|quite the photoshop collage here|
Format: FreeVee on Amazon
Viewing: 3rd or 4th
Director: Roy Ward Baker
In the wake of the opulence and spectacle of watching the 1992 Dracula adaptation, I threw on the 1970 Hammer horror film, The Vampire Lovers, a movie I'm pretty sure I'm on the record as a fan. That impression held up on a re-viewing of the movie.
During this period, Hammer was sorting out what to do as Lee was increasingly (and famously) less interested in playing Dracula, and so they sought to expand their vampire offerings beyond the Count and his shenanigans. Thus, they went to the novel that preceded Dracula, and from which Stoker (ahem) borrowed from.
If you're looking for the book that mixes up vampirism, sex and romance, this is the one, and it often feels like the romantic angles ascribed to Dracula was an interpretation of how this book, and therefore movie, take on a vampire's relationship with their prey. In this case, rather than an exotic Count from a mysterious kingdom, it's a fellow young woman who is deposited at the doorstep of a family with a young woman of similar age. Who precedes to die.
Shortly after, the same young woman, calling herself Carmilla, appears at another house (left by a woman of breeding and elegance) with a similarly aged young woman, and we see how the relationship between the two blossom, even as villagers start getting picked off.
If Brides of Dracula is any indication, Hammer had long ago figured out the formula for inserting a clutch of attractive women in their films and teaming them with baffled middle-aged men and Peter Cushing.
This was one of a handful of starring movie roles for Ingrid Pitt, who is 30+ here if she's a day, playing 19. Full disclosure, we're Ingrid Pitt stans here at The Signal Watch, and we think she's just super. Madeline Smith, just at the start of her career, is terrific, and we'd be happy to see more films with Kate O'Mara. As always, Cushing is a force of nature in the film.
Anyway, with all the "romance" of vampires stuff, Vampire Lovers manages to find the balance between eroticism and the actual devilish nature of the characters. Part of Carmilla's curse is that she does seem to form a bond with her victims - if not love, then dependence, and she's damned to take their lives, one after another.
The only other film I can think of that seems to touch on this concept in its way is The Hunger, which blows that concept out, making it a genuine romance. Until it isn't. And walks through what the relationship actually is via Sarandon and Deneuve.
There's still straight up vampire stuff in this film, from Carmilla wandering the woods like an apparition, to garlic being generally unwelcome, to beheadings. All solid stuff.