The Vampire Lovers
Roy Ward Baker
Ingrid Pitt as Marcilla/ Carmilla
Pippa Steele as Laura
Madeline Smith as Emma
Peter Cushing as The General
George Cole as Morton
At a big party, a beautiful Countess (Dawn Adams), who is going to travel around in Europe, leaves her gorgeous daughter, Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt) under the care of a General (Peter Cushing). Marcilla quickly befriends the General’s pretty niece, Laura (Pippa Steele). Laura is soon plagued by nightmares involving a giant cat that comes to her at night. Marcilla cares for Laura, but she soon wastes away and dies. Later, Marcilla, now calling herself Carmilla, is at the house of a neighbor of the General’s named Morton (George Cole). Soon, the beautiful daughter of Morton, Emma (Madeline Smith) is seduced by the deadly beauty, much as she had done to Laura. And, so she too suffers the same nightmares and dwindling health issues that Laura had faced. During this time period the General learns, thanks to what his friend Hartog (Douglas Winter), about the evil Karnsteins, a very old family of vampires. A painting in their estate reveals a woman who looks exactly like Carmilla…
Based on the novel “Carmilla” by Joseph Sheridan La Fanu, which actually predates Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” by 25 years, this great vampire film from Hammer Films is an early example of the lesbian vamp subgenre. The movie inspired its’ share of raised eye-brows, but has gone on to become considered a classic film, and rightfully, so. It was hugely successful and would go on to inspire two more Hammer films in the Karnstein series: Lust for a Vamire (long out of print on DVD in North America) and Twins of Evil (which Synapse Films have promised to release on a blu-ray/ DVD combo).
With The Vampire Lovers director Baker gives us a movie that while tame by today’s standards is still very sexy and hot. In large part this is due to the amazing female cast, all of whom are stunning and many of whom get naked. Of course, leading the cast is the voluptuous Ingrid Pitt who is amazing in her role. Her performance is steeped in seductiveness and sexiness. You know she’s deadly, but you are completed enthralled by her presence, as the characters in the film, in particular the females, are. Both of the women who provide the “love” interest for her, Steele and Smith, are gorgeous as well. Smith has a truly amazing and natural body that will make your eyes pop out of their sockets! All three of them get naked, with Pitt providing us with full frontal nudity in a bath scene. Sadly, Kate Mara, as a woman who helps Carmilla, does not get naked, but she does have nice cleavage and truly gorgeous eyes.
The Vampire Lovers has, of course, some very sexy and hot lesbian action. While it is never graphic nor exploitative in this department, it is certainly very tantalizing. The fact that Carmilla bites Laura on her breast instead of her neck is a very proactive twist on vampirism. Another cool twist is that Carmilla takes the form of a cat, at least in the aforementioned dream sequences. This gives it a nice feminine twist as opposed to the uglier bat usually associated with bloodsuckers in these films.
\The Vampire Lovers isn’t just simply sexy, though. It is very rich in atmosphere. The sets are amazing looking and the costumes are very sumptuous. Even the score provided by Harry Robinson exudes both a seductive and terrifying feel, not unlike our beautiful villainess.
The pre-credit sequence is simply awesome and quite creepy. There is also some really great narration accompanying it. It all leads to a very a kick ass decapitation. With a beginning like this, you know this movie is going to rock! And, it certainly does right up to the thrilling and suspenseful climax. Throw in some bloody stakings and another head getting chopped off show that Hammer was definitely willing to up their gore ante as other genre films had at the time.
Pitt is not the only one to show great acting prowess in this one. The rest of the female cast also give flawless performances, and the men hold their own as well. Cushing’s role is only featured in the first and last third of the film, but he simply exudes class whenever he’s in front of the camera.
The Vampire Lovers along with Jess Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos gave birth to the lesbian vampire film. While, many movies have been made since, and are continuing to be made with no sign of ever stopping, this remains one of the finest. Even if the later movies that came are infinitely more exploitative and graphic, they lack the greatness of this classic. A kick ass mature horror film that is head shoulders above most films of their ilk.