Lust for a Vampire / To Love a Vampire (1971)

Lust for a Vampire / To Love a Vampire (1971)

“Do you know who it was, Mircalla? The portrait of Carmilla Karnstein — it was you!”

An author (Michael Johnson) visiting a finishing school becomes enchanted with Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard), a resurrected vampire from the nearby Karnstein castle. Meanwhile, a sycophantic instructor (Ralph Bates) uncovers Mircalla’s secret identity and is determined to become her disciple, while a concerned gym teacher (Suzanna Leigh) worries about the mysterious disappearance of Mircalla’s beautiful roommate (Pippa Steele).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Horror
  • Vampires

Following in the footsteps of Roy Ward Baker’s The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire was the second of Hammer Studios’ three “Karnstein vampire flicks”, based on the novella by Sheridan Le Fanu. As many have noted, Danish beauty Yutte Stensgaard is sexy but lacks charisma:

and her character pales in comparison to Ingrid Pitt’s more nuanced portrayal as Carmilla in The Vampire Lovers. Meanwhile, Bates — so compelling in the same year’s Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) — simply comes across as silly:

and the film’s obvious replacement for Christopher Lee (Mike Raven as Count Karnstein) merely lurks menacingly in the shadows.

The entire film is essentially an extended excuse to show off nubile young women with heaving bosoms in various states of skimpy dress and undress. The most laughable moment by far: Johnson and Stensgaard get romantic (he cares not a whit about her inconvenient status as a vampire) while a ballad entitled “Strange Love” suddenly begins playing in the background.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Lush cinematography

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for vampire-flick completists. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


2 thoughts on “Lust for a Vampire / To Love a Vampire (1971)

  1. I recently watched this and reviewed it on Facebook:

    Styria, 1830: Count (Mike Raven; voice of Valentine Dyall) and Countess Karnstein (Barbara Jefford) raise their dead vampire daughter Carmilla (Yutte Stensgaard) from her tomb via human sacrifice and enroll her as Mircalla in an exclusive girls finishing school. Sleazy, British pulp writer Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) follows some of the girls and inveigles himself onto the staff and promptly falls in love with Mircalla.

    Meanwhile, the gym mistress Janet Playfair (Suzannah Leigh) falls for Lestrange and the history master Giles Barton (Ralph Bates) wants Mircalla to convert him into a vampire! Also, the head mistress Miss Simpson (Helen Christie) trys to cover up the subsequent disappearances of some of her pupils who have sucumbed to Mircalla’s fanged attention. Local copper Inspector Heinrich (Harvey Hall) becomes suspicious.

    Sounds like a fun school to work at … certainly not a boring place!

    One of the most controversial of the Hammer Horrors and one of the least regarded. As you can see from the synopsis it’s all very “Carry On” and more importantly it’s hard to indentify with a leading man who comes over as a sleazy nonce! Now, we know that all of the actresses playing the finishing school pupils are in their twenties, but onscreen they’re playing minors. Suffice it to say that the script is rather misguided on that score.

    However, it’s energetically directed by Jimmy Sangster and has a great Harry Robinson score … and a silly pop song over a key love scene. The lesbian scenes are also a mite less coy than those in The Vampire Lovers (1970), to which this is a superior sequel.

    A guilty pleasure.

  2. First viewing. A once-must for Hammer Film enthusiasts.

    It’s cinch-pie to feel lust for a vampire when she looks like a Playboy centerfold. And a number of the ladies cast as students at a school for girls in this film do look like Hef’s Bunnies. This is a latter-day Hammer Films work, trying to shift with the times by adding more sex. As such…it’s certainly watchable and compelling-enough – while also having lower-level camp value. The by-the-numbers script (with some nice twists) is directed rather well by Jimmy Sangster: it accomplishes what it sets out to do even if it’s not all that unique. The cast is rather fun and all is served up well, for the ‘silliness’ that it is.

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