Read an Excerpt
Since 1968 English-speaking cinephiles have tended to resist Jean Rollin's work, his descents into hermetically sealed worlds of desolate châteaus, solitary vampires and violent seduction, and above all the bizarre genius and poetic imagery with which he weaves his morbid fascinations. Unlike many filmmakers, Rollin's lineage is one of writers, poets, painters, serialists, and comic strip artists as well as cinéastes. The vampire, the (pair of) virgin(s), and the castle form the cardinal points of Rollin's art.
The vampire is often portrayed as the embodiment of both sex and death, so it seems natural that Rollin's perception lies confined to more salacious variations of the "exploitation filmmaker” legend. However, despite these "low art” connotations, his nocturnal fantasies perhaps dwell more readily in the company of those belonging to Tristan Corbière, Gaston Leroux and Jean Ray rather than those of, say, Jess Franco. Although Leroux's Phantom Of The Opera is widely acknowledged as one of the great horror novels, not only does it remain little read, but it eclipses the rest of his body of work. Although Leroux's detective novels The Perfume Of The Woman In Black and The Mystery Of The Yellow Room have both been filmed, his extraordinary, and rather horrific, short Grand-Guignol tales remain trapped in obscurity. These are lurid pulp pieces which have undoubtedly made a huge impression on Rollin. Several of these stories, notably The Woman With The Velvet Collar, are prefaced with a maritime scenario of sailors reciting weird tales at coastal taverns, which is perhaps why this location has such resonance in Rollin's films, particularly Les Démoniaques. The element of organised crime present in Leroux's novels also proliferates into almost every Rollin opus, from bandits in Le Viol Du Vampire, Fascination and Les Démoniaques to the runaways in Requiem Pour Un Vampire, Nuit Des Traquées and The Escapees.
Tristan Corbière's poetry has a romantic preoccupation with memories. Perhaps it is this one vein which runs consistently through Rollin's films, lending them a unique ambience of mystery. Lèvres De Sang may be seen as the conclusion of this preoccupation, which has haunted both Le Viol Du Vampire and La Vampire Nue. Corbière and Leroux wrote around the circle of French Decadent writers, among which was Jean Lorrain, the author of the short story "The Glass Of Blood”:
"...It is the governess who has the task of conducting the girl ...