Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fascination (Jean Rollin, 1979)

Just to let you know, the image of Brigitte Lahaie stabbing that Max Perlich lookalike in the side with a dagger is constantly bouncing around inside my head as I start this review. If that's the case, why don't you continue down that road? I don't know, it seems a little obvious, don't you think? I mean, I watch a film that stars Brigitte Lahaie, and the first thing I do is go on some long tangent about, oh, let's say, her dark, piercing eyes. You know what, let me try a different track. If it doesn't work out, I'll go back to perving out over Brigitte Lahaie; after all, it's what I do best. If I were to tell you in advance that you were going die if you remained inside a chateau filled with hot French chicks wearing diaphanous robes when the clock strikes midnight, would you stay? The catch being, there are people outside the chateau who want to straight-up murder your French ass. The bullet they fired in anger that grazed your neck is all the proof you need to realize they're serious about setting in motion a series of events that will lead to your immediate demise. Well, that's the dilemma put in front of the nattily dressed thief at the centre of Fascination, a Jean Rollin film that begs the question: Should I stay or should I go? Stay, and you could be wallowing in the kind of vaginal riches the likes no man has ever experienced. Go, and you'll probably be shot in the face. The key word when describing the stay option is "could." Meaning, the vaginal riches are not set in stone. You could, as far as we know, be the main course on the menu that belongs to a deranged cabal of semi-shapely pseudo-vampires.

Much like the ruins in Lips of Blood, the oft-alluded to midnight gathering keeps the audience somewhat interested in the film's outcome. It's a clever technique that prevents those who are not used to Jean Rollin's lyrical brand of art-house erotic horror from bailing on the film all-together. I'll admit, when one of the characters mentions that some "friends" are coming over at midnight, I was rather intrigued. Since I'm being honest, the real reason I started watching this flick was see what Brigitte Lahaie was going to do with that giant scythe you see her carrying on the film's poster. Giving the poster the benefit of the doubt, I was comforted in the knowledge that, no matter happens, Brigitte Lahaie will be wielding a giant scythe at some point over the course of this film.

It's true, you do have to wade through your fair share of lesbian sex and ox blood taste testing to get some Brigitte Lahaie scythe action. But I'm sure almost everyone with a Brigitte Lahaie scythe fetish will agree that it's well worth the wait.

It's true, there's nothing duller than tasteful lesbian sex (no scissor position, me no likey). I am, however, intrigued by this so-called "ox blood taste testing."

I'll get to that in a second, the film actually opens with Brigitte Lahaie and Franca Maï dancing on a stone bridge. It's a great image, as they're dressed all in white and their phonograph record player acts as a sort of turn of the century boombox.

According to the doctor who is accompanying some proper ladies to the butchershop, the year is 1905, and everyone drinks blood. And not only that, it's great for the immune system. I don't know if I agree with that. But I will say this, we're only a minute into this thing and we've already had three striking images. The first, of course, being Brigitte Lahaie and Franca Maï dancing. The second is the sight of one of the proper ladies standing in a pool of ox blood. And the third is the close-up shot of one of the proper ladies rubbing ox blood over their lips. Sure, the latter two are kind of gross, but they're also strangely erotic, especially the lip rubbing one.

Meanwhile, in a nearby barn, a group of thieves are about to divvy up the loot (a satchel of gold coins) from a recent score. If one of the thieves, Marc (Jean-Marie Lemaire), the blonde dandy in the red and black blazer, looks a little out of place amidst this sea of unkempt crooks, that's because he's not with them. Don't get me wrong, they're on the same team. It's just that, I don't think they trust him. The feeling is mutual, and when Marc notices a slight shift in their attitude, Marc pulls out a gun, grabs the loot, and takes the lone female thief (Myriam Watteau) hostage.

My favourite part of Marc and the female thief's brief trip through the countryside was when the female thief tries to use her breasts as bargaining chip. What I liked about it was the way Marc laughed at her, as if to say: Put your tits away, honey. I'm an ass man. Only problem being, the exaggerated nature of his laughter allowed the female thief to get close enough to knee him in the groin and escape into the woods.

Quickly reuniting with her comrades, the gang of unruly thieves (who are basically three dudes and a lady) begin to chase Marc across the lush landscape that is rural France circa 1905. Realizing that he can't run forever, Marc heads toward this sort of creepy-looking chateau that's surrounded by a moat.  Using the stone bridge that leads to the front door–the very same bridge Brigitte Lahaie and Franca Maï were seen earlier dancing on–Marc cautiously enters the chateau.

What he finds inside are two women, a brunette named Elizabeth (Franca Maï) and  a blonde named Eva (Brigitte Lahaie), who tell him that they're "ladies-in-waiting." In-between the parts that feature mind games and ill-fitting old-timey underwear (no turn of the century corset can contain Brigitte Lahaie's delightful bosom), we get lesbian sex, heterosexual sex, a shoot out, and French chicks with daggers.

Don't get too excited, it's not as awesome as it sounds. No, things don't really start to pick until Brigitte Lahaie decides to head outside and take care of business, if you know what I mean. If you don't know what I mean, let me put it this way: Brigitte Lahaie has a giant scythe and she knows how to use it.

With midnight fast-approaching, Marc must choose whether to stay or go. Since there wouldn't be much of a movie if he just up and left, Marc decides to stay. And in doing so, comes face-to-face with Elizabeth and Eva's "special guests." Now, I don't want to reveal who these guests are exactly. But let's just say, they haven't come over to drink tea. Played by  Fanny Magier, Muriel Montossé (Cecilia), and three other actresses who shall, for some strange reason, remain nameless, the women seem intrigued by the handsome thief.

Are they vampires? Or are they merely a bunch of, to quote Marc, "bourgeois crackpots"? Who's to say? The swagger Brigitte Lahaie displays when she goes out to "greet" the thieves was very vampire-esque. But then again, it was the middle of the day. Yeah, but since when do Jean Rollin vampires play by those silly rules? Either way, the film, while not as entertaining as say, The Demoniacs and Lips of Blood, Fascination does have a certain ethereal quality about it that was on the cusp of being appealing at times, and Brigitte Lahaie's gorgeousness is undeniable.

video uploaded by si65giallo


  1. If you set a film between 1880 and 1919 in either Europe or Japan, your have my undivided attention. Add in gorgeous women in those period clothing and hints of vampirism, and arousal is guaranteed.

  2. Is it wrong that I love this movie so much? Just so trippy weird. And of course all the sex and vampires.

  3. One of my favorites from Rollin. It might not be as out there as say Rape of the Vampire (1968) or Requiem for a Vampire (1971) but its still pure Rollin through and through. The film looks like a classical painting come to life, one of the best locations Rollin ever had for sure. Brigitte Lahaie is a "10" if there ever was one (the image of her wielding that scythe has to be one of the most iconic images in all of Euro horror), hell all the women in the film are stunners, Fanny Magier who plays Hélène especially. This film would actually be a pretty prime place to start for a Rollin newcomer if you ask me.

  4. "Brigitte Lahaie scythe fetish", so that's what I have. I understand that Rollin based the scene of the women drinking ox blood (and subsequently, the rest of the movie) off of an actual health fad in France at the beginning of the 20th century. I don't care so much for the "hero", he strikes me as not only a jackass, but a suicidally moronic one.

  5. @ido: I just watched recently a movie that takes place in Japan. However, the year it's set is 1923. :( ;)

    @Timothy Brannan: Even though your question sounds rhetorical, I'll answer it, nonetheless. No, it isn't wrong.

    @Tom Clark: Tell me about it. The sight of Brigitte about to swing her trusty scythe is Eurohorror personified.

    @Nine-Fingered Menace: I can totally envision people drinking ox blood on purpose.

    The "hero" (let's call him the "male lead") was a bit of a pompous pratt.

  6. @yum-yum: 1923 in Japan? Still good to go on that one. Hot and heavy.

    (Just looking at the still captures you made for this film gets me all worked up.)

    @Mr. Clark: I agree, this is an excellent Rollin starter film and has that lush painterly quality that exemplifies his work.

    @The Nine Fingered One: That is not a bad fetish to have. And you are not alone in it. Actually, I wasn't a big fan of the "hero," either. But he isn't the true star of this show.

  7. The three things I liked best about this film were Brigitte's oxblood-red boots, edwardian undies and the fact nobody seemed capable of successfully closing a door.

    Checking out Vibrations Sexuelles right now. The porn flick that first brought M. Rollin and the delightful Mlle. Lahaie together (Brigitte's a brunette in this one). Rollin regulars Cathy Castel and Rachel Maas throw down some scissor action, but it is an absurdly brief interlude in a film that seems devoted primarily to Alban Ceray's nutsack.

  8. @ido: I had a feeling 1923 would make the grade. ;)

    @Tuttle: I can't believe I didn't notice Brigitte's boots or the cast's inability to close doors properly. I must be slipping or something.

    I'm not down with Alban Ceray's nutsack.

  9. I feel like this movie was mistitled. The only thing fascinating about it is the suspense of whether or not the women are actually vampires or not, like so many of Jean Rollins' previous films. Take that away and you're left with a film that could have been called "Horny lesbian blood drinkers" and would have neither lost or gained anything.

  10. Call me crazy, or sane, either way, but I would totally watch Horny Lesbian Blood Drinkers. Totally.

  11. I would too; although I find Fascination to be quite a bit classier than I'd expect a movie titled Horny Lesbian Blood Drinkers to be.

  12. I'm not saying I wouldn't have watched Horny Lesbian Blood Drinkers. I'm just saying that's what this movie should have been called.

    Classy? Guffaw!