Color, 1979, 83m.
Directed by Jean Rollin
Starring Brigitte Lahaie, Franca Mai, Jean-Marie Lemaire, Fanny Magier, Muriel Montosse, Sophie Noel
Indicator (UHD & Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 4K/HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Kino Lorber (Blu-Ray & DVD) ( US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Wicked Vision (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.78:1), Image / Redemption (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)

When is a Jean Rollin vampire film Fascinationnot quite a vampire film? The answer: Fascination, a compelling, highly unorthodox of the blood Fascinationdrinker mythos for which Rollin gained financing through a few adult film quickies. Though extremely low budget, the result is one of his finest, most elegant accomplishments and one of the safest introductions to Rollin's style.

After a haunting, cryptic opening in which several well-to-do French ladies gather at a farm where animals are being slaughtered and daintily sip glasses filled with blood, the story follows the misadventures of blond hoodlum Jean-Marie Lemaire, who holds up two young women (Brigitte Lahaie and Franca Mai) at an isolated chateau. The two women apparently have little to do during the day besides rolling around on the rug for an occasional lesbian dalliance, so this turn of events turns out quite unexpectedly for our antihero. When another group of ne'er-do-wells shows up, Lahaie takes a scythe to them, and as the prologue has already indicated, turn of the century French women were not quite as naive and innocent as most commonly believed. Like most Rollin films, the ending is both tragic and haunting, with a highly memorable final image and line of dialogue.

Along with The Living Dead Girl, this film remains the director's purest and most successful of the feminine mystique channeled directly through the Gothic tradition. Coming right off her stint on Rollin's The Grapes of Death, former adult film actress Lahaie makes a fine, memorable figure, tromping around semi-nude in her black cape and slashing open trespassers. Not surprisingly, the Fascinationactors have little opportunity to do more than serve as gorgeous set decoration; the subtitled dialogue is almost extraneous. The sex scenes are more intense Fascinationand explicit than Rollin's previous horror outings but remain suffused with a heady surrealism that makes the encounters play like animated works of art. Surprisingly, the women are not technically vampires but, according to Rollin, were derived from a true anecdote concerning a small female blood cult among the rich and bored. Thus, the film plays more like a pastoral version of the blood-bathing Elizabeth Bathory saga with the eroticism aspects pushed up to full throttle (a la Borowczyk's Immoral Tales).

The Image DVD of Fascination presented by Redemption in 1999 was the cleanest and most visually impressive rendition of this film to that point, though the only real past competition is the prior edited tape released by Redemption in the U.K. and ragged, smudgy-looking SECAM tapes released in France. Some staining on the print flickers in and out for a few minutes, but it's not enough to detract from the beauty of the film or the clarity of its presentation. The sound quality of the film has never been spectacular, but the audio here is pleasant and distortion-free, with Philippe D'Aram's beautiful score seeping over the decadent imagery like a bloody veil. Like the other Rollin titles, the DVD omits the Eileen Daly intros and focuses more on the extras: a photo gallery of production and promotional shots, as well as the original French trailer (which contains some alternate sexy close-up shots trimmed from the final cut of the film).

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray from 2012 (branded as Redemption, per usual practice) is truly lovely, with an attractive film-like texture and much more detail than SD could capture. Damage is Fascinationstill evident throughout with some stains and specks popping up, but it's definitely a substantial improvement. The most interesting extra is a pair of Fascinationvery extended sex scenes with Lahaie, both softcore but treading close to the edge with a handful of shots. The excellent Mondo Macabro TV episode "Virgins and Vampires" devoted to Rollin is included here in its entirety, with many of the film clips substituted with their new HD upgrades. (The framing of the interview sequences is also a little horizontally stretched now, which is a tad distracting.) The usual five Rollin Blu-ray-related trailers are also included along with liner notes by Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas.

In 2019, Wicked Vision presented a mediabook German release that touted a new scan, though the result was a big letdown with a cropped 1.78:1 presentation that knocked the compositions out of whack; on top of that, the contrast here is way too hot, with an orange bias to the colors throughout. That version has German and French DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono tracks with optional German or English subtitles, plus a 24-page booklet by Pelle Felsch ("Blood On The Scythe – Vampire Cults And Death Goddesses At Jean Rollin“) and David Renske, a Rollin video intro, a greeting from Brigitte Lahaie, an interview with composer Philippe D’Aram, an in memoriam for Natalie Perrey, a Rollin interview, the Eurotika episode, the deleted sex scenes, German and French trailers, and an image gallery.

In 2023, Indicator easily surpassed all of the film's previous home video releases with separate 4K UHD and Blu-ray editions (limited to 6,000 and 4,000 units respectively in the U.K. and U.S.), Fascinationfinally presenting the film in immaculate condition with nary a speck, scratch, or stain to be found. The color timing and framing are closest to Fascinationthe Kino Lorber disc, here with an obvious uptick in detail, more refined shadowy blacks, and a delicate color scheme that looks very painterly throughout (especially with the HDR10-compatible Dolby Vision on the UHD). The French LPCM 1.0 mono track is also in perfect condition, sounding better than ever and featuring improved optional English subtitles. A new commentary by Jeremy Richey is a welcome addition covering the progression to this film in the wake of Rollin's financial difficulties (including the failure of Lips of Blood and his gun-for-hire work in the adult film industry), the literary and artistic influences at play here, the relationships to his more traditional vampire projects, and the contributions of other crew and cast members here. Included here in revised, more finely edited versions are the Rollin video intro (2m21s), a "Rituels" (7m42s) making-of featurette by Daniel Gouyette (Rollin's assistant) with Nathalie Perry and Lahaie, the D'Aram interview (19m42s), the deleted sex scenes, the "Virgins and Vampires" episode, and the French trailer, plus a 74-image gallery. Completely new here is the insightful "Love Like Blood" (6m51s) with author and film historian Virginie Sélavy covering the connections to a Jean Lorrain short story, the creativity that flourished over the speedy two-week shoot, Rollin's treatment of lesbian attraction, and the unique, erotically-charged use of blood drinking. The package comes with an exclusive 80-page book featuring a new essay by Vanessa Morgan, an archival intro by Rollin, a previously untranslated archival interview with Rollin, an archival interview with actor Fanny Magier, critic Daniel Bird on the film’s soundtrack, and film credits.



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Updated review on November 1, 2023