Today I watched Roy Ward Baker’s The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Hammer Film Productions are primarily known for their takes on the classic ‘Universal Monsters’ namely Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy but as the Sixties ended the market for such Gothic horror began to dry up. This was likely due to the studio milking these cash cows far too much. So in a bid to revitalize the creativity that had made those series’ such big hits they abandoned the old characters and produced a new vampire horror series. Capitalizing on the winning combination of sex and violence they adapted Sheridan Le Fanu’s early vampire novella Carmilla into this saucy affair. The story concerns a small area in Austria beset by the last of the Karnstein family of vampires played by classic horror icon Ingrid Pitt. She uses her feminine wiles and supernatural powers of seduction to lure the pretty young women of the countryside to their doom.
Much like Alucarda this movie uses lesbianism to titillate and tantalize in a rather exploitative manner. If you can look beyond the obviously offensive nature of it then this movie does become a rather fascinating display of early Seventies sex kitsch. It is probably easiest to simply say that this movie’s exploitation of woman on woman sex is just a product of it’s times and I don’t think this is as reductive as it would be in many other cases because I don’t see any direct hatefulness in this movie and this film could easily fit into that common trope of horror fans rooting for the villains.
There isn’t much else to discuss about this movie, the elements of Gothic horror are as by the numbers here as they could be. This is not to say they are poorly presented, they just lack much originality. It is the sex that sets this film apart and unfortunately the other elements of the story take a bit of a back seat. The film is effectively chilling if Gothic horror moves you in that way and if the sleazy sexiness of the early Seventies is something you find interesting then you should most certainly check out this film. Oh and Peter Cushing is in it and he elevates every scene he is in with his gravitas, so if your a fan of him this is another chance to see him work his magic. 3/5