Overall the cinematography is very appealing, helped by soft and natural lighting, yet the editing is uneven as scenes tend to run on too long and the pacing suffers as a result. It's really a bit of a hard movie to follow with its story, also because it seems that none of the characters are ever saying what they truly mean or want. In 1978, Rollin signed on to direct The Grapes of Death, a bloody zombie movie of sorts with Gothic blandishments, set in French wine country. Maybe Jean Rollin movies form an acquired taste and I'm slowly learning to appreciate them, I don't know? The group of thieves discover where Marc is hiding, and begin shooting at the château. The thief pleads with his savior to flee the cursed place together? It's actually quite amazing this is an 1979 movie.
It's an ok gore scene with the scythe, although what's really special is how erotic Lahaie looks, naked underneath that cloak Then night falls and Lahaie and Mai's blood-drinking female pals arrive and the fun really starts. Elizabeth gets jealous when Eva sleeps with Mark. It's a movie clouded in mystery, which however actually adds well to the overall atmosphere of the movie. What's the difference between fantastique and fantasy? Too much for the under 18 crowd? Lawrence's The Fox thrown in for good measure. The women are not at all scared believing Mark is taking them hostage, in fact, they find him attractive.
There are a couple of plot twists to the ending which I won't reveal but suffice it to say that this isn't one of my favorite Rollin films, although it does have it's erotic moments. It takes much more inspiration from the early, sexually charged vampire Hammer films where a bit of blood was the extent of the gore, and feels dated as a result. It's actually this constant atmosphere that makes this movie such an intriguing watch. The two lesbian lovers who harbor a sanguineous secret, Elizabeth and Eva, are played by the beautiful Franca Maï and Brigitte Lahaie then a porn actress , respectively. Despite the scantily-clad women perpetually in display, Fascination has some feminist leanings in terms of reversing these sexual dynamics; what starts as the ultimate Penthouse dream letter ends as a nightmare for a man seduced into a cruel fate at the hands of women who turn him into the ultimate object for consumption. Even the gore feels gracefully done and precise here, as if the director is also worried about carelessly splattering even a drop of precious blood.
The women, who are lovers, aren't afraid of Mark. A thief Jean Marie Lemaire ,on the run from fellow gang members,takes refuge in a chateau populated only by two young women—Eva Brigitte Lahaie and Elisabeth Franka Mai. Worth watching for her presence alone. Alliances are liquid within the walls of this chateau, with Eva Lahaie and Elizabeth Mai at first giggling and cooing over their new acquisition until Eva condescends to a sexual encounter with the stranger; Elizabeth's jealousy grows, stemming from unexpected feelings for Marc rather than Eva. After a decade marked by working under a pseudonym in the porn industry to make ends meet, Rollin saw Fascination as an attempt to return to his roots. A dashing young thief makes off with some gold coins and takes refuge in a stunning chateau, seemingly occupied by two beautiful women. Mark tries to take her by force, as she intimidates that he'd like to try, but she responds by biting his lip.
Definitely worth a look as are all of Rollin's films. No one really has fear of anyone else in the film despite a few corpses, knives, guns and axes, which spurns their curiosity about each other and the characters curiosity and intrepid desire leads them into danger. Appeartly the movie is supposed to be set at the early 20th century but to me the movie looked like it was taking place in the late 19th century instead. Something is a little off before we even enter this gothic abode. It also makes the ending work work out, which came as a bit of a surprising one even.
This is really the first time that I spotted a few of those artsy psychedelic style elements that Rollin fan-boys are always raving about and it's definitely the fist time that the story remains compelling beyond the one hour of playtime mark. I must also mention the gorgeous, Brigitte Lahaie. Possessed of an uneven acting ability but an undeniable screen presence, Brigitte Lahaie whom Philip Kauffman would cast as Uma Thurman's doppelgänger in Henry and June a few years later impresses from the outset with her uninhibited ferality. I was aware that he had had a prior reputation for effective erotic horror and so I decided to give his Fascination, released in 1979, a try. Even as she swings that scythe at the female robber, her boobs manage to ooze out from under her cloak. The thief believes their mysterious activities to be of a sexual nature and decides to stick around, despite being warned by the two girls who came to the venue beforehand in preparation for the 'ceremony' that the only other male likely to appear is none other than Satan himself! The film opens in 1905 in an abattoir where wealthy women have gathered to drink ox blood as a fashionable treatment for anemia.
Eva Brigitte Lahaie and Elisabeth Franca Mai are living in a castle on the water, complete with a mote and stone bridge providing beautiful background scenery. They go to meet him as Elizabeth and Eva light a room full of candles. The film opens with some apparently normal French women visiting an abattoir to drink ox blood, a scene that feels entirely divorced from the next hour of the proceedings. In fact, the scenes depicting a scantily-clad Brigitte Lahaie walking the castle grounds albeit armed with a scythe! Oh yes, I have said some bad things about Jean Rollin in the past but with this movie he shows he's also capable of creating an actual good movie! A 20-page booklet contains mini reviews of the first Redemption-Kino Lorber Rollin releases and a career overview by noted film critic Tim Lucas. Overall, this movie is bound to delight fans of Rollin's other vampire films, as it's essentially more of the same; but personally, I don't think I'll see any more vampire films from the sleazy French director. This is the only Jean Rollin film I've seen.
Nearby, a thief named Mark escapes from four other villains. The plot takes place in 1916, and follows the story of a young thief who stumbles upon a castle while on the run. The movie looks far more modern, technically speaking. . The scene is framed wonderfully, the colors creating a macabre palette, and sets the tone for the film, combining the lustfully tempting with the physically repulsive.
In fact, Lahaie spends a lot of time taking her clothes off in this film. Nevertheless, Fascination is certainly a far better movie than Zombie Lake. Mark is planning on heading to London with a bag of gold coins, but for the time being must take refuge in a mansion, looked after by two chambermaids, Elizabeth and Eva, who are awaiting the arrival of the Marchioness and her servants. His plan to stay until nightfall seems to be easily achievable when he finds out the home owners have no desire for him to leave. The pace is slow and deliberate with no real escalation of tension as midnight comes and all is revealed.
The surreal atmosphere is well felt, however, and the director does a good job of ensuring that his film always feels like it is taking place in a dream world, which helps the erotic side of the movie. A shot rings out, but it is not Elizabeth's death. Soon, the Marchioness later arrives, whom Mark refers to as the grand danger. And the vampires are not your typical ones either, giving the film more credibility. Single frame close ups of their eyes, lips and blades show the difference between the women. Beautiful French countrysides, gorgeous frequently nude women, old castles and erotic horror are what to expect from this exploitation film with aspirations of art.