LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) Reviews and overview

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‘Devils in female bodies… whose embrace is the kiss of death for man or woman!’

Lust For a Vampire is a 1970 British horror feature film directed by Jimmy Sangster from a screenplay written by Tudor Gates (Twins of Evil; Fright). It was produced by Harry Fine and Michael Style for Hammer Films.


Main cast:

Ralph Bates – Horror of Frankenstein | Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde
Suzanna Leigh – The Deadly Bees | Son of Dracula
Barbara Jefford – The Ninth Gate
Yutte Stensgaard – Scream and Scream Again | Burke & Hare
Michael Johnston – Homebodies
Mike Raven – I, Monster – Crucible of Terror – Disciple of Death
[NB. Raven’s voice was dubbed over by Valentine Dyall]
Luan Peters – The Devil’s Men

This was the second film in the so-called Karnstein Trilogy loosely based on the J. Sheridan Le Fanu novella Carmilla. It was preceded by The Vampire Lovers and followed by Twins of Evil. The three films do not form a chronological development, but use the Karnstein family as the source of the vampiric threat and were somewhat daring for the time in explicitly depicting lesbian themes.


The film has a cult following although some Hammer Horror fans have accused it of being overly camp and silly. Its most noted scene shows Yutte Stensgaard drenched in blood and partially covered by blood-soaked rags, although the scene in the film is not as explicit as that shown in promotional material.




Lust for a Vampire is a dull picture with little in the way of a storyline and very few scares. There’s a shadowy figure who looks a bit like Christopher Lee who’s sometimes seen lurking in dark corners, and the occasional buxom serving wench found with fang marks in her neck, and there’s an incredibly cheesy lovemaking scene to a horribly dated song called ‘Strange Love’ which, apart from Yutte’s breasts, is probably the only thing that makes Lust for a Vampire worth watching.” 20/20 Movie Reviews

“Studded with repetitive zooms and erratic colour cinematography, Sangster’s direction seems embarrassed by the very sensuality the movie seeks to exploit…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“It is the ladies who have the best roles, especially Stensgaard as Mircalla/Carmilla, whose breathtaking visage is offset by a sinister smile waiting to strike; she’s terrific, as is Suzanna Leigh as Janet Playfair (Bond, anyone?), the school marm’s assistant. Everyone is solid, really; as harried as the production was, it’s still Hammer and some standards are upheld, dammit.” Daily Dead


“It features one of the worst pop songs ever used in a vampire flick, the gratingly awful “Strange Love”. For a story this thin we get much too little in the way of titillation or outright horror. Sluggish and cheap-looking, it’s hamstrung by some rather slapdash production values.” Eccentric Cinema

“…Bates acquits himself well, and director Jimmy Sangster keeps enough tongue in cheek to overcome the fact that Stensgaard is no Ingrid Pitt – at least Ingrid could act.” Andy Boot, Fragments of Fear, Creation Books, 1996

“One of the better later offerings from Hammer, stirring in some sex and lesbianism with the usual vampire brew, but somewhat over-directed.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

Lust is admittedly shaky in terms of script, and the ambiance is on and off (but wow is it terrific when it’s on). What makes this click with so many horror buffs, in particular those who love lesbian vampire films, is the one-time star Yvette Stensgaard, a gorgeous Scandinavian child-woman who looks absolutely innocent (particularly when her eyes fetchingly cross), even the moment before she rips open the neck of her next victim.” Melon Farmers


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“Sangster seized wholeheartedly on all the more decadent elements in the new genre; using all the visual devices at his disposal to convey an aura of potent cloying sensuality.” David Pirie, A New Heritage of Horror

“Stensgaard is perhaps an improvement over Ingrid Pitt, a somewhat blasphemous admission but one that’s easy to swallow when you consider how forcefully the enchanting Danish actress presides over the film. Seemingly regarding it all with a haunting vacancy, her Carmilla is both domineering and vulnerable with a bombshell anatomy and a dollish face that’s incongruently disturbing when it’s splattered with blood in one of the film’s most striking scenes.” Oh, the Horror!

