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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Lust for a Vampire (1971)
(Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)


Starring: Ralph Bates, Barbara Jefford and Suzanna Leigh
Distributor: StudioCanal
RRP: £TBC (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 12 August 2019

Not far from the notorious Karnstein Castle, a young woman has gone missing. She is one of many whose blood is used to return the beautiful but evil Carmilla to life. Horror fiction author, Richard Lestrange, arrives at a nearby inn, looking for lodgings while he carries out his research in the area. The locals tell him of the vampires that emerge from the castle every 40 years. Curious, he visits Karnstein, but it is the nearby Finishing School for young women that intrigues him more. He falls in love with a stunning blonde called Mircalla, and takes the place of another teacher as a means to be close to her. He will soon learn the truth, but will it change his view of her...?

This movie – beautifully remastered for Blu-ray – is the latest in a string of Hammer classics to receive a new lease of life… and they’ve never looked better. The picture is crystal clear, and returns us to those halcyon days when horror was more about style than gore-for-effect. This one was directed by prolific Hammer scriptwriter, Jimmy “Do you want it Tuesday, or do you want it good?” Sangster, who wrote the screenplay for Dracula (1958) among many others. There are a lot of good-looking young women here, most of which feel a need to show their ‘assets’ whenever they get the opportunity. The sexual aspect of the film is to demonstrate the allure of a vampire and the power they have over mortals, although Michael Johnson’s character only has to profess his love for Yutte Stensgaard’s voluptuous vampire for her to practically fall at his feet (and more!).

The film was released in 1970 when Hammer was said to be suffering a slump. American backers had pulled out, and the long-time executive producer left. Their answer was to tap into the sexual revolution. The restraint on sexual content – and particularly how it is used with horror – was relaxed; Hammer wanted to be among the first to push the boundaries. This also resulted in The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil, and Countess Dracula. Of course, this path doesn’t stop Lust For a Vampire being an entertaining film. It’s simply that many felt Hammer had reduced its proud name to simple titillation for the masses. And what is that dream sequence and ‘Strange Love’ song supposed to achieve? Hammer were soon back on track during the 1970s.

Whilst far from being the best film in Hammer’s formidable arsenal, it does pack its own passive punch. Ralph Bates was taken on to replace the ageing Christopher Lee, but was never in the same league. Nevertheless, his portrayal here of the school master who is desperate to be Mircalla’s disciple, is impressive. Curious then, that he later revealed his dislike for the part.

Again, the Special Features boost the score for this release. We have an informative Featurette called Strange Love: Hammer in 1970; Script to Screen: To Love a Vampire (the original intended title for the film); Judy Matheson Interview (one of the lovely young women); and a Stills Gallery.


Ty Power

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