Favourite Five Series: JEAN ROLLIN
The Favourite Five Series is a project I have wanted to start for some time. I get asked regularly on Twitter what my favourite film(s) are from a particular director or actor/actress. If you are interested in checking out the work of a particular director or actor it can be a daunting task deciding where to begin. I have watched several films from French director Jean Rollin this year so it seemed like the ideal person to begin my project with. Jean Rollin has 52 director credits listed on IMDB; I have seen 17 of these efforts. Rollin’s films have style, ethereal imagery, haunting atmosphere, vampirism, gothic backdrops, breathtaking locations, gorgeous sets, beautiful women in gauzy dresses and the beach (Jean Rollin does love the beach). Just a few of the things that make the director’s films a pleasure to view. I have enjoyed the vast majority of the films I’ve seen from Jean Rollin and would definitely rank him among my favourite horror directors. Rollin did make several adult films as well, which I have seen just a smattering of; this particular list is strictly Mr. Rollin’s horror films. Honorable mention goes to The Grapes of Death and The Nude Vampire.
THE LIVING DEAD GIRL (1982)
The Living Dead Girl is the only film on this list of five I have not reviewed. It did make my top ten for 1982 however. A young woman named Catherine is brought back from the dead after an earthquake disturbs some barrels of toxic waste, The woman awakes with a thirst for blood and returns to her former home the Valmont mansion. Catherine is joined by her childhood friend Hélène who lures victims for her to feed on. A nosy photographer catches a photo of Catherine and asks around town about the woman. She is told that the woman in the photo died two years ago. Is Catherine a zombie or a vampire? Daylight doesn’t bother her and she doesn’t have fangs, but she isn’t braindead either. The film also goes by the name Lady Dracula (West Germany) and Zombie Queen (Japan). Does it matter whether Catherine is a zombie or a vampire? Not at all. The Living Dead Girl is adorned with Rollin’s usual visual flare; great sets and locations and lovely ladies. Françoise Blanchard as Catherine Valmont is particularly appealing. Unlike his earlier efforts however this one has gore. A fair amount of gore too. Rollin has been candid about his dislike of gore and he seems slightly less comfortable in this territory. As much as I love The Living Dead Girl I admit it is not as slick as the other four films on this list. Nonetheless The Living Dead Girl is a personal favourite that had to be included.
The Parisian privileged visit the abattoir to drink ox blood in an effort to cure anemia. Meanwhile a gentleman by the name of Mark escapes some fellow thieves with a bag of gold coins. He happens upon a mansion where he meets Elisabeth and Eva. Mark attempts to take charge but the two beautiful women flirt with him and eventually seduce him. They are more than happy to let him take cover from the gang of thieves waiting nearby. The mysterious Elisabeth and Eva are preparing for the arrival of the Marchioness and Mark would be the perfect addition to the guest list. Fascination is brimming with atmosphere and its cast is top-notch. Much of the film focuses on Eva and Elizabeth played by the lovely Brigitte Lahaie and Franca Mai and their unfortunate thieving guest Marc played by Jean-Marie Lemaire. As is the case with all of Rollin’s early stuff there is very little graphic violence. There is however an entertaining scythe versus knife fight. While there is the drinking of blood, this is not a vampire film. Fascination is a beautiful, sexy, haunting film full of lovely images complimented by a melodically eerie soundtrack, an intriguing premise and devilishly delightful performances. To read my full review for Fascination click here. Unfortunately I was not able to find a trailer for Fascination so I included a non-spoiler clip instead.
LIPS OF BLOOD (1975)
A picture used in a perfume ad sparks a childhood memory in Frédéric. He recalls meeting a beautiful woman dressed in white as a child. Jennifer, the young woman gives him shelter where he sleeps for a while until she sends him off to his worried mother. Frédéric locks the gate behind him promising to return. Frédéric questions his mother about the events who attempts to convince him that they never occurred. He believes Jennifer may dwell there still and is soon embarking on a journey to find her. Along the way he awakens four female vampires and attracts the attention of some unsavoury sorts who want to prevent him from accomplishing his task. This is Frédéric and Jennifer’s story; a gothic romance with a vampire twist. Lips of Blood is full of beautiful surreal scenes not to mention a breath-taking finale! It ranks as one of my favourite finales in a vampire film. The kill scenes are all stylish and appealing albeit not graphic and Rollin adds some great flourishes like the bats in the coffins. Jean-Loup Philippe is strong as Frédéric and the bewitching, fresh-faced Annie Belle is absolutely lovely as Jennifer. Lips of Blood is a beautiful, haunting and deliciously sexy film with a gothic vibe and a great jazzy score. To read my full review for Lips of Blood click here.
THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES (1971)
Newlyweds Isla and Antoine stop to visit Isla’s cousins. Isabelle, a woman claiming to be the men’s lover informs Antoine that Isla’s cousins are dead. The couple decide to visit the castle anyway. They are greeted by two nubile female servants and are put up for the night. Isla, upset by the news of her cousin’s deaths sends Antoine to sleep elsewhere. While undressing Isla is visited by a woman named Isolde who seduces and feeds on her. The restless Antoine checks on Isla; finding her missing he searches the castle. Antoine witnesses a disturbing ritual so surreal he thinks he might have dreamt it. It will not be the last disturbing or surreal sight for Antoine as the couple soon learn the mystery behind the cousin’s demise. The Shiver of the Vampires is jammed packed with atmosphere but it is also Rollin’s most humorous entry thanks to the two eccentric cousins. Jacques Robiolles and Michel Delahave are absolutely superb in their roles. Sandra Julien and Jean-Marie Durand who play Isla and Antoine, Kuelan Herce and Marie-Pierre Castel who play the two female servants and especially Isolde played by Dominique are all memorable in their roles. The Shiver of the Vampires is particularly stylish and I really enjoyed Rollin’s use of color. The crumbling Castle and its decor are completely outrageous and fantastic! The Shiver of the Vampires is stylish, sexy, strange, funny and totally enthralling. To read my full review for The Shiver of the Vampires click here.
THE IRON ROSE (1973)
A young woman alone on the beach finds something that appears to be a rose sculpted from iron. Later she is seen at a wedding reception where she meets a young man. The two make a date and meet with their bicycles at the train yard. They eventually come upon a graveyard and decide to take a tour. The couple have sex inside a crypt and when they emerge later it is dark. When they are unable to find their way out of the graveyard fear sets in and their imaginations get the better of them. The Iron Rose was Rollin’s first foray outside of the vampire genre and is psychological horror. The Iron Rose is deliberately paced with an atmosphere of oppression, mystery and foreboding. Hugues Quester gives a strong performance as the young man but it is Francoise Pascal’s performance that really mesmerizes. Pascal’s natural beauty and ease make her easy to watch but her range of emotion and her subtle trip into madness is what really shines in The Iron Rose. A simply gorgeous, poetic and hypnotizing film and absolutely one of Jean Rollin’s finest. To read my full review for The Iron Rose click here.