Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Look at the new Jean Rollin Blu-rays

For months now many of us have been wondering if the newly remastered releases of The Nude Vampire, Shiver of the Vampires, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood and Fascination from Kino Lorber and Redemption would be worth the wait. This past week we all breathed a great sigh of relief when we found out the answer was a resounding YES! These five key-works from Rollin have never looked or sounded better and the amount of coverage they have been getting has been nothing short of astounding (who would have ever thought a publication like The New York Times would have been celebrating the work of Jean Rollin?). I have written on these five films in detail before so I am just going to discuss the technical aspects of the discs and the extras. For those interested in reading my thoughts on the films themselves you can click on the links below (or pick up the new issue of Rue Morgue where I write on each). Needless to say, these are five of Jean Rollin's best films and I can only say that I am jealous of newcomers who get to be introduced to his work via such gorgeous transfers (it's a long-way off from the VSOM tapes that I found Rollin through in the nineties).

The Nude Vampire: As far as upgrades go, the new disc for The Nude Vampire is the most startling of the bunch. Redemption's old disc looked positively dreadful with its washed-out blurry mess of a transfer. The Nude Vampire is positively dazzling looking on this new disc with its eye-popping color photography finally looking as vibrant as we always knew it should. The print is clean throughout, with just some occasional and very slight print damage, and Redemption's new disc brings out an amazing amount of depth and clarity to Rollin's unforgettable images (I felt like I could reach out and touch both The Castel Twins). Watching this disc was like seeing The Nude Vampire for the very first-time again. On the sound-side I had no issues and the addition of the English-language dub, along with the original French-Language track, was very welcome.
Extras include a brief two-minute introduction from Rollin and a terrific twenty minute talk with Rollin filmed by his assistant Daniel Gouyette. The chat is informative, and quite moving, and stands as one of the best interviews with our much-missed man I have ever seen. Natalie Perrey is also on hand for a short, but valuable, discussion. A handful of trailers round out the disc's supplements.

The Shiver of the Vampires: Up next is a film that already been featured as great presentation via The Encore Box-set, so the fact that this new Blu-ray improves on that already great collection is most welcome news. Again, the colors are unbelievably vibrant here (Jean-Jacques Renon would be very proud) and the film just has a more textured and effervescant look about it. I would actually say that The Thrill of the Vampires disc is the most surprising of this first batch, as I wasn't expecting that big of an upgrade from Encore's terrific set. Again an English-language dub is included in addition to the French-language track.
The Encore edition does easily trump the new Blu-ray as far as extras go but both the introduction by Rollin and especially the near forty-minute discussion between Rollin and Dr. Patricia MacCormack are terrific new extras to have.

The Iron Rose: My favorite Jean Rollin films gets a most welcome visual upgrade via this new Redemption disc and, again, it simply blows their older poor-quality transfer out of the water. Some have noted already that this transfer is notably darker but it is also considerably sharper and, truth be told, the new darker visual-scheme only adds to the film's already bewitching allure. You can tell a lot of hard work went into making The Iron Rose look and sound as great as possible and there is simply no comparison with the older versions of this. Again, the English language dub is included along with the (preferred) French track.
Redemption has gathered together some great extras for The Iron Rose including another introduction by Rollin and a longer interview with Perrey plus another batch of trailers. The best supplement is a twenty-minute plus talk with the charming Francoise Pascal, whose memories of Rollin are both fresh and moving. Pascal even mentions my blog at the end which, I must admit, almost brought me to tears.

Lips of Blood: Of all of the new transfers, the one that gets the least upgrade (at least compared to the Encore Box-set) is Lips of Blood. The film already looked gorgeous via the Encore set, as does this new Blu-ray but I didn't notice a huge difference, outside of a generally sharper look and a cleaner print. That said, Redemption's new disc does correct the framing issue present on the Encore disc and the issue with the end-credits has been corrected. Unlike the other discs, an English-language track is not available.
Extras are light on Lips of Blood with only a fascinating ten-minute interview with Perrey and short introduction by Rollin (along with the trailers again) on-hand. Lips of Blood is probably the least-essential of the new discs (if you have the Encore version) but it is still a terrific release of a masterful film.

