Monday, July 7, 2014

Lust for a Vampire

Lust for a Vampire (1971)
Movie rating: 4/10
DVD rating: 8/10
Release Date: December 4, 2001
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
Rating: R
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
List Price: $19.98
Disc Details
Special Features:  Widescreen anamorphic format.
Chapter selection.
Commentary by director Jimmy Sangster, star Suzanna Leigh and Hammer Film historian Marcus Hearn.
Theatrical trailer.
Radio Spots.
Poster and Still Gallery.
Cast and crew bios.
Video Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1)
Languages: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles: None.
Captions: No
Casing: 1-Disc Keep Case

Hammer broke the nudity barrier with "The Vampire Lovers." Based on Le Fanu's book "Carmilla," "The Vampire Lovers" and it's two sequels "Lust For a Vampire" and "Twins of Evil" brought lesbian vampires out of the closeted coffin. "Lust For a Vampire" had a very troubled production history, and is the weakest film in the trilogy. While there are numerous beautiful women in all their bare-breasted glory, "Lust For a Vampire" is hampered by terrible special effects and one of the most contemptuous goofs in film history. More about that later.

Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) is the son of an aristocrat. Richard writes novels. He has traveled to an isolated town to investigate superstitious stories concerning a family of vampires, the Karnsteins. Ignoring the local's warnings, Richard travels to the deserted Castle Karnstein and immediately finds himself surrounded by beautiful young women. His fear abates as he realizes that the young women are from a local private school for girls. They are there with their history teacher, Prof. Giles Barton (Ralph Bates). Richard walks to the school with Giles and the girls. As he meets the headmistress, Miss Simpson (Helen Christie) a new student arrives. Miacarlla (Yutte Stensggard) is a buxom Swedish beauty. She also happens to be the incarnation of Carmilla Karnstein. Needless to say, many of the privileged young women at the school are going to get fatal hickeys in the upcoming days. Richard finagles a job at the school teaching English Literature. He falls in love with Miacarlla, and she with him. Can the living and undead have a meaningful relationship? Can he stand to see her with other women? Has there ever been a more bizarre look on an actress's face while she is supposed to be experiencing an orgasm?

"Lust For a Vampire" isn't as bad as it could have been. It was originally supposed to be directed by Terrence Fischer, the man who directed the greatest film of Hammer's entire history, "The Horror of Dracula." Terry Fischer had a habit of playing chicken with cars. He would run across the street in front of on-coming traffic. Sometimes he broke a bone in the process. This happened just before shooting began. Hammer workhorse, Jimmy Sangster was brought in at the last moment. Peter Cushing was supposed to play the Ralph Bates role, but his wife's health deteriorated and he had to back out. Count Karnstein was played by an actor named Michael Raven. His similarity to Christopher Lee is amazing. The story goes, that Mr. Raven stormed out of the premiere when stock footage close-ups of Christopher Lee's bloodshot eyes were used in place of his.

The faults that are apparent with this movie are due to the greedy, slipshod producers. Producers Harry Fine and Michael Style were the men responsible for the abundance of gore and nudity as substitutes for story and characters in Hammer films. Their contempt for anything but money is apparent in the film's final sequence. The Karnstein's vampire carriage driver tries to flee the castle as it is being stormed by the locals. The camera is mounted behind the carriage driver as he rolls toward the crowd. During this shot the entire left third of the frame is taken up by the film crew, studio lights and a second camera unit. There are about 30 behind the scenes people in full view. (See the screen capture at the end of this review!!!) On the commentary track, Jimmy Sangster says this was one of the first scenes they shot. Rather than spend the money to correct the scene, the producers let it stay. This horrible goof is followed by the most bogus vampire death ever filmed. Miacarlla is staked by a piece of wood which falls from the castle's burning ceiling. The wood pierces her heart and she is caught on fire. The dummy used to double for Ms. Stensggard bears a remarkable likeness to an inflatable love doll! Oh well.

The Disc
So-so movie. Great commentary track trashing the movie and shedding light on Hammer's demise. Good picture and sound.

Picture Quality: 9/10
Only one really noticeable artifact and it comes during the scene where you can also see the film crew in nearly half the frame! Other than that, a very good picture. The flesh tones are great, especially the lovely Ms. Stensggard.

Sound Quality: 7/10
Fair sound. It is mono and comes across a bit flat. The high pitched screams are a bit much.

Menu: 8/10
Nice interactive menu. Lots of buxom vampires on display. easy to navigate. My usual complaint about Anchor Bay concerning a lack of photos in the chapter selection part of the menu. Yes, I'm one of those idiots who couldn't order of a menu unless there were pictures.

Extra Features: 10/10
Suzanna Leigh and Jimmy Sangster have so much fun getting down and dirty about this film. Lots of behind the scenes gossip and catty remarks. One of my all time favorite commentary tracks. Nice poster gallery. Plenty of flesh.

The Final Word:
I love Hammer films and even like collecting their inferior titles. This one had potential, but missed the boat. Worth a rental if you aren't a lesbian vampire movie fan. Fans of Hammer and vampire movies will want this one for the library. Very reasonably priced, but that is usually the case with Anchor Bay.

No comments: