Frederick sees a photograph of a ruined seaside castle, which triggers a strange childhood memory. He then goes on a strange quest, aided by four female vampires, to find the castle and the beautiful woman who lives there.
A runaway criminal breaks into an eerie chateau, taking its two frightened chambermaids hostage. As night falls, a group of mysterious aristocratic women arrive and the criminal begins to realize the women are hiding a sinister secret.
A gang of pirates rape the two sole survivors of a ship wreck. The violated girls are rescued by the strange inhabitants of a supposedly haunted island, where they are granted supernatural powers to strike revenge against the pirates.
A young man falls in love with a beautiful woman being chased by sinister masked figures at night. He tries to track her down, and learns she's being held captive by his father and colleagues who believe she's a vampire.
[In the cemetery, looking at all the elaborate tombs]
I don't care where they put me when I'm dead.
Do you think the soul escapes from the body after death? Is there such a thing as the soul?
I don't think there's anything left after physical death. And it's stupid to spend all that money on stiffs.
Some do that out of love.
Well, I prefer the love of life more than the love of death.
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More than a few European horror directors in the 70's went on to do hardcore pornography, and Jean Rollin in no exception. What differs him from the likes of Joe D'Amato, however, is that Rollin was a real, though neglected craftsman, and possibly one of France's finest auteurs. He injects each and every one of his horror films (save for "Zombie Lake", which is as much a Jess Franco film as Tobe Hooper's "Poltergeist" is a Steven Spielberg film) with such relentless atmosphere of death prowling every inch of the frame, and "The Rose of Iron" is where he excels. One of the finest poets of all things morbid and decadent - think the cinematic equivalent of Edgar Allan Poe, Rollin creates a minimalist, lyrical, unusual and disorienting beautiful ode to Death, that save for very few exceptions, has never been bettered elsewhere in the genre. The fairly simplistic, but multi-layered plot follows a young couple getting trapped in a cemetery after-hours, unable to find the way out as the girl slowly succumbs to madness. "The Rose of Iron" is a difficult film and thus not for everyone, as even Rollin fans might find themselves disappointed, as there is none of his trademark vampire girl-on-girl action nor is there the slightest bit of gore and camp. Nudity is minimal, and so is the cast, composed of only two actors for nearly it's entirety, with only one setting. Nevertheless, what one can simply describe as boring and uninteresting, I find be a cerebral, hypnotic tour-de-force, that keeps you glued to the screen from beginning to end, if you're willing to be bewitched by it's atypical quality. Although most Euro-horrors of it's time were criticized for poor acting, "Rose..." proves otherwise by having brilliant performances from Françoise Pascal and Hugues Quester as the young couple. They are one of the few Rollin performers who actually manage to enjoy a more successful career in French cinema, and rightfully so. They manage to carry the film brilliantly, even with the limited and often surrealistic dialogue. Quester evokes a genuine sense of paranoia as the film progresses, and Pascal's spiral descent into insanity is equally raw and visceral, in spite of the film's otherworldly nature. Pascal's acceptance and consequent embracing of the world of the dead very much represents Jean Rollin's own utopia - a twilight world that transcends time and space, where both the living and the deceased live among one another, to the point they become one. Rollin's passion for crumbling, ancient grounds also mirrors this ideal dreamland, and he makes the best out of this often-used setting, bringing it to life through some delirious camera-work that would make Argento envious, and an equally foreboding, experimental musical score by Pierre Raph. Overall, if you dare give yourself up to the unique, morbidly beautiful dream-world of France's most underrated filmmaker, "The Rose of Iron" is the film for you.
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