Adapted from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novella Carmilla, The Vampire Lovers represents a major entry in the Hammer Films catalog, becoming the first part of what would become known as the Karnstein Trilogy. Rife with female nudity and lesbian undertones, The Vampire Lovers was perhaps more titillating than scary at the time of its release in 1970 but seems rather tame by today’s standards.
In a prologue of sorts, Baron Von Hartog (Douglas Wilmer) is getting revenge for the death of his sister. He explains that vampires sometimes court their victims taking pleasure in their seduction and slow destruction and at other times they feast on them immediately. As he watches, a shrouded figure appears from a grave. The figure floats off leaving behind the burial shroud. Von Hartog explains that vampires must return to their graves to rest but cannot rest without their shroud. He then uses that shroud to lure the vampire to him.
The main story centers on a young vampiress Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt), who ingratiates herself into the home of General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) after her mother, The Countess (Dawn Addams), asks if she can stay with them while she visits a close friend who is dying. In truth, The Countess has been contacted by a man whose presence in the film is never fully explained, but who appears to be the leader of the vampires, the one who controls everything that goes on (although he does it from afar).
Not long after Marcilla arrives, the General’s niece, Laura (Pippa Steel) falls ill, and dies. Marcilla quickly vanishes from the General’s home. Now using the name Carmilla, she shows up at another house, that of Roger Morton (George Cole), who just happens to have a attractive daughter Emma (Madeline Smith). Though Carmilla has romantic feelings toward Emma, her need to suck her blood eventually supersedes all. Before the Morton household can figure out what’s going on, Carmilla has wrought all sorts of carnage.
Although The Vampire Lovers is ultimately a pretty ridiculous film, it’s still easy to see why it’s gained a cult following over the years. With its undeniable campiness and smoldering sexuality, some will find it impossible to resist. Director Roy Ward Baker hides any overt lesbianism behind various objects, but there is plenty of bare breasts on display for those that like to see that in their vampire flicks.
After a decent release in 2013, Scream Factory has upgraded The Vampire Lovers to a Collector’s Edition. Sourced from a new 4Kscan of the original camera negative. The results are fantastic. Presented in the 1.85:1, the colors are bold throughout. The prevalent scratches of 2013 are gone. The image itself is impressive, highlighting the set design and production design. Black levels are inky giving the image a nice level of shadow detail.
The Vampire Lovers features the same lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track available on the 2013 Blu-ray. It has a slight hiss in spots. Even so, the track still sounds relatively good, with strong dialogue and solid fidelity throughout. This track won’t blow you away, but it does its job well.
English subtitles are included.
The following special features are available:
- Audio Commentary featuring Dr. Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr
- Audio Commentary featuring Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby
- Audio Commentary featuring Roy Ward Baker, Ingrid Pitt, and Tudor Gates
- Carnal Crimson – Kim Newman on the Carmilla Legend (HD 19:05)
- Fangs for the Memories – Remembering The Vampire Lovers (HD 24:31)
- To Love A Vampire: Introduction by Madeline Smith (HD 15:53)
- Madeline Smith – Vampire Lover (HD 20:32)
- Trailers from Hell: The Vampire Lovers (HD 2:32)
- Feminine Fantastique: Resurrecting The Vampire Lovers (HD 9:56)
- New Blood: Hammer Enters the ’70s (HD 26:22)
- Reading of Carmilla by Ingrid Pitt (HD 12:02)
- Deleted Scene (HD 1:22)
- Theatrical Trailer
- Radio Spot
- Image Gallery
- The Rapture of Cruelty: Carmilla In Classic Cinema Audio Essay
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Movie title: The Vampire Lovers
Duration: 91 mins.
Director(s): Roy Ward Baker
Actor(s): Ingrid Pitt, George Cole, Peter Cushing, Kate O'Mara, Ferdy Mayne , Douglas Wilmer