Joshua Reviews ‘The Cinema Of Jean Rollin,’ Kino’s Five New Redemption Film Blu-ray Releases [Blu-ray Review]

When looking into the world of film and the most influential names in any respective genre, some of the most impactful filmmakers are often times the ones who the masses most often over look.   Be it films that don’t get their just due at the various annual awards, or filmmakers who take decades to get their much deserved respect (hell, Godard has yet to win an Oscar that isn’t described as ‘honorary’).   However, thanks to Kino, one filmmaker will yet again have his time in the spotlight.

January sees the release of five new Blu-ray releases of respective films from the filmography of the much reviled and reveared erotic horror/thriller auteur, Jean Rollin.   The director of over fifty features before his death in 2010, Rollin was best known for his stunning blend of beautiful women, surreal (almost dream-like) narratives and his love for anything and everything supernatural. It is this mixture of style, taste and aesthetic   that he not only became best known for, but that he has become something of an icon within the genre, inspiring various directors to take their horror a bit more erotic.

And I must say, based on this quintet of films, that’s a welcome change of pace.

First in the queue is Rollin’s ‘˜The Nude Vampire.’ Starring Maurice Lemaitre, Caroline Cartier, Olivier Martin and the pair of insanely beautiful sister pair of Catherine Castel and Marier-Pierre Castel (who we will be definitely talking about in just a few moments), and follows the story of an industrialist who attempts to find immortality by utilizing a mute woman who has been raised to give her blood.   When the man’s son discovers what is happening, he attempts to show the young woman what a free life is like, and subsequently sends a list of issues going in a visually arresting downward spiral.

Next is the gloriously titled ‘˜The Shiver Of The Vampires.’ Yet another film from Rollin who’s premise is directly focused around the involvement of vampires, the film is also one of Rollin’s more artistically dense and experimental works (which is saying something).   The film doesn’t focus all that heavily on plot, instead attempting to tell the story of a couple to go to a mansion to consummate their marriage, but are unable to.   Toss in a woman coming out of a grave, yet another woman popping out of a grandfather clock, and a ton of other hyper-surreal, oddly sexual, and utterly breathtaking images, put on blend, and you’ll have one of the most original horror films ever made.

In the proverbial hole (or the third film, for our non-baseball oriented readers out there), is ‘˜The Iron Rose.’ The first one of the five film set to not look into vampires and vampire mythos, ‘˜Rose’ is an oddity, as it’s both intensely dense, arguably the most experimental film of the set, as well as being one of his strongest.   Telling the simple tale of a pair (played by Francoise Pascal and Hugues Quester, cast member of ‘˜Three Colors: Blue’) who enter a graveyard, but when night hits, are unable to make their way out.   Blending the macabre with a deeply metaphysical and existential, almost nihilist, style narrative, the film is definitely one of the collection’s gems.

Batting cleanup is ‘˜Lips Of Blood.’ The film follows a man who, after launching a new perfume, becomes enthralled with both an old childhood memory, as well as a gorgeous woman, who at one point in time saved him when he was lost as a young boy.   Considered the best film of the bunch by many a scholar, the film is also considered by anyone familiar with the filmmaker to be his most personal and tender. It’s also one of his most beautiful.

Finally, there is the utterly provocative and brutal ‘˜Fascination.’ Starring the mindblowingly gorgeous Brigitte Lahaie, the film follows a woman who drinks ox’s blood to cure her anemia, but what makes this film so utterly engaging, is that it proves one of many things.   Throughout his career, Rollin was often asked to toss in random sex scenes into his films, and this film seems to feature exactly that.   While a few of the sequences fell as natural as a sex scene in a barn can feel, the film, and Rollin’s entire canon, feels to feature a sequence or two of pure sex, that seems bluntly out of place.

However, each of these films are, in their own ways, bluntly beautiful as well.

When one discusses Rollin’s career, there are a few issues to tackle right off the bat.   First, each of these films is an absolute love letter to both the mythology of anything and everything occult, but more so, the female form.   Throughout history, women have always been seen as the truly special gender.   Given the ability to create life, their beauty also allows them to get into situations in which they are able to render it completely null and void.   Within each of these films may be a cavalcade of nudity, but not without a point.   Never manipulative or mean-spirited, Rollin truly loves and adores females and their bodies, as well as what they are able to do with them.   Be it a provocative dance sequence in ‘˜The Nude Vampire,’ or the continual use of a nude woman, only wearing a see-through cloak flowing in the wind throughout each of the five films here, Rollin may seem like a filmmaker who uses sex to sell, but he’s only a filmmaker truly admiring the beauty that is the female figure.

