Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



 Directed by Dima Ballin & Kat Ellinger.
Starring Brigitte Lahaie, Francoise Pascal, Virginie Selavy, Kier-La Janisse.
Documentary, UK, 113 minutes.


Reviewed as part of Arrow FrightFest ‘22

Released by Arrow Video in December 2022


Fans of cult Euro-horror will find themselves in Heaven with this overdue look and appraisal of French director Jean Rollin. In danger of slipping into cultural obscurity this detailed and lengthy documentary delves into the life and work of a truly independent filmmaker who struggled to bring his personal, sensual and often surreal vision to the screen. As a biographical work it feels exhaustive, but never exhausting, giving a fully realised portrait of Rollin alongside a healthy dose of insightful commentary of his work from a number of critics and scholars as well as those who worked alongside him and called him a friend.


After providing countless informative commentaries, interviews and articles for many cult films, writer Kat Ellinger steps behind the camera here with co-director Dima Ballin. They go back to the beginning of Rollin’s life examining his childhood and how his upbringing would go onto influence his work. The politics and social life of his mother would inform his own sensibilities as an artist. This background detail is fascinating enough but by the time we have Rollin picking up a camera and managing to get his debut feature RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE into cinemas his story takes one of many surprising turns. Released in Paris at a time of political turmoil this black and white, low budget tale of female vampires lounging around a decrepit countryside mansion would go onto inspire riots within the cinemas it screened in.


Partly a reaction to the film itself, such strong opinions of the director would go on to haunt him. Ellinger and Ballin point out the country’s then sniffy attitude to genre film. Such arrogance and snobbery always resulted in Rollin struggling to raise a budget. These limitations however could arguably be seen as moulding his vision, solidifying it within the legion of fans who would go onto grow in numbers as the decades pass. The imagery of beautiful female vampires lurking within the dreamlike surroundings of crumbling ruins, resulting in such memorable films as LIPS OF BLOOD and REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE, would have to be supplemented by a career making hardcore pornography.


Returning to horror with even more memorable films such as THE IRON ROSE he goes onto direct what many see as his masterpiece; FASCINATION, a film that would kick off an ongoing collaboration with adult star Brigitte Lahaie. The image of Lahaie as a cape wearing, scythe wielding vampire is one of the enduring images of Euro-cult cinema and Lahaie’s fond recollections of how her career and skills evolved as result of this paint a warm portrait of a man who delighted in bringing many a forbidden image to the screen.


As well as Lahaie’s contributions to the documentary we also hear in great detail from his assistant who goes into great detail about their friendship, particularly during the days when he succumbed to poor health, but not before he saw the resurgence of interest in his work across the world. This final stretch of the documentary is touching and emotional. What could have been a dry piece of analysis is instead a fully realised portrait of an artist. Longtime fans should be more than satisfied with this overdue appraisal while newcomers will no doubt find themselves desperate to check out a body of work that this film so eloquently brings back to the spotlight.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans