Jean Rollins films are a strange mixture of artiness and horror. His earlier films in particular are works of artily surreal effect, although his later work becomes much more traditional in matters such as plot. Rollin has also delved into the erotic/pornographic genre with works such as Fly Me the French Way (1974), Hard Penetration (1977), Sexual Vibrations (1977) and Sodomanie (1983), almost as much as he has horror. Frequently, horror and erotica blend into one in Rollins work. Fascination is one such case the film, for example, is available around the world in various hard and soft cuts. The version seen here, which hails in at a brief 70 minutes, gives strong impression that much has been cut out other versions of the film are listed as being 80 minutes.
Jean Rollins earlier films were vampire films with a touch of erotica. Fascination falls into the mini-genre of lesbian vampire films that emerged during the 1970s, including the likes of Hammers The Vampire Lovers (1970) and sequels, Vampyros Lesbos (1970), Daughters of Darkness (1971), The Velvet Vampire (1971), The Blood Spattered Bride (1972) and Vampyres (1974). (In many other ways, Rollin dispenses with the traditional iconography of the vampire movie. Indeed, Fascination could be a lesbian vampire film that throws out all supernatural elements and models itself on the more mundane blood-drinking fetish of Countess Bathory). The horror is contrasted with gauzy, dreamily photographed scenes of the two female leads tumbling together. In between the softcore element, Rollin throws in some striking images. The film captivates from the first scene where we are focused on a woman in medium wide angle, perfectly attired in Victorian dress but standing in the middle of a charnel house, where she is joined by a husband who brings his wife, making her drink the animal blood (as a cure for anaemia), while one of the other women then stands licking her finger in lascivious closeup.
The chateau makes for an eerie location, with the atonal score adding some effect, particularly during the scenes arriving there. Rather than the studio-bound period sets of Hammer Films, this is a real location and one where Rollin creates suggestion of an aristocracy that has fallen into bored decadence. Rollin keeps alluding to things happening at midnight, leaving us with suggestions of something that might involve Satanic rituals, orgies or vampirism. The eventual explanation, which ties back to the first scene, is interesting, if an ending that comes abruptly.
However, it is the shock images of the film that stay with one in particular, the striking image of Brigitte Lahaie in a black hooded gown, naked underneath, stabbing a man in the stables after having sex with him and then beheading a woman with a scythe as she crosses the causeway to the chateau. Lahaie, who is better known as an actress in various erotic/pornographic films, including many made by Rollin, has a beautifully mysterious presence in the film.