Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media

Fascination (1979)
Redemption USA | Buy at Amazon | Review by Louis Fowler

Would it be out of line if I called Jean Rollin the French Jess Franco? Will that ruffle too many purists feathers? I admit that when it comes to his works I'm a bit of a noob – I've only seen THE NUDE VAMPIRE and remember the deer-headed stalker freaking me out quite a bit – but he seems to have that same trashy slash arty low budget middle-finger swagger that Franco does, something that I actually enjoy and admire. Both directors have an atmospherically perverse style that, even at their worse, make it impossible to look away.

Take FASCINATION. I had seen the still art for this, featuring a blond swinging about a scythe in numerous cult film books and mags, and it's an image that stays with you. I was worried that that image would be destroyed by the actual viewing of the film, as so many have been for me in the past, especially with the works of Franco. Those fears were quickly cast aside as FASCINATION is easily Rollin's most accessible film, creating a pretty linear story and toning down the crazy visuals, while never sacrificing his trademark constant sense of dread. It's really no different than what, say, Louis Malle was doing at the time – think BLACK MOON – and that dude is lauded as a cinema genius.

Taking place around 1905 or so, we're introduced to two different groups: a tag-team of rich well-to-dos hanging out in an abbatoir, drinking ox blood as a treatment for their anemia and then another team of crusty French thieves who are chasing after a stately gentleman who has double-crossed them with the loot. We don't see the socialites again (kinda), but the stately gent finds refuge in a seeminly abandoned chateu that's run by two lesbians who are prepping for a secretive party at Midnight wherein Death, be it literal or figurative, will be attending. The significance of the richie riches at the beginning is made clear in a surprise ending I really didn't see coming, but, then again, I can be an idiot, because they give it away on the back of the box.

If you're looking for the perfect introduction to Rollin's work, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better primer.

 

 


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