Fascination: Along with The Nude Vampire, Fascination needed the biggest upgrade(due to Redemption's disappointing older release) and boy does it get it here. Rollin's gorgeous film has never looked more beautiful and rich. The print is clean throughout (save for some expected speckles and minor-scratches) and Brigitte Lahaie looks like she could climb right out of the TV (which I don't think anyone would complain about). Fascination has never looked anywhere near this good and this new Redemption release is easily the definitive version of this haunting film. Again, like Lips of Blood, only the French-language track is available.
The extras presented for Fascination are a bit different than the other releases. No new interviews are found but we do get two longer, and more explicit, sex-scenes Rollin shot for a proposed harder version of the film and a terrific looking remastered version of the great Eurotika program Virgins and Vampires, an indispensable look at Rollin's films that has never looked better.

In closing, I highly recommend all five of these truly great releases. The transfers are incredible (and the booklet with each by Tim Lucas is very valuable) and the amount of hard-work and time Kino and Redemption put into these is worthy of applause. Our man is finally in the best of hands and I can't wait for the next batch of films!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Françoise Pascal's As I Am Now Available

Françoise Pascal's autobiography As I Am is now available to order from Amazon UK. More information on the book from the star of Jean Rollin's The Iron Rose can be found at Pascal's official site here. Also, Françoise is featured on a terrific 22 minute interview on the new Blu-ray release of The Iron Rose sharing her warm memories of working with Rollin on one of his greatest works. For those who haven't read it, my older Q&A with Françoise can be read here.

Take a moment and order her book where I am sure she will share some more of those memories.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Le Parfum de Jean: A Musical Tribute to Jean Rollin

La Parfum de Jean, a really fine musical tribute to Jean Rollin, has just been released by EarSheltering and it is available as a free download at this link. This unique mix is just another example of how the legacy of Jean Rollin is continuing to influence young artists all over the world! Thanks to EarSheltering for putting this together and for making it available as a free download.

And the Winner is....

The Jean Rollin Blu-ray Giveaway is now officially closed and the winner is John Mattie of New York, NY! Congratulations to John and I hope he enjoys the discs that Kino sends him.
Speaking of the new Jean Rollin Blu-rays and DVDs. They are officially out now and all five are truly splendid. I will be posting a report on them soon and if you haven't already ordered them that are available via all the major online vendors. If anyone happens to spot them in-store anywhere, snap a pic and send it my way and I will post it here!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Official ABC Films/Jean Rollin Site

Here is a link to the Official ABC Films/Jean Rollin site that has, I believe, just recently appeared. The site, which Rollin's son Serge is working with, has some truly remarkable images from Rollin's archives and private-collections. The site is in French but a Google translate button is located at the bottom corner of the page.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Hidden Cinema of Jean Rollin: Suce Moi Vampire (1975)

Among the most mysterious titles in all of Jean Rollin's filmography, Suce Moi Vampire (1975) is a film that Rollin had long denied making before finally admitting it about thirty-years after its release. The rather infamous Suce Moi Vampire (Suck Me Vampire) is indeed a hard alternate adult-cut to one of Rollin's most moving and powerful works (Levres de Sang) and the fact that it turned out to be the higher-grossing of the two films upon release is sad, so it's not surprising that Rollin attempted to separate himself from it.

The failure of Lips of Blood in French Theaters was a turning point for Rollin as it truly signalled that his more personal visions were simply not connecting with audiences at the time. Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs would write in Immoral Tales that, "horror fans shunned" Lips of Blood "along with everybody else" due to the fact that it, "was released" during the height of the adult "invasion of French Cinemas."

Rollin took the failure of Lips of Blood personally and found himself in debt (financially and spiritually) to the producers of so he, "allowed the outtakes and alternative takes to be used" for Suce Moi Vampire according to Tohill and Tombs, who would go onto point out that Rollin was, "adamant he didn't make" the film.

Rollin denied making Suce Moi Vampire to Tohill and Tombs in 1993 as they were preparing their monumental volume on Euro-Cult Cinema. Several years later Rollin was still stating that he didn't have anything to do with the production in 1997's Virgins and Vampires when he wrote in the book's filmography that the work had been, "directed by an unknown French director" using numerous scenes, cast and crew members" from Lips of Blood. The filmography also mentioned that producer Lionel Wallmann and Rollin himself were used as actors in Suce Moi Vampire by this mysterious 'unknown French Filmmaker."

