The vampire Countess Carmilla Karnstein makes her way through the Austrian countryside creeping into the households of aristocrats and taking their daughters as victims. The families begin to catch on when a pattern of deaths in the area takes shape. Vampire hunter Baron Hartog is called upon to put an end to Carmilla’s wicked ways and end the legacy of terror the Karnstein family is known for.
I would like to first comment that I’m not a fan of this sort of risqué entertainment. I steer clear of movies that delve into racier subject matter like this. As a horror film history junkie and huge fan of everything Hammer, “The Vampire Lovers” intrigues me because of its place in a bygone era. I am stupefied that a movie dealing with the “off-limits” ideas it does was even allowed to be shown in theaters in 1970.
My main draw to “The Vampire Lovers” is two-fold. First, I love Peter Cushing with all my heart. I’ve been fascinated with the man since seeing him in “Star Wars” as a child. He commands every scene of every film he appears in no matter how briefly he’s on screen. I can’t even begin to imagine what such a “perfect gentleman” as Cushing thought when he saw this movie.
Secondly, you can’t beat the atmosphere of a period piece Hammer film. The sets are wonderfully dreary and gothic. I absolutely adore the Victorian design and gloriously green exterior shots.
The high-definition transfer will thrill Hammer enthusiasts. The picture is fairly clean with only a few dirt fragments and pops here and there. Anyone who’s used to seeing these films in any other format will find this Blu-ray version a welcome upgrade. I wish the movie would’ve been given a proper stereo mix. The mono presented here is still better than what we’ve had in past video and DVD versions. I watched the film late at night and had to turn the TV down several times where women screamed for ridiculously long stretches of time.
The special features for “The Vampire Lovers” couldn’t be any more satisfying. They include audio commentary by director Roy Ward Baker, actor Ingrid Pitt, and writer Tudor Gates. The 9-minute “Feminine Fantastique – Resurrecting ‘The Vampire Lovers'” gives viewers a bit of history and insight into the movie and the novella, “Carmilla,” it’s based on. Another bonus is Ingrid Pitt reading the source material for the movie with an accompanying slideshow of clips from “The Vampire Lovers.” There’s also a 20-minute interview entitled “Madeline Smith: Vampire Lover!” A photo gallery, theatrical trailer, and radio spot round out the extras.
“The Vampire Lovers” is an essential piece for any collector of Hammer horror films. Although I don’t necessarily condone the themes of the movie, it is a fascinating entry in the vampire genre and a unique part of cinema history. I will say this isn’t your usual classic 1970’s PG gore fest and shouldn’t be viewed by young eyes.
“The Vampire Lovers” is available now on Blu-ray.