Euro-Horror Project: The Vampire Lovers

(Roy Ward Baker, 1970) I post this not just to promote old Hammer Films in general but Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 tale Carmilla in particular — a vampire story that preceded Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 20 years and inspired not just Stoker himself and Hammer Films’ Karnstein Trilogy, but countless 60s and 70s lesbian-vampire Euro flicks. Poor Sheridan wrote the grandmother of all vampire tales and rarely gets the credit, and his subtext often gets subverted when it’s treated by filmmakers. But maybe that’s half the fun of movies like The Vampire Lovers, which is more titillating than progressive (or maybe not). It’s hard to spot the pro-LGBT slant, if there is one, among the romping virgins, heaving bosoms and empire waists. Hammer-regular Ingrid Pitt steals the show as a lascivious female biter who regally seduces the maiden daughters of Bavarian VIPs.  The victims are vapid, doll-like, wide-eyed passives, vulnerable to predators of both sexes; when an undead woman gets to their flowers before good-ol’-boy husbands can, the patriarchy gets rattled and sets out to rid the duchy of the seductress.  The movie marries overt lesbianism with subtle puns and metaphors designed to get a giggle (like a pure-hearted virgin’s description of a dream in which a “giant cat put its fur into my mouth”). Peter Cushing and a young John Finch struggle with the “threat” of overpowering female sexuality, of women with authority and of women (God forbid) who don’t need them. Come to think of it, maybe The Vampire Lovers is a liberal film in the guise of conservative propaganda. Or maybe it’s just a Maxim video for the Euro-horror set. Either way, viewers can enjoy the film while they come to their own conclusions. — Ranylt Richildis

What’s the Euro-Horror Project?

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