Posted by woodjb on November 7, 2011
Friday night’s installment of Underground marks the TCM debut of French filmmaker Jean Rollin, known among horror movie cultists as a master of the lyrical, erotic, supernatural film. Yet he remains a director with whom the general American moviegoing public is not well acquainted.
Among the director’s most personal and unconventional films, The Iron Rose (La Rose de fer, 1973) follows a young couple as they meet at a wedding party, and then, as a lark, enjoy a romantic tryst in a tomb. However, when they return to the surface they find themselves unable to find their way out of the immense cemetery and, as the hours pass, the girl seems to become entranced by the spirits of the surrounding crypts, pushing a vaguely nightmarish experience into the realm of the genuinely horrific.
For a more detailed examination of the film (and the making thereof), read Jeff Stafford’s informative essay.
Starring as the nameless “Girl” of The Iron Rose is Françoise Pascal, who was in her early twenties when she appeared in the film. She had gained notoriety in the Peter Sellers/Goldie Hawn comedy There’s a Girl in My Soup (1970) and that same year occupied the cover and the centerfold of the August issue of Penthouse. TV and film roles followed, including the long-running British TV series Coronation Street and Vernon Sewell’s Burke & Hare (1972), based on the true story of two notorious graverobbers.
Now residing in London, Françoise took a moment to answer a few of a Movie Morlock’s questions about her work on The Iron Rose.
MM: How did you first meet Jean Rollin — and how did you come to be cast in The Iron Rose?
FP: [Producer] Sam Selsky introduced me to Rollin and, unfortunately, I was not his first choice. But Sam wanted me after he saw There’s A Girl in My Soup and Burke and Hare. When I met Jean, he was very charming but did not let me know at all that I wasn’t his choice.
MM: The Iron Rose features scenes in an actual cemetery, sometimes in actual crypts, with what appear to be actual bones. Were you at all squeamish about the gruesomeness of the material?
FP: No, I was not at all squeamish as I had a job to do and concentrated on what I was doing. But come midnight, I was scared. I use to scream, with the cameraman, Jean-Jacques Renon, “JULES VERNE, PLEASE SAVE US!” Then we went back to work after drinking a bit of wine.
MM: Do you consider The Iron Rose a horror film or a romance? And why?
FP: Both horror and romance. It also tells you how the mind can play tricks on you.
MM: The film has a very dreamlike feel, partly because there isn’t a rigid narrative structure. Did Rollin allow you to improvise or in some other way contribute your ideas to the plot of the film?
FP: Rollin and I use to talk what I could do with each scene. I gave him my ideas and he gave me his. He took both of our ideas and played with them and directed the idea that was best.
MM: Did you improvise the expressive dance among the tombstones near the end of the film, or did Rollin provide someone to choreograph your movement?
FP: Yes I did, I did some ballet when I was young and also in the late sixties. I did jazz ballet, so I was able to improvise my own dance among the tombstones (and the tune that I hummed as well). I choreographed myself and let my imagination work for me — by the thought of wandering among the dead in my mind.
MM: In interviews, Rollin has praised your professionalism on the set of The Iron Rose. What was it about your acting that so impressed him?
FP: I think Rollin loved the fact that I worked with him, not against him. He loved the way that I took an interest in my work and his at the same time, giving him ideas for each scene. It’s no good being unprofessional, since the film depends on you to make it work.
MM: How do you feel about the remastered version premiering on TCM?
FP: I think today’s audience will find the film fascinating and very interesting. I am happy that there is a new audience out there, especially in America, that will have a chance to see one of Rollin’s favourite films. I really do hope they enjoy it as much I enjoyed making it.
After The Iron Rose, Françoise enjoyed a long career in film and television, most prominently as a series regular on the London Weekend Television production Mind Your Language. Her varied career also includes a foray into the music business, cutting a 1979 disco single, “Woman Is Free,” for RCA.
Françoise is currently finishing her memoir, As I Am (which is to be published by the Pegasus Imprint), while working as a celebrity liaison and remaining active in several charity organizations. For more information, visit her official website: http://francoisepascal.co.uk/
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