“It’s a predictable affair that gives the impression of Hammer going through the motions for want of anything different to say, relying on the sex, and indeed violence, to sustain any interest, as if they did not have much faith in the work they were providing when it could be regarded as a debased variation on what had gone before. Stensgaard takes her clothes off a few times but doesn’t really convince as a melancholy vampire…” The Spinning Image

“All through the film, up to Barton’s death, we are assumed to not know who Mircalla really is. Even after the film reveals this to us there are attempts to throw red herrings as to the vampire’s identity for no adequately explored reason. Worse, the red herrings are lame, to say the least.” Taliesin Meets the Vampires

“There would be a little tension at times such as when Carmilla was in fear of her identity being exposed, but it would never last as she would soon make short work of the threat.  The most striking scenes of the movie were saved for the beginning and the end of the film, taking place within Karnstein Castle where Carmilla would rise and eventually, fall.  Lust for a Vampire is a good film, there is not anything inherently bad about it, but it could have been so much more.” The Telltale Mind

“Whatever rich Gothic flavor this material may have had is totally destroyed by Sangster’s annoying direction which relies heavily on leering zooms and garish color. To make matters worse, what should be highly-charged erotic scenes are ruined by deplorably bad songs droning away on the soundtrack.” TV Guide

” … while not as good as the other two films in the series, has much to recommend it and does not deserve the invectives which have been hurled at it. Even the much-criticized song ‘Strange Love’ is fairly inoffensive and contains one of Harry Robinson’s loveliest of melodies.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams

‘ …makes for a nice, no-strain double-bill without ever scaling the heights of terror. It has a fair share of wit, at the expense of plot… Village Voice

Recent releases:

Lust for a Vampire was released by Scream Factory on Blu-ray on July 30, 2019. Special features:

New 4K scan of the negative – presented in two aspect ratios – 1.66:1 and 1.85:1
New audio commentary by author/film historian Bruce Hallenbeck
New interview with actress Mel Churcher
Audio Commentary by director Jimmy Sangster, star Suzanna Leigh and Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn
Theatrical Trailer
Radio Spots
Still Galleries

In the UK, Studiocanal released Lust for a Vampire on Blu-ray on 12 August 2019.

Cast and characters:

Barbara Jefford … Countess Herritzen
Ralph Bates … Giles Barton
Suzanna Leigh … Janet Playfair
Yutte Stensgaard … Mircalla / Carmilla Karnstein
Michael Johnson … Richard Lestrange
Helen Christie … Miss Simpson
Mike Raven … Count Karnstein
Christopher Cunningham … Coachman
Harvey Hall … Inspector Heinrich
Michael Brennan … Landlord
Pippa Steel … Susan Pelley
Judy Matheson … Amanda McBride
Caryl Little … Isabel Courtney
David Healy … Raymond Pelley
Jonathan Cecil … Arthur Biggs
Erik Chitty … Professor Herz (as Eric Chitty)
Jack Melford … Bishop
Christopher Neame … Hans
Kirsten Lindholm … Peasant Girl
Luan Peters … Trudi
Nick Brimble … First Villager
David Richardson … Second Villager
Vivienne Chandler … Schoolgirl
Erica Beale … Schoolgirl
Mel Churcher … Schoolgirl (as Melinda Churcher)
Melita Clarke … Schoolgirl
Jackie Leapman … Schoolgirl
Sue Longhurst … Schoolgirl
Patricia Warner … Schoolgirl
Valentine Dyall … Count Karnstein (voice) (uncredited)
Christine Smith … Schoolgirl (uncredited)
Fred Wood … Villager (uncredited)


Filming locations:

Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England
Hunton Park, Kings Langtry, Hertfordshire, England



Fun facts:

The original shooting title was To Love a Vampire.

Terence Fisher was originally slated to direct but broke his leg.

There are almost subliminal close-up shots of Christopher Lee’s bloodshot eyes from a previous Dracula production.


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