1 Hr., 35 Mins.
The Shiver of the Vampires / Fascination October 9, 2018
genre, wasn’t yet much in the habit of releasing the sorts of sexually explicit, vaguely Gothic, near-stupefacient genre movies for which he would become semi-famous.
For his proper filmmaking debut, The Rape of the Vampire (1968), which was preceded by a few forgettable shorts and documentaries, Rollin introduced a fantastique-mining-cum-erotohorror style that, while dismissed by serious-minded critics, attracted the attention of investors nonetheless. So would begin a three-decade-long career that either built on or refined the characteristics initiated by Rollin’s 1968 debut, with a sprinkling in of pornographic films, directed under a pseudonym, to help pay the bills.
Rollin's body of work has come to accrue a respectable cult following; a recent DVD compiling of his best movies was even covered, in 2012, by the New York Times. He is most often associated with the 1970s, the decade during which he was the most prolific, and the vampire movie, of which he made several. It is usually agreed that if one might be inclined to venture toward the artfully trashy collective dreamscape Rollin made up during his most lucrative creative period, it is 1979's Fascination that best captures his style.
Sensual and effectively arcane, it is a proficiently made vampire feature. It revolves around a petty thief (Jean-Pierre Lemaire) who serendipitously stumbles upon a battered, mountain-locked château in middle-of-nowhere France. Upon entering, he must contend with the murky intentions of the seductive, mysterious maids (Franca Maï and Brigitte Lahaie) who live there.
The film, though somewhat lethargic at just barely 81 minutes, carries a good amount of tension. In the film’s seemingly unrelated prologue, we see a group of aristocrats drinking blood — in an attempt to cure anemia, supposedly — and such instills a sense of foreboding.
It is clear that the women who trudge around the property the protagonistic miscreant happens upon are hiding something, but what? The prelude, which suggests that they are, perhaps, wont to drink blood like their very own Nosferatus, even, sets up a sort of anxiety that never quite leaves. Are these women, who both seem to want to have sex with and destroy their houseguest, scheming something nefarious, or are our imaginations acting up?
The paranoia proves itself not so baseless after all. Part of the reason Fascination ultimately has an effect over us, then, in spite of its no-budget trappings, is the way the reveals still steamroll our expectations — and dexterously conjoin the all-important sex and death thematics. Its most memorable moment arrives when the Lahaie-portrayed "servant" emerges with a scythe, wearing a witchy cloak with nothing underneath, and slashes an extraneous visitor with sensational self-assurance. The image leaves an imprint — and is, I think, a fitting visualizing of Rollin’s singular way of linking the beautiful to the horrific.
1 Hr., 21 Mins.
financial sturdiness — the filmmaker sagely goes into stylistic overdrive to make the movie seem better than it is.
Outdoor sets are often festooned with becomingly artificial stage lights and cranked-up fog substitute. The photography, ever-strange, is fond of the close-up and the sudden zoom-in — attributes reminiscent of the previously mentioned Franco or, to make a broad comparison, the French auteur Jean-Luc Godard.
The film is pretty to look at; it's an intriguing ragbag of the baroque and the macabre. But its visual spark doesn’t quite smother the pitfalls of its being more jumbled than Fascination, and, for Rollin, too long at 95 minutes. Like the latter film, it involves clueless outsiders zoning in on a not-so-safe space. This time, the everyday ignoramuses are a pair of newlyweds, Isla and Antoine (Sandra Julien and Jean-Marc Durand). As the film opens, they're driving to the mansion of her beloved cousins to visit for a few nights. (Man and Wife are still sweating in their special-day regalia when they park in the gravel driveway.)
What follows will not make for a mundane stopping-by, though. It is discovered that the cousins are actually undead — erstwhile vampire hunters who got victimized and then switched sides. And the gorgeous-but-blank women roaming around the property? Quasi-Renfields.
Antoine, with Ryan Seacrest’s face and Jacques Dutronc’s hair, clues into this rather quickly. Isla, who loves her family to no end — odd, considering how cold and eccentric they are — refuses to accept the truth on the other hand. A ruinous stance, undoubtedly.
The Shiver of the Vampires isn’t especially good. But it, like the much-better Fascination, is an appetizing product. In many ways redolent of the avant-garde, it denotes itself an irresistible artifact of anything-can-happen cinema. Rollin’s investment in his material is evident, even if the finished feature, all verbose and wannabe-cinematic (visually, that is), isn’t wholly successful all the time.
Rollin’s enthusiasm, I think, is what continues to draw people toward his cultish, unabashedly off-center products. His films are violent and sexual cheapies — not so far off from most of the pictures comprising the exploitation-movie milieu. But while we watch them is it obvious that he’s putting all of his energy, and all of his inspiration, into them, making the most out of features that’d otherwise be deemed disposable in the hands of a less-passionate filmmaker. Rollin, in comparison to so many of his sort-of-automatonic peers, is a compelling, if not always so focused, stylist. And as such do his films become unfading little creations — tantalizing products made on a wing and a prayer hard to resist because of their pluck and fluky artistic flair.
The Shiver of the Vampires: B-
he sensibility cultivated by the French, multi-hyphenated filmmaker Jean Rollin was and has continued to be often compared to the one made famous by the Spanish Z-movie impresario Jesús Franco. Most of the movies residing in both of their oeuvres were quasi-surrealist, somewhat-baroque horror features that starred Junoesque young women who were unafraid of appearing naked on screen. Around the time Rollin rose to B-movie fame, though, his native France, while accommodating of the horror
or all its provocations, though, Fascination is still less stylistically outré than a great many of Rollin’s films, perhaps because its budget is bigger and ensemble better, thus making visual overcompensation less a priority.
Even though it’s inferior to the 1979 showcase, Rollin's third feature, The Shiver of the Vampires, from 1970, is far more artistically inspired. Because it has such little to work with — by way of acting, story, and