The Vampire Lovers – UK, 1970 – overview and reviews

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The Vampire Lovers is a 1970 British gothic horror film directed by Roy Ward Baker. It was produced by Hammer Film Productions and American International Pictures.

The plot is loosely based on the J. Sheridan Le Fanu novella Carmilla and is part of the so-called Karnstein Trilogy of films, the other films being Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1972). The three films were somewhat daring for the time in explicitly depicting lesbian vampire themes.

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The film stars Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt, Madeline Smith, Kate O’Mara and Jon Finch.

Plot:

Camilla (Ingrid Pitt) is a beautiful lesbian vampire with milky white skin and a thirst for the blood of pretty young virgins. When she attacks Laura (Pippa Steel), the daughter of General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing), the general enlists the help of Baron Joachim von Hartog (Douglas Wilmer) to overcome the vampiress and bring an end to the terror and bloodshed…

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Before production, the script of The Vampire Lovers was sent to the chief censor John Trevelyan, who warned the studio about depictions of lesbianism, pointing out that a previous lesbian drama film, The Killing of Sister George, had had five minutes excised by his office. In response, Hammer replied that the lesbianism was not of their doing but was present in the original story by Le Fanu. Trevelyan backed down.

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Produced on a relatively low budget of £165,227, it was the final Hammer film to be financed with American money—most of the later films were backed by Rank or EMI.

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Some may be drawn to this film simply due to its perceived camp value, but there’s something kind of oddly enticing lurking just beneath the copious amounts of hammy acting and naked flesh that may appeal to those without a hint of post-modern irony in their souls.” Blu-ray.com

Vampire Lovers is a good film, not great, illuminated by the gorgeous Maddy Smith, the ever-dependable Cushing, a decent script and a few home truths about vampires. Much like Dracula in the original book, Mircalla walks around in sunlight, is afraid of just garlic and crosses, nothing more, and doesn’t have recourse to coffins. Refreshingly, she doesn’t even like funerals.” British Horror Films

“This is a well-paced and slick looking film, with Roy Ward Baker at the top of his game, keeping the action moving at a good pace and balancing the macabre vampiric elements with enough sex to make crowds of the day stand up and take notice  … There’s loads of atmosphere here, lots of great sets and period costumes and while the budget was low, comparatively speaking, all involved do a fine job of ensuring that every penny winds up there on the screen.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

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Vampire Lovers Final Cut Blu-ray

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“Bloody, sexy, funny, shocking, and delightfully campy, The Vampire Lovers is a masterpiece of over-the-top horror. Highly recommended.” Movies About Girls

“Despite a thin atmosphere, director Roy Ward Baker does manage to stage one or two memorable moments: with a defiant swish of her gown, Carmilla becomes a tearful, glimmering shade through which Jon Finch’s dagger passes, shattering a vase; and her subsequent beheading by Peter Cushing is the stuff of iconic Hammer Horror.” The Spooky Isles

“That it is essential viewing for the genre zealot almost goes without saying. That it is transgressive cinema beyond compare is unquestionable. Hammer may have made better films but never before or again did they present their audience with one so intensely elegant and provocative as The Vampire Lovers.” Tim Greaves, Ten Years of Terror

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“Polish beauty Ingrid Pitt delivers an entrancing performance as the seductive Mircalla, a statuesque figure combining icy stoicism with sultry eroticism. Stalwart genre icon Cushing is underused here but does get to partake in some nice stake-through-the-heart action in the decent climax.” The Terror Trap

” …it is well mounted and enjoyable, with solid performances: the pre-credits sequence, in particular, has a dreamy beauty. But some of the action is a bit flat, and overall it marks the point at which vampirism in British movies became so overtly erotic that the films virtually ceased to be about anything except sex.” Time Out

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Cast and characters:

Ingrid Pitt … Marcilla / Carmilla / Mircalla Karnstein
Pippa Steel … Laura (as Pippa Steele)
Madeline Smith … Emma Morton
Peter Cushing … General von Spielsdorf
George Cole … Roger Morton
Dawn Addams … The Countess
Kate O’Mara … The Governess (Mme. Perrodot)
Douglas Wilmer … Baron Joachim von Hartog
Jon Finch … Carl Ebhardt
Ferdy Mayne … Doctor
Kirsten Lindholm … First Vampire (as Kirsten Betts)
John Forbes-Robertson … Man in Black
Shelagh Wilcocks … Housekeeper
Harvey Hall … Renton
Janet Key … Gretchin
Charles Farrell … Landlord
Graham James … First Young Man
Tom Browne … Second Young Man
Joanna Shelley … Woodman’s Daughter
Olga Anthony … Village Girl (as Olga James)
Jill Easter … Woodman’s Wife (uncredited)
Sion Probert … Young Man In Tavern (uncredited)
Vicki Woolf … Landlords Daughter (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Production began at Elstree Studios on 19 January 1970 and used locations in the grounds of Moor Park Mansion, Moor Park, Hertfordshire (standing in for Styria, Central Europe).

Technical details:

91 minutes
Technicolor
Aspect Ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

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