Vampire Lovers, The (1970)

“You must die! Everybody must die!”

Synopsis:
Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt), a 200-year-old lesbian vampire, pursues the beautiful young Emma (Madeline Smith) while being hunted by vampire-killer Baron von Hartog (Douglas Wilmer).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary suggests, the popularity of this gothic Hammer horror film — a relatively faithful adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella — probably has more to do with the “surprising amount of female nudity” and overt lesbian interest than anything else. Ingrid Pitt gives an alluring, “unabashedly physical performance” as Carmilla, with her “low-cut, transparent gowns” and insatiable lust for nubile female breasts. Carmilla’s emotional outburst upon “seeing a funeral procession and realizing all will die but her” elevates her character a notch above all other vampiresses I’ve seen on film; her role may be campy, but Pitt imbues it with every possible ounce of human feeling.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Ingrid Pitt’s sexy portrayal as Carmilla
  • A highly literate adaptation of Sheridan La Fanu’s novella

Must See?
Yes, simply as a prime example of lesbian vampirism on film. (See also Daughters of Darkness, 1971).

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2 Responses to “Vampire Lovers, The (1970)”

  1. A must – if Roy Ward Baker’s name is on a film, chances are ffs will want to check it out. (Having just rewatched ‘The Vampire Lovers’, I feel like I might want to see some Baker films I’ve yet to get to.)

    Baker brought us such solid dramatic classics as ‘The October Man’, ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’ and ‘A Night to Remember’. Somewhere along the line, his career took a turn and he found himself connected with a lot of television work as well as sci-fi (‘Five Million Years to Earth’) and the gothic vein (‘The Anniversary’) which landed him in horror.

    That’s why ‘The Vampire Lovers’ is so classy – and. again, the main reason for watching it; in lesser hands, it could easily be forgettable. Baker used everything at his disposal to serve up a compelling tale. (I especially like how he subtly reveals a vampire’s hypnotic power.)

    And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that Ingrid Pitt has the lead – she does make for a very unique vampire (and put me in mind of what Catherine Deneuve accomplished years later in ‘The Hunger’).

    The basic story is more or less simple, even if the details get a little murky. What’s with The Big Cat imagery? And there’s more: If all the members – but one – of that vampire ‘family’ were killed, then who is the Countess? Is she the family’s ‘aunt’? And who is that weird guy who whispers a message to the Countess at the ball sequence early on? And, anyway, how could that family have been killed in the middle of the night if that’s when vampires wander and feed?

    Oddly, none of the above gets in the way, overall. What matters is the end result: one spooky, atmospheric and effective vampire flick – handled with welcome intelligence.

    [Watched via Netflix IW.]

  2. I agree this is a must see, as it was the first time Hammer really embraced the erotic and included extensive nudity as well as the first of a trilogy. They had a couple of bare breast shots in Taste the Blood of Dracula and Crescendo (both 1969) but this is where they really went for it.

    Sadly, the film itself is too well bred by half and coy; the sex scenes are laughable. It’s obvious the actresses and director Baker are embarrassed; he would say as much many times in interviews. The two followups are both better films as a result: Lust for a Vampire (1970) and Twins of Evil (1971).

    Ther later UK horror classic Vampyres (1974) embraces the erotic and sexuality with absolute brio and has sex scenes that feel filled with passion and lust. Interestingly, it was directed by a Spaniard Jose Larraz Gil.

    Pitt is far too old at 33 to play Carmilla who is meant to be 14. The plot is also weak; why is it after Cushing and company are after Pitt for killing Cushing’s daughter and then a week later a few miles away Cushing’s pal George Cole is welcoming her to his house despite his daughter’s best mate being killed by her.

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