Fascination

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“An iconic low-budget combination of sex and violence.”

Mark (Lemaire), is a thief on the run from his collaborators after absconding with the loot. He takes refuge in a remote country manor, all but surrounded by water, which he believes to be deserted. Turns out he was almost right. The sole inhabitants are a pair of chambermaids, Eva (Lahaie) and Elizabeth (Mai), but despite his gun, they don’t seem quite as terrified of the intruder as one feels they should be, and tell him they are expecting some other female visitors later that evening. Elizabeth does take a shine to Mark, and tells him he should leave, but Eva uses her wiles to keep Mark there. The rest of his gang show up, and lay siege to the house, but Eva takes the loot out to them and single-handedly dispatches them, before returning to the manor. As night descends, the visitors finally arrive, and the noose tightens around Mark’s neck, as the truth about the get-together is revealed…

Watching porn stars try to act is often a painful experience, but renowned 70’s XXX starlet Lahaie is perfectly cast here. She plays a feral creature, driven entirely by instinct, and with no qualms about using sex or violence to achieve her aim, of keeping Mark in the house for the night. The sight of her stalking across the bridge which forms the castle’s sole entrance, wielding a blood-stained scythe almost the same size as the actress, is one that will stick with you. The film does betray its cheapness with some fairly crappy effects [you’re going to have someone hacked apart with a scythe, you should do better than some red gunk on the throat], but more than makes up for it with a parade of strong, confident and sensual female characters. Mark is by now means an idiot or a weakling, but from the moment he arrives in the house, it’s clear he’s completely beyond his depth, out-maneouvered at every turn by the women.

Indeed, right from the opening scene, where a group of elegant ladies sip blood in a slaughterhouse, there’s something off-center about proceedings, and Rollin maintains that sense throughout. While Rollin made several entries in the vampire genre, this is easily his most interesting take on the genre’s mythology – one which doesn’t actually mention the V-word at any point in the film. Lahaie and Mai deserve much of the credit for that.

Dir: Jean Rollin
Stars: Jean-Marie Lemaire, Brigitte Lahaie, Franka Mai, Fanny Magier

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