Monday, December 28, 2009

Lust For A Vampire

Lust For A Vampire 1971
Director: Jimmy Sangster
Writer: Tudor Gates
Starring Ralph Bates, Barbara Jefford, Suzanna Leigh, Michael Johnson, Yutte Stensgaard, Helen Christy, Pippa Steel, David Healy, Harvey Hall and Mike Raven

In the latter era of Hammer horror films, they begin to delve into lesbianism with films like Countess Dracula and the Vampire Lovers. Lust For A Vampire was a continuation of that theme. I think more so than any other Hammer film it is the most overtly sexual. The many females in the film are constantly either in a state of undress or on the brink of being seduced and letting go of all their inhibitions.The way the story is portrayed it gives it both elements of class and elements of sleaze and these two disparate qualities seem to meld together well in this concoction. The film is presented in the usual graceful gothic style of most of Hammer's films. It has a enticing and gripping plot that is combined with a great lot of performances that push the film over the edge and truly make it a fine and daring vampire film. I have always been impressed that though Hammer had the Dracula films they also strived to do more original vampire films and this is a excellent example of one.
The plot basics are this. in the deserted chapel at Karnstein Castle, Count (Raven) and Countess (Jefford) Karnstein enact a satanic ritual to bring their daughter Carmilla (Stensgard) back to life. Also, Richard LaStrange (Johnson) has come to the village to do research on a book he is writing on witches, magic and vampires. He is warned to stay away from Karnstein Castle, he goes anyway and discovers three young girls dressed in shrouds, he soon discovers that they are students at a nearby finishing school. Richard then works a plan out where he becomes the new English teacher at the school. He becomes enamored with Mircalla, and as he becomes entrenched in the school it seems girls are disappearing and Mircalla is never far away when this happens. This all leads to the villagers discovering who Mircalla really is and with the aid of the priest of the village come to put an end to her. Richard is still besotted with the charms of the vampire and who knows if he will shake out of it or become the latest willing disciple to the Karnstiens?
This is quite a well done film. Sangster's direction is very erotically charged. He uses the mood of sensuality very well throughout as many of the females seem to be on the cusp of letting loose their inhibitions as the film progresses. It has a great gothic feel, but also balances it with a modern sensibility. The script is very well balanced. The character of Richard LaStrange has many foibles, but you sympathize with him anyway. The character of Giles Barton is the most memorable character in the film, who is like a needy version of Renfield. The character of Mircalla is very interesting too, as you do not know till well past half of the film if she is truly evil or just being used by the Karnsteins. The cast is uniformly good. LaStrange is very good as the stoic hero, who has his own weaknesses that could be his own undoing. Bates as Barton is great too, he is very sleazy and is a delight to watch whenever he is on screen. Stensgaard is very enticing as the malevolent Mircalla, and is mesmerizing whenever she is on screen. The SFX and effects are done very well in this film and add to the mood of the film. The score by Harry Robertson is very haunting and sensual and really works well with the themes of the film. This is a finely done vampire film with a overtly sexual nature that runs well on all cylinders.
This one gets 4 out of 5

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