The Vampire Lovers (UK 1970)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/18/16
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Cast: Ingrid Pitt, Madeline Smith, Pippa Steel, Kate O'Mara, George Cole, Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer, cameo by Kirsten Lindholm

Scandalous! This adaptation of the erotic vampire novella "Carmilla" is a shocking exploration of feminine sensuality and a stunning example of Ingrid Pitt's raw talent and captivating presence. Unusual circumstances bring the bewitchingly beautiful Mircalla Karnstein (Ingrid Pitt) to the home of General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing). She and the general's daughter, Laura (Pippa Steel), become inseparable friends, until Laura dies of blood loss and Mircalla vanishes into thin air. Vampirism is suspected, and the general rushes off to consult Baron von Hartog, who has had previous dealings with the undead Karnsteins. Next, Mircalla finds herself as a guest in another household, and seduces the wide-eyed and innocent young Emma (Madeline Smith). By now, the rumors of vampires are widespread and people are starting to put the clues together as more dead girls show up. Can Emma be saved before Mircalla meets with the pointy end of a wooden stake?

Granted, this film is a bit of a guilty pleasure, and the lesbian undertones may turn some people off. But for a teenage boy growing up in the 70's, this was a gift from the heavens. While considered tame by today's standards, the film broke astonishing new ground in female sexuality, and Ingrid Pitt's uninhibited performance is seductively powerful (and at 32 years old, she also has unbelievably fantastic breasts). Her dramatic turns are equally impressive, and she fully consumes her tragic role as a lover and a predator. Madeline Smith is perfect as the sweet and naïve (but not so bright) Emma, and is positively adorable. Peter Cushing and George Cole add some class to the production as elder gentlemen, who eventually find themselves spearheading a vampire hunt. The film looks quite good apart from a horrible backdrop painting of Karnstein Castle, which the camera revisits way too many times. Roy Ward Baker's direction is solid and steady, and the film only drags in a few spots. If you've got a thing for lusty female vampires seducing beautiful young maidens, this is the archetype of the genre and well worth a look.