Daughters of Darkness

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Daughters of Darkness
Directed by Harry Kümel
Produced by Paul Coilet
Alain C. Guilleaume
Written by Harry Kümel
J.J. Amiel
Pierre Drouot
Starring Delphine Seyrig
Danielle Ouimet
John Karlen
Andrea Rau
Music by François de Roubaix
Cinematography Eduard van der Enden
Edited by Denis Bonan
Gust Verschueren
Release dates
Running time
100 min. / 87 min. (edited)
Country Belgium
West Germany
Language English

Daughters of Darkness (in France, Les Lèvres rouges, and in Belgium, Le Rouge aux lèvres, both literally translated as The Red Lips) is a 1971 Belgian horror film (with dialogue in English), directed by Harry Kümel. It is an erotic vampire film, following a style Camille Paglia calls psychological high Gothic.

Plot summary[edit]

A recently married young couple, Stefan (John Karlen) and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet), are on their honeymoon. They check into a grand hotel on the Ostend seafront in Belgium, intending to catch the cross-channel ferry to England, though Stefan seems oddly unenthused at the prospect of introducing his new bride to his mother. It is off-season, so the couple are alone in the hotel. Alone, that is, until the sun sets and a mysterious Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Báthory (Delphine Seyrig) arrives in a vintage Bristol driven by her 'secretary' Ilona (Andrea Rau). The middle-aged concierge at the hotel swears that he saw the Countess at the same hotel when he was a little boy. The countess quickly becomes obsessed with the newlyweds, and the resulting interaction of the four people leads to sadism and murder. Ilona, Stefan, then the Countess all die, leaving Valerie, now transformed into a creature similar to the Countess, stalking new victims.


Camille Paglia writes that, "A classy genre of vampire film follows a style I call psychological high Gothic. It begins in Coleridge's medieval Christabel and its descendants, Poe's Ligeia and James's The Turn of the Screw. A good example is Daughters of Darkness, starring Delphine Seyrig as an elegant lesbian vampire. High gothic is abstract and ceremonious. Evil has become world-weary, hierarchical glamour. There is no bestiality. The theme is eroticized western power, the burden of history."[1]

Director Harry Kumel, interviewed by Mark Gatiss for the BBC documentary Horror Europa said that he deliberately styled Delphine Seyrig after Marlene Dietrich and Andrea Rau after Louise Brooks to deepen the filmic resonance of his own movie. Because the vampire character of Elizabeth Bathory is also a demagogue, Kumel dressed her in the Nazi colours of black white and red. In commenting on both the film's mordant sense of humour, and the director's painterly eye in the composition of several scenes, Gatiss drew forth the comment from Kumel that he considers the film very Belgian, especially due to the influence of Surrealism and Expressionism.

The movie was shot at two of Belgium's most famous hotels - the Thermae Palace (see Royal Galleries of Ostend), and the Astoria, Brussels.


In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.[2] Daughters of Darkness placed at number 90 on their top 100 list.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. Yale University Press, 1990, p. 268.
  2. ^ "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  3. ^ NF. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 

External links[edit]