Rollin was never one to shy away from his adult ventures so his refusal to acknowledge his involvement on Suce Moi Vampire might seem a little odd but when one considers just how personal a project Lips of Blood was (and how fresh it still would have been to Rollin in the mid-nineties) perhaps the mention of Suce Moi Vampire was like pouring salt on a particularly nasty wound.

Suce Moi Vampire is indeed the work of Jean Rollin and he finally stated such in the excellent liner notes of Encore's Lips of Blood collection. Written around Halloween in 2005 Rollin would write that he, "took some copies of certain scenes, added two long X-scenes and knocked up" Suce Moi Vampire. Rollin admitted it was for his financier Jean-Marc, who he recalled was, "nearly down and out" after Lips of Blood's financial failure and that the successful release of the completely inferior Suce Moi Vampire marked, "the end of Rollinian vampires".

Encore's booklet would offer up some photos from the scenes Rollin shot specifically for Suce Moi Vampire but sadly the footage wasn't included as an extra on the set. As you can see from my stills the only currently available copy of the extremely elusive Suce Moi Vampire is a rather terrible looking grey market print that is as battered, beaten and faded as one can imagine.

Suce Moi Vampire is a confused and sloppy work made up partially of footage from Lips of Blood and the new sex scenes Rollin shot with some of the cast of Lips including Claudine Beccaire, Anita Berglund, Béatrice Harnois, Martine Grimaud, Sylvia Bourdon and Jean-Loup Philippe. While the film itself is really just a curiosity for Rollin devotees it does prove a rather fascinating experience if you love (or are just familiar with) Lips of Blood. It's jarring to see the haunting footage from Lips of Blood paired up with lazily shot sex-footage but intriguing none the less. While Suce Moi Vampire is an undeniably inferior work in every-way compared to Lips of Blood it does contain a rather unforgettable closing shot involving adult-actress Eva Quang (and possibly Rollin himself) that stands as one of the most perverse in all of Rollin's filmography.

While it is doubtful that Suce Moi Vampire will ever get a proper re-release of its own it would serve as a welcome extra on a future re-release of Lips of Blood, if the proper film elements were available. Hardly an indispensable film to view, Suce Moi Vampire is undeniably important in Jean Rollin's filmography as it stands as his first hesitant step into the adult-film world.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jean Rollin at Cult Collectibles and in Rue Morgue

Mark Jason Murray over at the terrific Cult Collectibles has just announced that Jean Rollin is going to be the next film figure represented in their “Weird Wobbler” bobblehead figure series. The limited to 250 seven-inch creation will be released later this year and will come with full color packaging and an exclusive trading card! Head over to this link to find out more about this fun Rollin collectible and to read Mark's moving memories of why Jean Rollin is so important to him.

Also, Jean Rollin is featured heavily in the new issue of Rue Morgue Magazine. Issue 119 (Jan-Feb 2012) includes a really nice piece by Eric S. Eichelberger focusing on Rollin's last interview.

The issue also includes pieces on The Nude Vampire, Thrill of the Vampires, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood and Fascination written by yours truly (in what is my first appearance in a magazine). I'm thrilled to have some of my work on Rollin in print and I hope everyone here will pick up a copy.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Enter to Win a Set of Redemption's Jean Rollin Blu-rays!

I'm very pleased to announce that Kino Lorber and Redemption have set up a very special page in order to give away a set of the new Jean Rollin Blu-rays to one of my lucky readers here. The rules for entry are as follows:

Winner must reside in the USA or Canada, Valid e-mail address required. Customer must respond within 30 days at which time another entry will be chosen. Entries will be accepted through January 23, 2012. Only one entry allowed per-person.

To enter simply go TO THIS CONTEST PAGE over at Kino Lorber and fill out a brief form for a chance to win a copy of The Nude Vampire, The Shiver of the Vampires, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood, and Fascination. I will announce the winner on January 23rd and Kino will ship out your's as simple as that! Thanks to Kino and Redemption for partnering up with me to do this special giveaway, and I hope everyone who enters the contest will check out the rest of Kino's site for more information on all their great releases. Now go submit your entry and good luck!!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Fascination Q&A With Kino Lorber's Bret Wood

I hope everyone had a very happy holiday season and that 2012 is getting off to a great start. Tonight I have the great pleasure of presenting this new Q&A I have conducted with filmmaker and Kino Lorber Producer Bret Wood on the upcoming Jean Rollin releases that all of us are so excited about. 2012 is going to be a great time for Jean Rollin fans and I've got some big stuff planned for Fascination as well. I think this interview is a great way to kick-off what is going to be an exciting year. A huge thank you to Bret for taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in this for us.

