Lust for a Vampire
Dir: Jimmy Sangster
Star: Ralph Bates, Yutte Stensgaard, Suzanna Leigh, Michael Johnson
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1971
Format: DVD R2

The ominous and imposing ruin of Karnstein Castle, looms menacingly over an "exclusive" girls finishing school where after a chance encounter with one of the teachers author Richard LeStrange (Michael Johnson) takes up the post of English teacher. Soon afterward, LeStrange meets beautiful young student Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard) and falls instantly in love with her. Soon after Mircalla's arrival at the school though a series of mysterious deaths occur but are hastily covered up only to be discovered when the father of one of the dead girls opens her grave and discovers her neck marked by a vampire bite. He soon discovers that every 40 years or so the dreaded Karnsteins rise from their graves and spread their evil vampiric seed and terror. He soon discovers that through the unholy power of black magic, the vicious female vampire Carmilla Karnstein has been reincarnated and now preys on the young women at the finishing school....

Yet another classic horror film from the vaults of Hammer studios. By Hammer standards, this is quite a racey and raunchy presentation, more than an abundance of nipples, topless women, loose and very thin clothing not to mention one or two nude scenes. This is another of those mild British erotic horror films. Not one of those bawdy and lurid offerings from across the Atlantic but a more restrained and dare I say dignified affair on a par with another Hammer classic Vampire Lovers. The whole thing is quite well done and on the whole quite artistic. The typical re-use of older Hammer movie sets is as usual in evidence as we yet again see the exterior of Castle Dracula now doubling as the outside of Castle Karnstein. Despite the usual re-use of some sets, there are some more of the typically small but delightful set designs elsewhere throughout the film.

Lust for a Vampire is the sequel to the hugely successful Vampire Lovers starring Ingrid Pitt and the second of Hammer's "Karnstein Trilogy" based on the novels by Sheridan le Fanu. The script, courtesy of Tudor Gates who also wrote Barbarella is a witless and mostly cheesy affair, based upon the novels. Originally, regular Hammer film director Terrence Fisher was set to helm the film which was also set to star Peter Cushing but pulled out and was replaced by Jimmy Sangster whilst Cushing was also replaced by another Hammer regular Ralph Bates. Ingrid Pitt originally portrayed Mircalla/Carmilla Karnstein in the first film, but is replaced for the sequel by Danish beauty Yutte Stensgaard who brings a more submissive personality to the bisexual vampire, which was previously a more heavy handed lesbian terror.

The film does suffer a little here and there with some occasionally poor editing and some terribly missed opportunities and potential horror. There are several moments where you expect a good "jump" or at least a vampiric resurrection but the film overlooks its own potential and meanders along in a disjointed manner. On more than one occasion you can plainly see electrical wiring, lighting rigs and even camera equipment including crew members in modern clothing as the editor obviously loses interest in what he is doing and merely cobbles together some footage. This does mean you take a double take now and again as you look on in disbelief at the complete incompetence of the editor. Apart from the obvious foul ups along the way, the direction by Sangster is adequate, there is nothing really to astound, terrify or even tantalise you but there is of course a bevvy of scantily clad cheeky young beauties all lusting after the great Dane Yutte Stensgaard pursued once again by the obligatory fire wielding villagers with intent, against a backdrop of some delightful if a little cheap looking sets.

A fair if somewhat uninspired cast ham their way through the film as Ralph Bates is deliciously over the top and camp in the extreme as the obsessive occultist and teacher Giles Barton. This works well when compared to his colleague, the tempered, saucy teacher with the lopsided eyes played by Suzanna Leigh. Her opening scene is certainly quite memorable and in true cheesy fashion could she be called anything other than "Jenny Playfair"? Despite much criticism, the veritably sleep walked performance of Yutte Stensgaard is rather entertaining and watchable, admittedly that may be attributable to her not being shy, (if you catch my drift) as her voice is blatantly dubbed. Michael Johnson approaches his role as lecherous fop Richard LeStrange who becomes a lovesick baboon at the charms of the vampire beauty, in a camp and effeminately flouncy way. The rest of the cast is the usual humdrum bunch of regulars and extras that creep into most Hammer movies. The acting, like the script is rather dull and unimpressive to be honest, don't get me wrong this is a "classic" Hammer movie but this is by no means a masterpiece.

Thankfully, the DVD release is uncut and with the additional footage back in, it is surprising just how raunchy and suggestive the film is, and not like you remember it, that is of course due to previous censorship. That said, Lust for a Vampire is still lacking any "scare factor" and it's horror is often laughable. The story goes nowhere and becomes embroiled in a tedious "love can conquer all" premise which makes you want to throw up. Some reasonable effects by Hammer standards but nothing that really grabs you. If all you want to see is a cheesy Hammer horror with plenty of semi naked, saucy women then this will be sure to entertain. The real question is though.... Does sleeping with a vampire or one of the undead class as necrophilia???

Rating: 2 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 A good quality transfer given the age of the film
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Not brilliant but good quality
Features Dull, static menu
Theatrical trailer
Verdict A minimal disc with nothing except the trailer on it, but it is a good transfer even if it does make the flaws easier to notice and not forgetting of course, the film's uncut state. Lets hope the Hammer releases get a bit better.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home