Vampire Lovers, The (1970)
The Vampire Lovers is Hammer Film’s portrayal of the classic vampire story, ‘Carmilla’, from late 1800s French novelist Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. The story is that of a female vampire ‘Carmilla’ who preys on a young woman. In The Vampire Lovers, Carmilla (who also goes by Marcilla) is played by the lovely Ingrid Pitt (The Wicker Man, Countess Dracula). The great Peter Cushing co-stars as a general, who after throwing a party for his daughter, welcomes Marcilla to stay with them. Shortly after, his daughter Laura is sick with something that resembles anemia, and Marcilla is nowhere to be found. Later, another young woman, Emma, and her father stumble across Carmilla who is once again in need of a place to stay. Emma immediately becomes Carmilla’s new target.
This is easily one of the best adaptations of this story to film, although there are only a handful out there. It is also the most faithful to Le Fanu’s story (at least that I am aware of). Ingrid Pitt gives a superb performance as Carmilla/Marcilla, and all supporting roles are well done. The brilliance of The Vampire Lovers relies heavily on the actors’ talent because their various relationships are so critical to the storyline.
Although there is not a great deal of effects or gore, it is well done. Rather than the typical ‘stake through the heart’ that pervades most lore, vampires in this story must be decapitated. Also different from standard vampire lore is the fact that Carmilla’s alternate animal form is a large cat, rather than a bat (or a dog as in Bram Stoker’s original ‘Dracula’). Which brings me to note that Le Fanu’s story actually pre-dates Bram Stoker’s novel.
As I mentioned before, the focal point of this film is certainly not gore or violence, but rather on the story and character interactions (containing its fair share of sensuality). It has a great deal of depth in that regard, and really fits in to the Gothic horror sub-genre that Hammer Films mastered. I highly recommend this film to all fans of Hammer and other vampire films. I also encourage you to read Le Fanu’s novella, which can be found in full here.