The Vampire Lovers
|The Vampire Lovers|
|Directed by||Roy Ward Baker|
|Produced by||Michael Style
|Written by||Harry Fine
|Screenplay by||Tudor Gates|
|Based on||Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu|
|Music by||Harry Robertson|
|Editing by||James Needs|
|Studio||American International Pictures
Hammer Film Productions
Fantale Films (uncredited)
|Distributed by||American International Pictures (USA, theatrical)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (2003, DVD)
|Release date(s)||4 October 1970|
|Running time||91 min.|
The Vampire Lovers is a 1970 English gothic horror film directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt, Madeline Smith, Kate O'Mara and Jon Finch. It was produced by Hammer Film Productions. It is based on the J. Sheridan Le Fanu novella Carmilla and is part of the so-called Karnstein Trilogy of films, the other films being Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1972). The three films were somewhat daring for the time in explicitly depicting lesbian vampire themes.
In early 19th century Styria, a beautiful blonde (Kirsten Lindholm) in a diaphanous gown materialises from a misty graveyard. Encountering the Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer), a vampire hunter out to avenge the death of his sister, the girl is revealed as a vampire when her breast is seared by his crucifix. Baring her fangs to attack the Baron, she is swiftly decapitated.
Many years later, a sultry dark-haired lady leaves her daughter Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt) in the care of General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) and his family at their Styrian mansion. Marcilla quickly befriends the General's niece, Laura (Pippa Steel). Laura suffers nightmares that she is being attacked, and her health deteriorates until she dies. Marcilla vanishes from the General's home.
Faking a carriage break-down, Marcilla's mother leaves her (now using the alias Carmilla) at the residence of a Mr Morton. Here, Carmilla befriends and seduces Morton's daughter Emma (Madeline Smith) but her need to feed overcomes her emotional attachment and Emma too begins to fade. Emma has nightmares of being pierced over the heart, and her breast shows tiny wounds. Emma's governess, Mme. Perrodot (Kate O'Mara) also falls victim to Carmilla's erotic blandishments and becomes her willing tool. Some in the household, the butler and a doctor, suspect what might be happening, especially in the wake of several local girls suddenly dying, but Carmilla kills each one. All the while, a mysterious man in black (clearly also a vampire) watches events from a distance, smiling (his presence is never explained).
After Carmilla kills the butler, having convinced him that Mme. Perrodot is a vampire then persuaded him (with her womanly charms) to remove the garlic protecting Emma, Carmilla goes to Emma's bedroom. She says she must go away, but is taking Emma with her. A desperate and sick Madame begs Carmilla to take her with her. Carmilla kills her, in front of a horrified Emma. Emma is barely rescued by a young man named Carl (Jon Finch) who fashions a makeshift cross from his dagger. Carmilla flees to her nearby ancestral castle, now a ruin.
All this coincides with the arrival of the General, who brings with him a now-aged Baron Hartog. They find Carmilla's grave, where she sleeps. Her eyes open, and interestingly enough she makes no move to defend herself. The General lifts a stake—and back in her bedchamber Emma screams "No!"—then drives it into Carmilla's heart. He then cuts off her head. Carmilla's portrait on the wall decays, showing now a fanged skeleton instead of a beautiful young woman.
Before production, the script of The Vampire Lovers was sent to the chief censor John Trevelyan, who warned the studio about depictions of lesbianism, pointing out that a previous lesbian film, The Killing of Sister George, had had five minutes excised by his office. In response, Hammer replied that the lesbianism was not of their doing but was present in the original story by Le Fanu. Trevelyan backed down. Production of The Vampire Lovers began at Elstree Studios on 19 January 1970 and used locations in the grounds of Moor Park Mansion, Hertfordshire (standing in for Styria, Central Europe). Produced on a relatively low budget of £165,227, it was the final Hammer film to be financed with American money—most of the later films were backed by Rank or EMI.
Critical reception 
The Vampire Lovers has received a generally negative reception from critics. On review-aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 43% percent, based on seven reviews, and is certified "rotten". Variety's review of the film was mixed, claiming the story was not great and it had "fairly flat dialog," but the script had "all the needed ingredients." Allmovie wrote, "This Hammer Films production isn't their finest moment but its easy to understand why it has become an enduring cult favorite with horror fans: The Vampire Lovers pushes the "bloodshed & bosoms" formula of the Hammer hits to its limit". Dave Kehr wrote a favourable review for Chicago Reader, writing that the film "resulted from the last significant surge of creative energy at Britain's Hammer Films, which thereafter descended into abject self-parody." Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film a passing grade of two-and-a-half stars, calling it a "rather erotic Hammer chiller".
Home media 
The Vampire Lovers was released on 26 August 2003 on DVD by MGM Home Video (Fox Video) as a two-sided Midnite Movies Double Feature DVD consisting of both The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula (1971). Scream Factory released the film on Blu-ray on 30 April 2013.
- Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, Titan Books, 2007 p 137
- McKay, Sinclair (2007). A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films. Aurum. p. 118. ISBN 1-84513-249-1.
- Mayer, Geoff (2004). Roy Ward Baker. Manchester University Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-7190-6354-X.
- "The Vampire Lovers". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
- "The Vampire Lovers". Variety. 31 December 1969. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
- Donald Guarisco. "The Vampire Lovers – Review". Allmovie. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
- Dave Kehr. "The Vampire Lovers". chicagoreader.com. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
- Leonard Maltin, ed., Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie & Video Guide. A Signet Book, 2001, p. 1478.
- Bill Gibron. "Countess Dracula / The Vampire Lovers". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- "The Vampire Lovers". Scream Factory. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
Further reading 
- Rigby, Jonathan (2000). English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. ISBN 1-903111-01-3.
- The Vampire Lovers at the Internet Movie Database
- The Vampire Lovers at AllRovi
- The Vampire Lovers at Rotten Tomatoes