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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why can't I find a Vampire Lover?



I don’t know what is happening with me, for the last few weeks I have been on an old Hammer Horror kick and have watched almost all of the Hammer Films I have here on DVD. Last night, I continued this trend by watching Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt in The Vampire Lovers.


Set in early 19th century, Vampire Lovers opens with an atmospheric pre-credits sequence featuring a beautiful blonde materializing from a misty graveyard. While encountering Baron Hartog, a vampire hunter out to avenge the death of his sister, this beauty is revealed as a vampire when her breast is seared by his crucifix. Once identified, she is swiftly decapitated.

The main story then begins with a sultry dark-haired lady leaving her daughter Marcilla in the care of General von Spielsdorf and his family at their Styrian mansion. Marcilla quickly befriends the General's daughter, Laura. Laura suffers nightmares that she is being attacked, and her health deteriorates until she expires. Marcilla vanishes from the General's home.

Faking a carriage break-down, Mircalla's mother leaves her (now using the alias Carmilla) at the residence of a Mr Morton. Here, Carmilla befriends and seduces Morton's daughter Emma (Smith) but her need to feed overcomes her emotional attachment and Emma too begins to fade. Emma has nightmares of a being pierced over the heart, and her breast shows tiny wounds. Emma's governess Madame Perradon (Kate O'Mara) also falls victim to Carmilla's erotic blandishments and becomes her willing tool. Some in the household, the Butler and a Doctor, suspect what might be happening, especially in the wake of several local girls suddenly dying. But Carmilla kills each one. All the while, a mysterious Man in Black (clearly also a vampire) watches events from a distance, smiling (his presence is never explained).

After Carmilla kills the Butler, having convinced him that Madame Perradon is a vampire then persuaded him (for some reason) to remove the garlic protecting Emma, Carmilla goes to Emma's bedroom. She says she must go away, but is taking Emma with her. A desperate and sick Madame begs Carmilla to take her with her. Carmilla kills her, in front of a horrified Emma. Emma is barely rescued by a young man named Carl (Jon Finch) who fashions a makeshift cross from his dagger. Carmilla flees to her nearby ancestral castle, now a ruin.


All this coincides with the arrival of the General, who brings with him a now-aged Baron. They find Carmilla's grave, where she sleeps. Her eyes open, and interestingly enough she makes no move to defend herself. The General lifts a stake—and back in her bedchamber Emma screams "No!"--then drives it into Carmilla's heart. He then cuts off her head. Carmilla's portrait on the wall decays, showing now a fanged skeleton instead of a beautiful young woman

'The Vampire Lovers' is a great film. Unfortunately, like many of the Hammer vampire films of the era, it often gets overlooked by many non-Hammer fans. It offers a nearly perfect combination of atmosphere, beauty and tension and a beautiful cast of women led by the stunning Ingrid Pitt. The film also pushed the bounds of sexuality by creating a film that would influence a genre and explore the taboo ideals of lesbianism in scenes featuring the ravishing naked bodies of Pitt, Madeline Smith and Kate O'Mara caught in more than a lovers embrace.

To me, The Vampire Lovers is a must-see movie for any horror or vampire fan. In some ways, it may be the most important and groundbreaking film in Hammers portfolio, creating the first true accounts linking vampirism, eroticism and lust. Backed by a solid script, all-around great performances and the perfect set that created a foreboding yet pleasurable atmosphere, this may be the perfect movie. OK, that may be a bit too much praise, but it is a superb horror film and a must see for all fans of Hammer Horror, Vampires, and Beautiful and Sexy Vampires.

 


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2 comments:

  1. Pleased to see you like Vampire Lovers so much. It is one of the films which made me want to be a film director and I am making a more literal version of Le Fanu's novella Carmilla later this year once star Jennifer Ellison has had her baby.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1351631/

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  2. Thanks for commenting. I am a huge fan of vampire films that stray from the norm, and Hammer Horror did that wonderfully. This has actually been an influence on my writing, demonstrating the ease it is to blend different genre's. Good luck with your film, I will definitely check it out. I have recently branched out into some short-film script writing and have discovered exactly how hard movie making is.

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