Wednesday, August 11, 2021

#2,598. The Vampire Lovers (1970) - Hammer Horror Movies


From the late 50s to the mid-‘70s, U.K’s Hammer Films turned out a number of vampire movies, from their 1958 remake of Dracula (titled Horror of Dracula in the United States) and its subsequent sequels to the hugely entertaining 1974 outing Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter

In between, the studio produced a trio of movies based on Sheridam Le Fanu’s 1872 novella Carmilla, dubbed “The Karnstein Trilogy”. The Vampire Lovers, released in 1970, was the first of these films (followed by Lust of a Vampire and Twins of Evil, both 1971). Combining Hammer’s time-honored tradition of period stories and gothic set pieces with a new, more daring approach to sexuality, The Vampire Lovers proved an extraordinary motion picture. 

Set in 19th century Austria, The Vampire Lovers centers on Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt), a young vampire who, soon after the film opens, seduces and kills Laura (Pippa Steel), the niece of General Spielsdorf (the great Peter Cushing). 

From there, Marcilla (now calling herself Carmilla) is invited to stay with the Morton family, where she sets her sights on Emma (Madeline Smith), the daughter of Roger Morton (George Cole). Will Carmilla’s secret be revealed before another innocent dies, or will her reign of terror continue? 

As mentioned already, the set pieces are one of the film’s strengths; the opening sequence, a flashback to when Baron von Hartog (Douglas Wilmer) faced off against the Karnstein vampires, is as creepy as it is impressive (the castle, as well as the adjoining cemetery, is the stuff of nightmares). In sharp contrast, while at the same time complimenting its gothic elements, is the film’s overt sexuality, with Pitt playing the most convincing lesbian vampire I’ve ever seen in a movie (there’s no shortage of nudity, and a scene in which Pitt and Smith wrestle topless on a bed is sensual and disturbing). 

 Hammer’s heyday may have been over by the time the '70s rolled around, but with The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil, Vampire Circus and Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, the studio proved their magic was just as strong as ever. 
Rating: 9 out of 10

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