The Hammer Horror machine was losing steam as the ’60s came to a close. The arrival of the MPAA ratings system brought R-rated gore and more to the cinemas. Hammer’s once shocking Dracula and Frankenstein series looked timid to those who had gotten an eyeful of Night of the Living Dead. What could the studio do to get fans excited to see their brand of Gothic shock? They could have gone nastier, but they couldn’t afford to have their films get banned in England. What could lure moviegoers back? How about be more seductive? The studio got a touch kinkier by introducing a vampire that sucked blood for the other team. Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla featured a female vampire that worked the necks of female virgins. Hammer wasn’t going to be coy by cheating with shadows an discrete angles. They were going the full fangs on throat action. Fans were eager to watch the girl on girl bloodsucking of The Vampire Lovers.
Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt) and her mom spend time at the mansion owned by General von Spielsdorf (Star Wars‘ Peter Cushing). The bosomy Marcilla is the belle of a ball. She proves to be too much when she befriends the general’s daughter (Lust for a Vampire‘s Pippa Steel). The two become close. The daughter complains of nightmares and her health goes downhill. The day she dies, Marcilla vanishes from the house. All that’s left behind is her fang marks on the dead daughter’s neck. The general is grief stricken and confused. Could such a nice girl ever do that to his daughter?
At the Morton estate, a carriage breaks down. The passengers are a mother and her daughter Camille. Strangely enough, she looks just like Marcilla. Turns out Mr. Morton has a daughter Emma (Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell‘s Madeline Smith) who is in need of a friend. She makes a good friend in Camille. Things aren’t so happy as the staff has a bit of misfortune. Emma doesn’t care since she’s enjoying spending a lot of time in her undergarments hanging out with Camille. Their relationship gets bumpy when the General pays a visit. He isn’t fooled by the name change.
The movie has its odd detours and characters. Who is really calling the shots for Camille’s attacks. But all that matters is Ingrid Pitt’s encompassing the role. She knows how to seduce and destroy a family. The movie deserves its cult following. The Vampire Lovers allowed Hammer to get with the time with nudity and forbidden female passion without losing their atmospheric charm. No longer did viewers have to only see Christopher Lee sucking the blood from the bosomy maidens. Ingrid Pitt is properly seductive in the role. Madeline Smith looks so ready to have her neck worked over with her innocent stares. The concept clicked since Pitt returned to star in Hammer’s Countess Dracula.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic.The 1080p transfer brings out the gauzy charm of a Hammer production. It looks so fine and rich even when the characters lose their blood. The audio is DTS 2.0 HD-Master Audio. The mix melds together the complete horror atmosphere. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary features director Roy Ward Baker, screenwriter Tudor Gates and star Ingrid Pitt talking about the film. Jonathan Sothcott moderates the memories. This was featured on the original Midnite Movies release since both Ward and Pitt died in 2010.
Feminine Fantastique: Resurrecting The Vampire Lovers (9:52) covers how Hammer needed to get back its edge. The studio folks had to prove the lesbian angle was part of classic literature so they wouldn’t be censored.
Reading of Camilla by Ingrid Pitt (12:05) is the star giving a sense of the words that inspired her seductive vampire action.
Madeline Smith: Vampire Lover! (20:35) brings back the actress to chat about her time as being a victim. She still has a youthful glow about her. Perhaps she is a vampire. She admits they didn’t quite tell her about the nude scenes. She has a unique tale of how she increased her bust size.
Photo Gallery (8:18) is a montage of production stills from the set.
Theatrical Trailer (2:18) lures you with “Come with us if you dare!” This is the AIP version of the trailer.
Radio Spot (0:51) is the commercial that would have tempted you to see The Vampire Lovers while listening to The Beatles. “It had to be rated R” is the hook.
The Vampire Lovers was a seductive set into finally showing a female vampire in action. Ingrid Pitt is perfection as she seduces and sucks down her naive victims. The print has been restored to its original glory with nude scenes in the right places. The movie proved that Hammer wasn’t ready to be tossed away as out of touch with the times. The Blu-ray resolution just adds to the film’s luster.
Scream Factory presents The Vampire Lovers. Directed by: Roy Ward Baker. Starring: Ingrid Pitt, George Cole, Kate O’Mara, Peter Cushing. Running time: 91 minutes. Rated: R. Released: April 30 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Dracula, Hammer Horror, Peter Cushing, Star Wars