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If you're unfamiliar with the cinema of Jean Rollin, here's where to start. Whereas expressionistic and somnambulist acting styles are generally the rule for Rollin's movies (with the extreme styles serving as refuge for the bad actors he worked with), in Fascination (1979) he received the benefit of a strong core group of actors--led by Jean Marie Lemaire as a thief who stumbles upon the chateau where Franka Mai and Brigitte Lahaie are staying. He doesn't know why Mai and Lahai are all alone at the chateau, with the servants nowhere in sight. But we receive a good hint in the movie's opening scene: a group of upper-class women receive treatment for their anemia by visiting a slaughterhouse--where under the supervision of a doctor, they drink fresh blood. That evening, visitors--all upper-class women--start to arrive at the chateau. Lemaire doesn't know what's planned, but he has a good time until he starts to suspect the fate that awaits him.

Among the movie's striking visuals, Rollin gives us Lahai wielding a scythe and using it to dispatch a group of thieves that have followed Lemaire to the chateau. She stalks the thieves while only clad in a thin nightgown that tends to flap in the breeze. The band of thieves, unfortunately, is one of the movie's more risible elements. They're about as convincing as the shipwrecking crew in The Demoniacs. But they're the exception. Lemaire, in particular, takes a charismatic turn as the story's roguish hero. He underplays his character and avoids becoming cartoonish. Mai plays the entranced young woman who almost allows her love for Lemaire to overpower her bloodlust. And Lahai (a veteran of French pornographic productions) gives a captivating performance that relies upon much more than just her physical charms (although they are clearly on display).

Quite probably the most influential member of the film crew, however, other than Rollin, was the cinematographer, Georgie Fromentin. Fascination is possibly Rollin's best photographed movie. It attains a gothic intensity thanks to the stately images provided by Fromentin that are juxtaposed with reds and oranges. He creates a romantic, overripe world that has entered a stage of decadence and morbidity.


Go to:
The Shiver of the Vampires
Requiem for a Vampire
The Demoniacs
Lips of Blood
The Night of the Hunted
The Living Dead Girl