A few days ago it was announced that Canadian small press publisher Spectacular Optical—responsible for 2014’s Kid Power! and 2015’s Satanic Panic: Pop Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s, to which I was a contributor, and co-run by Kier-La Janisse of House of Psychotic Women—is going to publish Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin, due out this summer and edited by yours truly. This will be the third official Spectacular Optical book—to be followed later in the year by Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror in Film and Television—and it will include essays from entirely female writers, critics, and historians, and will explore the full range of Rollin’s work from 1968’s Le viol du vampire (The Rape of the Vampire) through 2010’s La masque de la Méduse (The Mask of Medusa), with an emphasis on some of his more neglected titles.
Too frequently written off as sort of the French Ed Wood of vampire films, Rollin is anything but; and while his first few features do include vampiric characters (in titles like La vampire nue, Requiem pour un vampire, and Le frisson de vampires), they are dreamlike and unconventional reinterpretations of horror genre tropes. Rollin also explored more overt surrealism (La rose de fer, Perdue dans New York), reinterpreted the ghost story (Les démoniaques) and the zombie film (Les raisins de la mort, La morte vivante), and even worked in the crime thriller (Killing Car) and fantasy (Les paumées du petit matin) genres. He also made a number of ignored soft- and hardcore films (Bacchanales Sexuelles, Phantasmes, La comtesse Ixe) that haven’t received much in-depth critical appraisal.
My relationship with Rollin’s work began roughly two decades ago when I first saw—and fell in love with—La morte vivante (1982). It came at the tail end of my initial foray into Eurohorror in my early teen years, but stood out because of its emotional resonance and tragic quality, because it reinterpreted both vampire and zombie tropes, and because its two protagonists were women and the narrative essentially derided its scant male characters. Though often accused of misogyny or exploitative uses of women on screen—like basically every other Eurohorror director—Rollin actually has an overwhelming number of female protagonists and side characters, far outweighing the male presence within his work, and explores themes of friendship, identity, sexuality, the quest for personal freedom, and the power of dreams and imagination.
Thus, it only seems fitting that a book exploring his career would be penned by a dream team of female writers, including a number of Diabolique’s core staff; as many of our readers know, we currently have an all-female editorial team and a strong representation of women writers within our ranks. Contributors to Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Films of Jean Rollin include Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Senses of Cinema), Kat Ellinger (Diabolique’s editor-in-chief), Virginie Selavy (Electric Sheep), Alison Nastasi (Satanic Panic: Pop Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s), Marcelline Block (Art Decades), Rebecca Booth (Diabolique), Michelle Alexander (Cinemadrome), Lisa Cunningham (The Laughing Dead: The Horror-Comedy Film from Bride of Frankenstein to Zombieland), Heather Drain (Dangerous Minds, Diabolique, Video Watchdog), Erin Miskell (That’s Not Current, Diabolique, The Backseat Driver), Gianna D’Emilio (Diabolique)—and more to be confirmed. Sign up here to follow the crowdfunding campaign, which will be announced this April alongside the cover, a full table of contents, and much more information.