But one can’t help but find Rollin to be a filmmaker both erotically fueled, but also, and unlike many of his ilk, fueled by something far more intellectual.   Throughout this set, consistent themes pop up.   Be it the discussion of life and death in ‘˜The Iron Rose,’ (also described as having an ‘˜Orpheus’ type narrative, which is more than true) or   the playful fetishism of ‘˜Fascination,’ also one of the most aptly titled films here, the five films here are some of the most wonderfully shot and yet intellectually stimulating pieces you’ll see.

Best known, visually, for his use of neon hues, each film here may not have a distinct sense of style or a singular aesthetic, but what Rollin as a filmmaker owns is such a singular vision that as an auteur, he’s unlike anyone out there.   His seamless blend of eroticism and deep intellectual musings may come off as pretentious, but with his almost playful visual style and even more playful narratives, the films are both oddly surreal and generally creepy, as well as being shockingly gorgeous and deeply moving.   Save for a few stale notes (‘˜Lips Of Blood’ is likely the weak link here), each of these films hold within them a great depth of intellect and emotion, as well as a visual style that is both lyrical, and utterly engrossing.

Never focused on performances (save for the pair of twins previously mentioned, who make it in to a majority of these films), the director often worked with hardcore/softcore porn stars, but shockingly gave them a great deal of both narrative and emotional range to work within.   However, one won’t take away from these films just how strong the performances are, but instead how great each cast member truly is within each performance and each film.   A director wholly intent on giving us a surrealist’s experience in the world, these films play as little more than a well educated and thoughtful young boys day dreams about vampires, gorgeous women, and tons and tons of gore.   And for his existence, this is a much, much better world.

Each respective release is chock full of great supplements, with each release coming with an epic visual and audio transfer, as well as a dense booklet penned by Tim Lucas, editor of ‘Video Watchdog.’ ‘˜Vampire,’ ‘˜The Iron Rose’ and ‘˜Shiver’ all come with English dubbed audio tracks, introductions from the filmmaker, which is also seen in ‘˜Lips Of Blood.’ As mentioned, each release is utterly stacked, including various profiles on Rollin and his filmography (the most intriguing of which is the ‘˜Virgins and Vampires’ supplement on the wonderful ‘˜Fascination’ Blu-ray), interviews with cast and crew, and various trailers for each respective film.   Here are the full details for each disc:

‘˜The Nude Vampire’

  • Mastered in HD from the original 35mm negative
  • French with optional English subtitles
  • English dubbed version
  • Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
  • Interview with Natalie Perrey (4 min.)
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • French and English theatrical trailers
  • Original trailers of four other Rollin films

‘˜The Shiver Of The Vampires’

  • Mastered in HD from the original 35mm negative
  • English dubbed version
  • French with optional English subtitles
  • Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
  • Interview with Jean Rollin by Dr. Patricia MacCormack (39 min.)
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original trailers of four other Rollin films

‘˜The Iron Rose’

  • Mastered in HD from the 35mm negative
  • English dubbed version
  • French with optional English subtitles
  • Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
  • Interview with Francoise Pascal (20 min.)
  • Interview with Natalie Perrey (7 min.)
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Four original trailers for THE IRON ROSE
  • Original trailers for four other Rollin films
  • English opening title sequence

‘˜Lips Of Blood’

  • Mastered in HD from the 35mm negative
  • French with optional English subtitles
  • Introduction by Jean Rollin (2 min.)
  • Interview with Natalie Perrey (10 min.)
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Original trailers of four other Rollin films

‘˜Fascination’

  • Mastered in HD from the 35mm negative
  • French with optional English subtitles
  • Two deleted scenes (16 min. total)
  • “Virgins and Vampires,” a 24-minute profile of Rollin, with extensive interviews, form the TV series  Eurotika!
  • 20-page booklet with an essay by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Original trailers of four other Rollin films
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