The Celluloid Dreams Of Jean Rollin (paperback, HeadPress) 268 Pages.
In the U.S.:
Jean Rollin was a surrealist filmmaker who became identified with the horror genre. While his films do indeed deal with vampires and the undead in various forms, they also have a lyrical dreamlike quality with imagery that would make Bunuel (with whom he once almost worked) proud. A vampire comes out of a grandfather clock forever frozen at midnight, a woman plays piano within a cemetery, recurring images of figures isolated on an empty beach, these are some of the haunting sights that are mixed in with a sense of loneliness for the preternatural figures within the films.
Before big budget films like INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE (WB,1994), Rollin was mixing poetry, beauty along with violence and the need to kill the one you love to survive. Sadly, due to the violent reaction to his first full length feature*, Le Viol du Vampire (RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE, Les Films/ABC,1967), his films were considered not worth proper study and failed as both art house films as well as horror. Considering that that first feature was actually two separate films put together, the duality of his films (both art and horror, the use of twins, lookalikes, and parallel storylines) seemed organic for most of the remainder of his career.
I first heard of Rollin when I saw a full color photo of his wild poster for his third film, Le Frisson des Vampires/THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES (Les Films/1970). It was a wild image, sexy, art deco-ish, and different from most of the film posters that I had ever seen before. I recall that at the time the book was dismissive of Rollin’s films, calling them dull.
The first of his films that I actually saw was in a cut and poorly dubbed VHS release bowdlerization of his Requiem pour un Vampire/REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE(Les Films,1971) called CAGED VIRGINS (Boxoffice International Pictures (1973) shorn from 95 minutes to 65) . The dubbing I recall seemed very sloppy and made the film feel very cheap. The choppy editing to get to the good stuff (i.e. sex) also made the film seem like a cheapo horror.
Due to his films suffering from poor distribution, Rollin was forced to go into making porno films. It must have been maddening to him that these cheaply made films were better distributed and more financially successful than his personal projects.
However, it did give him connections, among them finding the beautiful Brigitte Lahaie, an adult film actress with great screen presence who was featured in several of his later films, to the advantage of both. Due to her popularity, people sought out any film that she was in, including Rollin’s work. Their best collaboration was the film FASCINATION (Comex/Les Films ABC ,1979) which has the very striking image of a shroud clad Lahaie wielding a very deadly scythe. Death had never looked more beautiful nor deadly.
Finally, there arose in England a group of film buffs who began to champion Rollin as a filmmaker to be reckoned with. Redemption UK distributed many a fine print of his works to a growing appreciative audience.
After a couple of action films for hire, as well as shooting some films that Jess Franco dropped out of(!), Rollin made several more personal fantastique films that were among his finest, garnering good reviews and appreciative audiences. What was little known, however, was that the filmmaker had long been ill, and created his movies while racing back and forth from hospitals.
(from LIVING DEAD GIRL /La morte vivante,1982)
He completed his last film, Le Masque de la Meduse /THE MASK OF MEDUSA (Les Films,2010) just shortly before he passed away, and it was a perfect film to end his career, as much of it mirrored his first feature, and also referenced many of his other creations.
HEADPRESS is to be commended for giving us this wonderful tome, FASCINATION: THE CELLULOID DREAMS OF JEAN ROLLIN by David Hinds, as it is probably the most definitive work on the filmmaker that we are likely to see for some time. The author has a great passion and love for the oeuvre of Rollin, having discovered him among the many Euro Horror filmmakers that were coming to the early video store markets in the early 1980s.
Hinds has done remarkable research, finding and seeing what still exists of much of the director’s work (a few shorts have gone missing, as well as some of his adult films). His descriptions of the films and the behind the scenes stories on their creation and distribution does what any great film book should -it makes you want to go out and see the films for yourself.
(One of his work for hire productions ,aka ZOMBIE LAKE ,1981)
Hinds has gone the extra step and reviewed the various video, DVD, and even Blu ray releases of these films, so you will know which is the best one to purchase.
He also sought out and interviewed several of the people involved with the films, including the fullest interview with the late director that I have ever read( and perhaps the last that the filmmaker ever gave).
The only quibble that I have is that for such a beautiful done tribute to Rollin, the photo reproductions are often muddy and very hard to see, resembling a reproduction of a newspaper photo from microfilm. One wishes that they had tried a bit harder to show the haunting imagery in quality representation, perhaps putting them all in the center of the book on better paper, mixed in perhaps with some color.
–Kevin G Shinnick
*-In 1968, rioting, occupations, and strikes were the norm in Paris it seems to everything. It’s hard now to believe film fans expecting a Hammer type film would react so violently, but given the time it was not so unusual an occurrence.
(“It is forbidden to forbid” -saying during 1968 protests, and apropos of Rollin’s work )