but not intended) or unique to the table! All of these movies I've looked at come recommended from me! I just wish it was cheaper to get ahold of them...