Salvation Films // 1979 // 80 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // October 28th, 2008
The universe of madness and death.
Watching the films of Jean Rollin makes me wish a couple of things. One, that he'd dropped cinema and focused on being a still photographer. A number of his compositions are very striking. The opening image of the two women dancing on the bridge would look excellent in a frame, as would a number of scenes with the statuesque Brigitte Lahaie holding a scythe and wearing nothing but a riding cloak. Watching his films also makes me wish that he'd had an effective collaborator, someone to push his work to achieve greater depth than his simple erotic vampire tales.
Both of these ideas certainly ran through my head while watching Fascination, which the back cover calls "the most accessible film of Jean Rollin's sex-vampire cycle." I tend to agree with this statement. The plot is pretty straightforward: Mark (Jean-Marie Lemaire), a young thief, tries to escape from a double cross and ends up at the château of Eva (Brigitte Lahaie) and Elisabeth (Franca Mai). Trapped by the pursuing double-crossers, Mark attempts to take the two women hostage. However, not all is as it seems, as the women hold a dark and bloody secret.
Fascination is a slow, atmospheric piece of cinema. Instead of a fast-paced plot, Rollin provides lingering shots of the château and plenty of female flesh. Considering the small number of leads and a lack of plot, the film manages to be interesting through its entire 80-minute runtime. It's the kind of film that's slow without ever quite tipping over into the realm of boredom. Part of the reason the film works is anticipation. From very early on the audience is primed to expect something fantastic at the film's climax. Although not the bloody spectacle that gore fans might hope for, the final scenes offer some interesting twists and atmospheric compositions.
Most viewers of Fascination are going to be more interested in the "sex" half of the "sex-vampire" equation, and rightfully so. Rollin has chosen a bevy of beauties for the film, and every single one of them is shown naked (or in a see-through veil) at some point in the film. As is typical, the lesbian lovemaking is of the tepid soft-core school, as are the male-female interactions. However, while the actual sex might be disappointing, Rollin maintains an erotic atmosphere throughout the film by his choice of actresses. Both Lahaie and Mai have an ethereal, otherworldly air that charges even their more banal interactions with a sexual energy. I didn't find the men particularly striking examples of masculinity, but they weren't nearly as homely as some of the male characters I've seen in the erotic European cinema of the '70s.
Sadly, this doesn't appear to be an upgrade of the previously available Region 1 disc. Instead, as near as I can tell, it's the same release. The 1.66 non-anamorphic image looks pretty good for a film of this type. It's soft in place, and the color goes strange in places, but it's remarkably free of grain and damage. The mono French soundtrack distorts a bit here and there, but the dialogue and music were always well balanced. Extras are limited to a couple of trailers, promos, and a still gallery. I don't know if it's a manufacturing difficulty or a problem with my PS3, but this disc opened up on the extras menu and confused me mightily for a few moments.
If you've always been curious about Eurosleaze vampire flicks, then Fascination is a good place to start. Hardened fans will probably find a few charms in this film, although I doubt it will become a favorite. Although this release isn't spectacular, the technical presentation is more than even the most cynical viewers have a right to expect from an obscure '70s film like Fascination. If you already own the previous disc, there's nothing different here except the cover art.
Fascination is not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Salvation Films
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical Trailer
* Jean Rollin Promos
* Stills Gallery
* Video Art