Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#2,175. Vampyres (1974)

Directed By: José Larraz

Starring: Marianne Morris, Anulka, Murray Brown

Tag line: "They shared the pleasures of the flesh, and the horrors of the grave!"

Trivia: he screenplay is credited to director José Ramón Larraz's wife Diana, though she didn't write a word of it (she was used to fill the required British production quota)

Based on its poster art alone, I went into director José Larraz’s Vampyres thinking it would be a run-of-the-mill ‘70s lesbian vampire flick, with a whole lot of sex and not much blood. The pre-title scene, however, showed some promise: yes, it had a couple of naked women making love, but after a minute or so, someone strolls into the room and shoots them both dead, resulting in a sequence with equal doses of violence and erotica. Of course, time would tell if this scene was typical of the rest of the movie or just an anomaly, but at least my hopes were high.

Surprisingly, once the credits are over, the two women featured in this shock-filled opening: Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka), are alive and well, wandering country roads and luring men to their crumbling English mansion for the night. None of the men last for very long; before the sun comes up, these ladies, who are now (or maybe always were) vampires, kill the poor guys and feast on their blood. They then put the bodies back into their cars and make it appear as if they died in an accident.

One potential victim, however, named Ted (Murray Brown), impresses Fran with his tenacity as a lover, and she decides to keep him around for a few days. After his first night there, a weakened Ted stumbles to a nearby caravan, where a married couple, John (Brian Deacon) and Harriet (Sally Faulkner), are vacationing. They treat a nasty wound on his arm (Fran did drink a little of Ted’s blood), and Ted then promptly returns to the mansion. John doesn’t think much of it, but Harriet, who has noticed strange things occurring in the area at night, wants to know what’s going on, and sets out to investigate. Will Harriet stumble on the truth, or will Fran and Miriam stop her before she does?

As you’d expect, there’s a lot of nudity in Vampyres, as well as a couple of sex scenes that, though not graphic, are fairly intense. And while the bloodshed isn’t nearly as plentiful, those sequences that do feature violence get very messy before they’re through. The night after Fran welcomes Ted into the mansion, Miriam snares young Rupert (Karl Lanchbury), and takes him to a different room. Later on, just when it looked as if Fran was about to break down and kill Ted, she instead wanders into the hall, where she spots Miriam with blood all over her face. They both re-enter Miriam’s room and find Rupert in a pretty bad state (I’m sure you can guess what happens from that point on). In addition to this encounter, the last 10 minutes of Vampyres is all about the violence, and the blood does flow freely.

Shot on-location at Oakley Court in Berkshire, which also served as a central location for several Hammer films, including The Curse of Frankenstein and The Brides of Dracula (not to mention such ‘70s fare as Girly and The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Vampyres has a gothic feel to it that works to the movie’s advantage (a neighboring cemetery, looking fairly ragged, adds to the ambiance). And while I was hoping there would be a bit more violence (until the finale, the killings are few and far between), as lesbian vampire movies go, Vampyres is, indeed, one of the bloodiest I’ve seen.

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