Sunday, 9 August 2020

The Vampire Lovers

The Vampire Lovers - Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt - Hammer Karnstein Trilogy
The first installment in what's known as Hammer's 'Karnstein Trilogy' - followed by 'Lust For A Vampire' (buy it here)with The Vampire Lovers) and 'Twins of Evil' (buy it here) - 'The Vampire Lovers' is an adaptation of Sheridan le Fanu's novella 'Carmilla'.

In both the novella and the movie the vampire Mircalla Karnstein (Ingrid Pitt), using the subtly cunning pseudonyms of 'Marcilla' and 'Carmilla' and whilst wearing a ruby necklace in the shape of a drop of blood, preys on the young women she befriends (Pippa Steel & Madeline Smith) as part of a ruse whereby her accomplices manipulate events so that she is left in the keeping of an aristocratic family; seemingly using them as a long drawn out meal whilst snacking on the local village girls and assorted servants (including the Rani herself  Kate O'Mara). Ranged against her are the combined forces of Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer, Minder's George Cole and The Final Programme's Jerry Cornelius Jon Finch who travel to her ancestral home to finally end her murdery ways.

The Vampire Lovers - Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt, Madeline Smith - Hammer Karnstein Trilogy
le Fanu's story is the perfect source material for Hammer, the novella's lesbian subtext allowed the studio to help their ailing fortunes by getting lots of pretty young actresses to take their clothes off - for art's sake obviously.  It's sumptuously made and the sets, like the cleavages, are extravagant and displayed to maximum effect but the film does drag.  The source material, as good as it is, just doesn't have the scope and with Mircalla / Carmilla / Marcilla employing the same tactic with both families it does feel like we're treading water slightly the second time around.

It is though, in many ways, classic Hammer, embracing the subject matter and the style that made their name but amping the eroticism up to the max in a move that was to define the next few years for the studio.

Buy it here - UK /  US - or watch it below.


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