Rollin, Jean

Rollin, Jean (1938–)

(pop culture)

Jean Rollin, a French horror movie director, is best known for his production of a number of adult erotic vampire films, beginning with La Reine des Vampires (Queen of the Vampires) in 1967. Rollin entered the film industry as a teenager in 1955 as an assistant director working on animated films. A short time later he produced his first film, a short entitled Le Amours Jaunes. In 1965 he met American producer Sam Selsky. Selsky asked him to put together a half-hour short to run with one of his already produced films. The resulting Le Reine des Vampires proved superior to the feature with which it ran and led Selsky to support Rollin’s first feature film, Voil des Vampires (Rape of the Vampires), which met with relative commercial success. In this film, into which most of Le Reine des Vampires was edited, he established what was to be the hallmark of his subsequent work—a preference for visual effects that carry the film’s message and dominate the often weak story lines. His first feature, in fact, has a rather flimsy plot about the attempt to free two women from a vampire’s curse. It enjoyed success, in large part, because of the sexual scenes—the audiences reacted to a decade of rather strict censorship during the reign of Charles de Gaulle.

Rollin followed the success of his first work with his first color feature, in 1969 La Nue Vampire (released in English as The Nude Vampire or The Naked Vampire) and in 1970 one of his more heralded productions, Le Frisson des Vampires (released in English as Sex and the Vampire or Vampire Thrills). Le Frisson des Vampires concerned a young couple who encounter the vampire Isolde, who makes her first appearance in a suit of chain mail and thigh-high leather boots. Again the visual imagery overshadowed the plot, and Rollin saturated the audience with his portrayal of vampirism as a perverse form of sexuality.

By the time of his third film he had assembled a group of specialists who assisted him through the 1970s in a series of low-budget productions. He regularly returned to the vampire theme feeling that vampirism provided an effective vehicle for portraying erotic themes. In 1971 he directed Le Cult du Vampire, followed in 1972 by Requim pour un Vampire (also released as Vierges et Vampires and Caged Virgins). Rollin also directed a number of horror and adult features. In 1974 he produced Levres de Sang (Lips of Blood) and followed it in 1979 with Fascination and in 1982 with La Morte-Vivante. Fascination featured a cult of vampire women (a theme Rollin had used in earlier films) that conducted ritual sacrifices of men in a remote castle home. His last vampire movie concerned a dead woman revived as the result of a chemical waste spillage. She began attacking people to drink their blood, an appetite that grew stronger as the film progressed. In his spare time Rollin authored several horror-fantasy novels.

He continued to make movies through the 1980s and into the 1990s and currently lives in Paris. In the 1990s he returned to the vampire theme with The Vampire Orphanes (1996) that told the story of two girls who were blind orphans by day but turned into and bloodthirsty vampires by night. He also released a oversized volume of essays on his vampire movies illustrated with numerous stills. His most recent encounter with vampires, La fiancée de Dracula (2000) has a vampire hunter tracking down Dracula‘s vampire descendents in the contemporary world.

Sources:

“Blood Poetry: The Cinema of Jean Rollin.” Special issue of Kinoeye: New Perspectives on European Cinema 2, 7 (April 2002). Posted at http://www.kinoeye.org/index_02_07.php. Accessed on April 11, 2010.
Flynn, John L. Cinematic Vampires: The Living Dead on Film, Television, from The Devils Castle (1896) to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Jefferson, ND: McFarland & Company, 1992. 320 pp.
“Lust at First Bite.” The Dark Side (July 1992): 5–10.

Pirie, David. The Vampire Cinema. London: Hamlyn, 1977. 175 pp.

Rollin, Jean. Virgins & Vampires. Edited by Peter Blumenstock. Schwenningen, Germany: Crippled Dick Hot Wax, 1997. 153 pp.