I’d like to pretend to be above these matters, but one of the things that struck me about Jean Rollin’s The Iron Rose is just how supernaturally gorgeous Françoise Pascal is and when you accept that, you’ll understand why anyone would follow her not just into a maze of a cemetery but toward death itself.
Born in Mauritius, a one-time colony of the United Kingdom, Pascal had already appeared in Norman J. Warren’s Loving Feeling, Pete Walker’s School for Sex, Incense for the Damned, Burke & Hare and There’s a Girl in My Soup, as well as having had a short singing career and being selected as the Penthouse Pet of the Month for August 1970 and being the first cover girl for Club International in 1972. She moved to France where she’d star in her first of several movies with Rollin; she’s also in The Grapes of Death.
In this film, she’s an unnamed woman who meets a man for a picnic and bike ride. As you do, they see a cemetery and decide to go inside. He lures her inside a crypt — a place of death — and together they engage in the act of making new life as a clown places flowers on a grave, a strange man (Rollin) watches and an old woman closes the gates.
What follows is deep dialogue — “They say that the stars are gods sending us signals.” — as they stroll through the graves, gradually going mad as they find their way at the city of the dead’s center, a place filled with small coffins and even smaller skeletons. He gives no concern to where they are, smashing and attacking the headstones as she quickly goes mad. As she gives into sheer insanity and an acceptance of the world of the dead, she draws him into a crypt and leaves him to die as she dances past the rememberences of people long gone, life and beauty and art giving way to decay, entropy and the void. She lowers herself into that same grave as the sun rises and those gates are opened again.
Also known by the just as great if not better titles The Crystal Rose, Friedhof der toten Seelen (Graveyard of Lost Souls) and La Nuit du cimetière (The Night of the Cemetery), this film finds Rollin attempting to move past the vampire horror that he was known for and trying a more adult and artistic way of making horror. It failed — this is not a new thing to Rollin — and he was making adult films for years before trying again. Yet he did try again and that’s the real magic.