Monday, February 18, 2013

The Iron Rose - Getting Stiffies With The Stiffs

The Iron Rose
Directed by Jean Rollin
Written by Jean Rollin, Maurice Lemaître  & Tristan Corbière
Starring Françoise Pascal, Hugues Quester & Natalie Perrey

Tag Lines:

La Plus Etrange des Histoires d'Amour....

Alternate Titles:

La rose de fer (The Iron Rose) France - Original Title
Nuit du cimetière (Night Graveyard) Alternate French Title
Die eiserne Rose (The Iron Rose) Germany
La rosa di ferro (The Iron Rose) Italy
Nuit du cimetière (Night Graveyard) Alternate French Title

After my recent chat with Chris Alexander, I started thinking about Jean Rollin and Jess Franco.  It occurred to me that I hadn't watched any of their films in quite some time.  So thanks to a few old DVD's in my collection and the magic of Netflix, I've been having a bit of a Rollin/Francofest.....and I couldn't be happier.  It's probably been a good ten years since I've really delved into their works and to be honest, I never really watched them with much of a critical eye before.  

Shots like this are par for the course in Rollin's films.....

I want to start with probably my favorite film of Rollin's:  The Iron Rose.  A dark and dreary, yet lyrical and achingly beautiful fever dream set among ancient crypts and tombstones.  The film opens on a beach, where the gorgeous Françoise Pascal finds the titular Iron Rose in the surf.  She picks it up and fondles it for a bit before tossing it back into the ocean.  She then wanders into town and to a wedding reception.  Was she invited?  Does she know these people?  I dunno.  Does it matter?  Nope.  Trust me, it's better not to ask questions.  A man stands and recites a morbid, yet romantic poem and when he meets our girl, admits that he recited the poem in hopes of meeting her.  They agree to take a bike ride together the next day.

C'mon...tell me this doesn' t make your asshole pucker....just a little....

They meet at a train station and play a game of hide and seek or some such flirty game and then set off on their bike ride.  They stop for lunch by an old cemetery and decide to go inside.  Naturally she's a bit apprehensive, but with a little nudge and a prod and she's on board.  The eat and then start to explore, ending up at an open underground crypt....he convinces her to go down and they make love in the crypt.  We're shown some truly bizarre and disturbing imagery, such as a fully dressed up clown placing flowers on a grave.  Meanwhile, unfortunately for them, night falls and the cemetery gates are closed.  When they emerge they are a bit panicked to find that night  has fallen.  They start to try and make their way out, but they become hopelessly lost.  Nothing looks familiar.

Not exactly where you want to spend the night....

So, is it just a case of "everything looks different at night"?  Did they simply go the wrong direction?  Is the cemetery changing itself to keep them inside?  Didn't I tell you to stop asking questions?  Yes, yes I did.  That is the beautiful thing about this film.  It is almost completely up to your interpretation.  After becoming lost and panicked, the couple start to behave erratically.  Especially odd is the physical fight they get into as he starts to chase her around the graveyard and smack her around....but even that is still nothing compared to how creepy things get when she takes a complete one-eighty and starts to refer to the dead as her friends and the living as the dead.....this after lying on a tomb outside and letting out an eerie scream.  From that point on, it's a full on freak out for her.  Again, questions will get you nowhere.  Did she snap and lose her mind?  Maybe.  Seems plausible within the film's universe.....I prefer to think that it was not her anymore.  Whether you want to call it possession or some other form of transmogrification......well that's up to you.....but after she changes, you know that nothing good is going to come.  

"Hey baby...let's do it in the crypt....what's the worst that could happen?"
Maybe we should ask for directions.....

There is so much about this film that I love.  The cinematography....the music.....the feeling.  This film really stayed with me after I watched it.  I sat and I thought about it.  It may not always make complete sense and you will undoubtedly find yourself  bewildered at moments, but if you don't fight it....if you just give yourself over to the film, you will find that it has crept into your heart and your psyche.  Every shot....every scene....they're all essential to the film and there is no waste.  It is eighty-six minutes of haunting beauty.


Midnight Cinephile Tally

Body Count:  Well, it takes place in a cemetery, so there are lots of bodies!  Seriously though, there are no on screen deaths.....and the deaths that do occur are implied.

Boob Count:  We do see a little of Françoise's gorgeous body....but there is no explicit nudity in this one.

Beast Count:  No monsters, ghouls or ghosts appear on screen....but that doesn't mean that there isn't something sinister there in that graveyard.  Again.....all in the eye of the beholder.

Final Thoughts:
The Iron Rose is a masterpiece.  As a matter of fact, many call it Jean Rollin's first true masterpiece.  It's beautiful and challenging......and if you give yourself over to it, I think you'll find that it is a hugely satisfying film.  

Also, I think I fell in love with Françoise Pascal.

Final Rating:



  1. My fave Rollin is still LIPS OF BLOOD....but ROSE is a close second. Great piece!

  2. Funny you mention Lips of Blood, cause that's that's coming up right after The Nude Vampire! :-) Thanks man!