To begin with can you tell us a bit about Kino Lorber and some of the great archival work the company has done in the past?

Kino Lorber is a film/video distributor that focuses on independent and international cinema. As a DVD/BluRay producer, my primary focus has been the archival releases (previously on the Kino International label; now Kino Classics). Among the films we're famous for are the Buster Keaton films, various versions of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, the films of Erich von Stroheim, D.W. Griffith, and others. We work with the major archives (as well as with collectors) to try and create the definitive versions of classic films, and supplement them with as much bonus material as our resources allow. Some of my classic projects in 2012 include Louis Feuillade's serial Les Vampires (BluRay and DVD), three early films by Fritz Lang previously unavailable in the U.S. (Hara-Kiri, The Wandering Shadow, and Four Around a Woman: DVD only), and Keaton's The Navigator.

Kino is a wonderful company so I was thrilled when they acquired these Jean Rollin titles. How did all of this come about?

Kino Lorber formed a partnership with Redemption as a practical matter. Redemption's contracts with its current distributor were expiring and Redemption founder Nigel Wingrove was looking for someone to keep the films in print and more aggressively market their library. We quickly realized that the Redemption library contains a lot of fascinating films that deserve to be treated with respect and marketed not only to horror fans but traditional cinephiles. It is our hope that by carefully remastering the films and presenting them as important rediscoveries, supplemented with interviews and other bonus material, we can expand the audience for Jean Rollin's films -- and build a label that will offer the same treatment to other cult directors.

Tell us about the Rollin titles coming in January and will they only be available on Region 1 discs?

The first wave of releases will be comprised of five titles: The Nude Vampire, The Shiver of the Vampires, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood and Fascination. With Redemption's blessing, the DVDs and BluRays will not be region-restricted. The only territory (to my knowledge) where the films will not be commercially available is France, where the films are controlled by another party.

Will we be seeing more Rollin titles from Kino in the future after this first batch is released?

Absolutely. We've already mastered four additional titles in HD, and are putting into motion two additional Rollin films.

The stills and clips that have been released from the upcoming titles look amazing. Were they remastered from the original negatives and can you take us through that process a bit?

Redemption controls the original negatives of Rollin's films, and these were shipped to the U.S. where I oversaw the transfer of the elements to video. The process we followed was to scan the films on a Spirit Datacine machine and saved as digital files. We then color-corrected these raw files with a Baselight system and carefully balanced the colors and density of the picture -- aiming not only for visual consistency but also trying to give the films a more "intentional" look. What I mean by that is this. If you simply transfer the negatives and aim for maximum color and clarity, you will end up with a film that is very bright and colorful and lacking in character. Some of the previous Redemption masters have this look (The Living Dead Girl and Demoniacs are probably the best examples). I tried to give the films a more subtle look. Scenes that occur outdoors at night now look as though they occur in moonlight, rather than beneath a bright spotlight (if you compare the old and new versions of The Iron Rose, you'll see what I mean). This wasn't easy. Some of Rollin's night scenes were shot in broad daylight, and it took a lot of experimentation to find the proper visual balance (Requiem for a Vampire suffered from this problem). At times, Rollin uses bold color very intentionally, and I preserved this whenever possible. I believe viewers who have seen the old Rollin editions will gratified to see how atmospheric the cinematography is, when properly mastered.

I can't stress enough what a rare opportunity this has been for me. Someone who produces DVDs and BluRays lives for the chance to help rediscover a neglected filmmaker. But to have access to that filmmaker's original negatives is almost unheard of. And not just the negatives to a handful of films, but almost his complete body of work. It boggles my mind and I really hope that I can do Rollin justice.

While getting pristine copies of these special films is top-priority, a lot of us are also interested in the supplemental material that will appear on the discs. Can you tell us a bit about some of that material?

