From the Archive – Lust for a Vampire (1971)

Lust

Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Starring Michael Johnson and Yutte Stensgaard, and some other people you neither know nor care about

A girl is taken into a carriage by a group of black-clad weirdoes (you’d think the village girls of Transylvania, or in this case Styria, would learn), and her blood is used to resurrect a chesty vampiress.

Itinerant nobleman and author at large, Lestrange (Johnson), turns up in the village, poo-poos the warnings and visits Castle Karnstein, where he is menaced by three random bints from the nearby Miss Simpson’s school for random bints, where respectable girls learn to be random Hammer softcore horror-porn bints in floaty dresses. Blagging a job as an English teacher, Lestrange oils his way about the grounds, makking on new girl Mircalla (Stensgaard) while the gym teacher shoots him dewy-eyed glances, and all in all, pretty much everyone fails to notice that folks are disappearing.

A parade of hapless victims fling themselves onto Mircalla’s waiting fangs, including Lestrange, whom – sadly, since he’s an irritating, oily twerp – she doesn’t kill; just shags to the accompaniment of the horrifying love theme ‘Strange Love’. To cover things up, Mircalla’s equally chesty aunt arrives with her trusty ‘doctor’, ever eager to diagnose ‘a heart attack’, or bump off a nosy policeman.

Then a bishop arrives and they burn down the castle, and Mircalla takes a falling roof-beam through the cleavage.

What’s wrong with it?

In addition to the usual flaws of Hammer horrors – bright red paint for blood, gratuitously plunging necklines, naff dialogue – this film brings us a bevy of new complaints. The necklines don’t so much plunge as hurl themselves over the brink, crashing in a suicidal mania to the floor and leaving many a breast bared, but all in a strangely unerotic way. The lesbian issue is played up, but in a really weird and coy fashion that baffles more than titillates. The sex scenes represent Hammer’s brief and misguided foray into the realms of actual softcore porn, but at the same time that it’s too shallow, plotless and insipid to be good drama, it doesn’t work as porn either.

The dialogue is even worse than usual, and there aren’t even any decent actors. I mean, sure, we usually give up on the male lead in Hammer horror straight off the bat, but the Doctor is so clearly a cheap Christopher Lee knockoff that it’s pathetic to behold. The supporting cast of assorted cretins is not much to write home about, and while Yutte Stensgaard may be easy on the eye, she’s not exactly much of an actress. I dunno; maybe she’s better in Danish. Also, all of the characters are either lecherous morons or vacuous zombies in frocks, so it’s really hard to feel sympathy for any one of them.

And then there’s the song.

Oh God. Nothing I say can possibly prepare you for the song (note, the video is NSFW.)

What’s right with it?

Not much really. Some of the girls are nice to look at, as is the scenery, but that’s about it.

I suppose at least the vampires are pretty boss: sunlight doesn’t work, nor does fire. You have to stake or decapitate these bad boys; no crawling through a thorn hedge to end this one.

How bad is it really?

Lust for a Vampire set a new standard for bad cheesy horror movies. It is vitally important for those who have seen the likes of Dracula, Brides of same, or Twins of Evil, to realise that this is a whole order of magnitude worse. It’s not quite Zoltan Hound of Dracula, but it’s close.

Best bit?

Well…no.

Actually, okay, the way that the doctor just declaims: “A heart attack!” and everyone seems to buy it is pretty rad.

What’s up with…?

  • Mircalla’s dresses, which seem to be designed to fall off? Oh, wait; I know why they did that.
  • The ‘new exercise routine’, based on Greco-Roman dancing? Oh, wait. That would be the cheesecake again.
  • The ‘vampcam’ shots, where the busty victims are required to fondle the lens?
  • The Strange Love. The Strange, strange love? Now that there can be no explanation for.
  • The bishop who just randomly appears when they need him at the end of the film?
  • The fact that none of the central characters do anything against the vampires? Lestrange just stands there and watches the beam plunge through Mircalla.
  • James (gonzohistory) pointed out in the original version of this review that I “didn’t mention the fact that Mircalla is in fact Carmilla, using the single best vampire disguise name since Dr. Ackula! How could that gripping, subtle plot twist have been overlooked? One might almost think that you were delirious with pain and horror during the film.” Of course, this is actually completely in keeping with the original short story, Carmilla by Sheridan le Fanu, in which she not only goes by Mircalla, but also at another point Millarca. She’s like some kind of crazy secret agent vampire!

Ratings

Production values – It’s a Hammer horror film, with all the production values that entails. Plus it was made at a time when they evidently felt the need to drum up takings by adding a few extra inches to a few extra cleavages, so that lowers expectations along with the budget and the necklines. The blood is red paint, and the flashbacks (usually to what happened a few minutes ago) have a really bad filter on them. 15

Dialogue and performances – Almost universally terrible. The doctor delivers ‘a heart attack’ with some aplomb, but even when the actors manage to scrape up some energy, the dialogue is flat and horrible. 18

Plot and execution – Cheesy bisexual vampire in a girl’s school. Shag, kill, shag, kill, kill, shag, shag, Strange Love, kill, shag, kill, stake, The End. That’s pretty much the plot. 20

Randomness – The vampcam, the Greco-Roman cheesecake, the girls school in the mountains right next to the evil castle where young girls get eaten by vampires. And of course, the strange, strange love. 16

Waste of Potential – This was never going to be much of a film with the concept it has, but frankly it still could have been a thousand times better than it ended up. Just for starter, it’s ‘based’ on Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla, and is not just worse than that, but also worse than either of the other two crappy Hammer Horrors ‘based’ on the same short story. 12

Overall 81%

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