The Vampire Lovers (1970)

DECEMBER 23, 2010


Well, at least The Vampire Lovers is better than Lust For A Vampire, thanks to a more focused story, fewer extraneous characters, and the appearance of Peter Cushing, who disappears for the bulk of the film but elevates the few moments he IS on screen (and gets to play Van Helsing at the end of the movie by killing the villain himself, instead of one of the characters who had actually been around for the movie's events). But it's still on the lower end of the Hammer totem pole, at least amongst the ones I've seen.

The problem with both films is that it spends too much time explaining the back story and not enough time on exciting events from the present day. The movie opens with a lengthy flashback about a guy seeking revenge for his sister by beheading a vampire (awesome!) and then, possibly to make up for nothing happening, we see most of it again an hour later when he re-enters the present day story. Plus he weakens the prologue version by endlessly droning on the entire time, with all the conviction of the assistant principal reading the lunch menu over the PA system.

Had I not watched Lust yesterday I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more, since it's similar. Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt in this one - so the character inexplicably got younger in the sequel) pretty much does the same thing in this one, seducing men and women alike, randomly killing a few others in the meantime. So it's a better version of the story I just saw, one that wasn't particularly exciting in the first place. It's also something that could have been avoided if Netflix's suggestion system was worth a damn. Tell me, when queuing up the film Lust For A Vampire, which of the following films do you think would be suggested: The Exorcist, Jaws, or The Vampire Lovers? If you guessed Lovers, you'd be wrong, yet you'd be correct with either of the others. I'm sorry that I don't have time to fully research each movie I see before sitting down to watch it (in fact I prefer to know as little as possible); how silly of me to assume that another film from the same lesbian vampire series would come up before a movie about a shark.

But back to my point, this one is superior, partly due to the more focused story. Carmilla has two main targets this time, one being the innocent and sweet girl named Emma (an actress who often resembles a robot due to her expressionless, rarely blinking eyes), and the other is Madame Perradon, who is a bit more "mature" but seemingly less of an interest - she sort of just has her to do some of her grunt work. There's a fun subplot in the third act involving the placement of garlic around Emma's room, with Carmilla trying to seduce everyone in sight to get them to remove them for her so she can get at her, which they milk for every possible angle and keep it rather entertaining, surprisingly enough.

The Count (I think?) makes an appearance as well, but he's just a shadowy figure that they never bother to explain. In fact as I watched it I realized that my occasional confusion during Lust had nothing to do with not seeing this film - I found this one just as baffling at times and having zero to do with the later film other than Carmilla (who, again, was played by a different actress anyway). I sort of wish Emma had returned in the sequel, since she had some sort of psychic link to Carmilla that they could have exploited in some way, but alas.

I was also tickled by Emma's continual fears about a fat and fluffy cat named Gustav. As a cat owner, I find the idea of being scared of cats rather silly, but I think anyone would be amused by Emma's repeated insistence that the thing was trying to get her. Gustav looks like he could barely get off his ass long enough to get some catnip, let alone try to kill Ms. Robot over here. There's a wonderfully stupid moment where another girl tries to convince her that she's seeing things by showing her how shadows work, and even then, with his giant shadow, Gustav just looks like a typically lazy cat who is about two seconds away from dozing off.

Interestingly, Cushing's character in the third film, Twins of Evil, is named Gustav, but I assume it's not a human version of the cat. It's also not the guy he plays in this movie, but I guess they simply didn't care about such things. Hopefully he's in that one more than he is in this one, though I'm not going to rush out to see it (even though a few twitter pals assured me that it's the best of the series).

What say you?


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