Organizing supplemental features is an ongoing challenge. The Dutch editions, released on DVD by Encore, have amazing extras, but we were unable to license those for these editions. Since Rollin died in December 2010, we had to rely upon previously existing material. Redemption had some interviews that had been previously issued on their DVDs, and we repurposed a couple of those. I was fortunate to come in contact with Daniel Gouyette, who worked with Rollin for several years, and shot a number of interviews with Rollin as well as Natalie Perrey (who worked as an actress, script supervisor, costume designer, and pretty much everything else for Rollin). Daniel was gracious enough to share these interviews, and they comprise the bulk of the new bonus material. I've just made contact with someone who has a lengthy videotaped interview with Rollin and we're negotiating for the right to include it on a future BluRay release.
My personal favorite of the special features are the interviews with Natalie Perrey. She tells a story about the making of Lips of Blood -- how difficult the production was, how she was on the verge of giving up, and how something happened that inspired her to carry on -- that never fails to put a lump in my throat. Rollin was fortunate to have such a loyal collaborator, and we are fortunate to have someone who can talk about the making of the films with such a sharp memory, sharp wit, and profound insights.

While this is such an exciting time to be a Jean Rollin fan, I know a lot of us are filled with sadness that he couldn’t see these new releases happen. Did you get a chance to ever meet him in your preparations for these releases?

I wasn't involved in this project until May 2011, by which time Rollin had been dead about five months. It is tragic that he did not live to enjoy the resurgence of interest in his work. It saddens me greatly to think that -- had he lived a couple more years -- the re-release of his films on BluRay might have rekindled enough interest in his work that someone might have funded another project. Unfortunately, there will be no new Jean Rollin films, so we had better treasure the ones that we have.

Turner Classic Movies recently showed my personal favorite Rollin film The Iron Rose. Do you know if they might be willing to air perhaps more titles in the future, and did you hear any feedback of the showing of The Iron Rose?

The Iron Rose aired on TCM thanks to the support of Millie De Chirico (who essentially curates their "TCM Underground" slot) and Senior V.P. of Programming Charles Tabesh. Both Millie and Charlie have expressed interest in broadcasting other Rollin films. The difficulty is in the fairly explicit sex and violence that appear in Rollin's films. To their credit, TCM does not edit films, and has gotten steadily more bold in its presentation of R-rated material... so we all hope and expect to see more of Jean Rollin's films on the network. But the films will have to be carefully selected and presented in order to not offend more traditional viewers (or TCM's Standards and Practices department).

Tell us a bit about how you initially discovered Rollin and what your own personal favorites are.

I first learned about Rollin from the magazine Video Watchdog (of which I've been an avid reader from issue #1). To be honest, I was skeptical of some of the praise that was being heaped upon the films. "If the films are that unique," I thought, "Why haven't I heard of them?" When I finally saw one, I was quickly humbled. The films were every bit as hypnotic and poetic and fantastic as VW editor Tim Lucas said they were. And I set out to track down copies of every Rollin film I could get my hands on (not always an easy task). I was proud to bring Tim into the project and ask him to write an essay for the first wave of releases. He also consulted with me about which titles to release first. He deserves the lion's share of the praise for reviving interest in Rollin's work.

Prior to working on the new masters, Fascination was always my favorite. But now that I've seen the movies repeatedly, backwards and forwards, I probably like The Shiver of the Vampires best. But then, as soon as I say that, I remember things that I love about The Iron Rose (the spinning camera, Françoise Pascal's performance), Lips of Blood (how heartfelt and personal it is), The Nude Vampire (the opening sequences) and I start second-guessing myself.

Finally, I know you are a filmmaker in your own right. Can you tell us a bit about your own work and what some of your future goals and plans are?

I'm generally drawn to stories that explore perverse sexuality, and the psychological chess matches that people engage in as they navigate the treacherous waters of "morality." Last year I made a feature film called The Little Death, which Kino Lorber will release on DVD in February 2012. The DVD will include a 17-minute short, entitled The Other Half, that I made the previous year. My other credits include the documentary Hell's Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films (about the notorious death-on-the-highway driver's ed films of the 1960s) and the narrative film Psychopathia Sexualis.

Wish me luck. I'm in planning stages of a feature film entitled The Control Group, which I hope to shoot in 2012.

Thanks so much Bret and all the best of luck on your upcoming projects! Again, we really appreciate all your hard work and can’t thank you enough for helping to get these upcoming Rollin titles out. Thanks also for this doing this Q&A!

It's my pleasure, and I look forward to keeping you and your readers up-to-date on future projects.

Wonderful, thanks again Bret. This was a real pleasure!