The emergence of hardcore porn films in the early 1970s posed many European genre filmmakers with a challenge:
Should I embrace this development or resist it? If I embrace it should I do so fully or reluctantly and on its own terms or my own?
In Jean Rollin’s case the engagement with porn was a largely reluctant one: Most of the dozen or so hardcore films he directed in the mid- to late-1970s and beyond were strictly works for hire which he didn’t sign with his own official name, instead using Michel Gentil and Robert Xavier among others.
1975's Phantasmes / The Seduction of the Amy / Once Upon a Virgin is the exception. It was the first of Rollin’s hardcore films and the only one to credit him as director.
While certainly more sex film than Rollin film, it nevertheless includes enough Rollin touches to be worth a look from the committed fan.
The film begins with Amy being attacked by a man, played by none other than Rollin himself. He attempts to rape her and throws her into a pond.
She’s then rescued by Count Gideon and taken to his castle.
Wandering the grounds Gideon meets a female friend. Gideon discusses finding a Latin manuscript by an associate of the Marquis de Sade in the castle, and how it has provided him with a source of inspiration, cueing us into the first of many ‘proper’ sex scenes that occupy the bulk of the remaining running time.
The next of the Rollin touches is the appearance of what would otherwise be two orphan vampires or their victims to be in the form of the Castel twins, but they too are soon caught up in the sex. (While we are on the subject of the cast, female lead Mylène d’antès / Evelyne Thomas later appeared in The Grapes of Death and Fascination, while critic, filmmaker and frequent Rollin associate Jean-Pierre Bouyxou is also in there somewhere.)
The Castel Twins, playing errant schoolgirls
After 40 or so minutes – all timings here refer to the cut, dubbed and rescored US version – there are some nice Gothic atmospherics as Amy wanders arounds the castle, finding a naked and chained woman in the dungeon in the process
Being naked, playing dead
We also get the merest hint of a plot, as it is hinted that Gideon needs a good woman to save him from the castle, the others and his own evil.
According, after some more sex scenes, Amy then saves Gideon, with the two of them consummating their relationship in that most Rollin of locations, the beach.
The end, at least as far as the US version is concerned, with the original then having Gideon recount the events just witnessed to a journalist (played by Monica Swinn) to provide a framing narrative.
To sum up: 15 minutes of the ‘real’ Rollin punctuating 50 or so of hardcore which, while occasionally shot and lit in imaginative ways, is otherwise predictable genital close ups, in and out and suck and fuck action, invariably climaxing (sorry!) in proof of orgasm / frenzy of the visible ejaculations.