Hammer Films stepped up their game once they realized blood, fangs, boobs and sexuality can mix. The Vampire Lovers, which features Peter Cushing is the next stop in the vampire chapter of DK Canada’s immensely enjoyable Monsters in the Movies by legendary director John Landis.
Referred to as the first film in the Karnstein trilogy, the story sees a family of vampires, the Karnsteins stalking and feeding a tiny town. Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt) is left in the charge of the General (Cushing) when the Countess (Dawn Addams) is ‘called away.’
Marcilla slowly begins to stalk the village, making no exception between men and women, but the film seems to delight in sapphic sensuality as the General’s daughter, Laura (Pippa Steel) falls under the spell of the vampire.
But Laura is only the first target.
And while men are bitten on the neck, all the women seem to get it on their heaving bosom.
When the Countess pulls the same plan in yet another village on the Morton family, and their daughter, Emma (Madeline Smith), the bodies begin to pule up, and the General is on the hunt for the undead creatures that destroyed his family.
These vampires have seductive powers, and seem to move easily in daylight, with a shape-changing ability that turns them into giant cats instead of bats or wolves. There is also a need for a burial shroud.
The film seems to be a fairly solid production with great costumes, external locations, and some nice sets, but the film rests squarely on Pitt’s performance, and there are a few layers to her performance – it isn’t all seductive fanging, there is a sense of loss and longing in some of her actions. Marcilla was turned in 1546, and the film takes places in 1790… that’s a long time to be alone… even if she has been feeding on comely daughters since then.
The film definitely plays up the more erotic side of the vampire legend, but is quite happy to spill gore when the occasion calls for it.
While not the best of the Hammer Films, this one definitely shows the slide of vampire films from just matinee fare to more adult themed stories, even if they do remain a little silly.
Will the General and his allies be able to stop Marcilla from claiming her victim? Or will they be too late, or will the Karnstein vampires continue to stalk the night?
There are more fangs to come as I continue my exploration of DK Books coffee table tome Monsters in the Movies by director John Landis, so keep the ghouls away, and dig up a classic horror tonight with a copy of your own!