Lust For a Vampire (Jimmy Sangster, 1971)

posted in: Duane, Review | 0
Beautiful debutante Carmilla Karnstein is resurrected forty years after her death and begins to attend the local all-girl boarding school; rumors abound about the family’s evil deeds and black magic rites. Soon she manages to make the school headmasters fall madly in love with her and bodies start to pile up.
The second entry in Hammer’s brilliant Karnstein trilogy (nestled betwixt the heaving bosom of The Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil), Lust For a Vampire is certainly one of the finest entries the doomed studio managed to churn out, despite not having its usual star power to drive it. Set in 1830, the film is brilliantly crafted as was Hammer’s modus operandi; period dress and attire meticulously assembled, stuffy British actors chewing the scenery, heaving breasts just aching to pop out of bodices, everything that made Hammer films infinitely enjoyable is in full effect – and then some. The 70s were a different, more daring time for Hammer films and as such Lust For a Vampire benefits from that a great deal. It may not have Cushing or Lee (although genre weirdo Mike Raven [Crucible of Terror] does a great job channeling the latter) but I’ll be damned if I can think of a Hammer film that manages to pack more cheesecake into one outing. What remains is a bit of an oddity of a film, at least as far as this particular studio is concerned as the expected production quality is complemented by copious sex, nudity and sleaze the likes of which had rarely been seen in their earlier productions (in fact with this trilogy Hammer managed to show some of the most explicit scenes of lesbianism in English language film at the time.). Gratuitous scenes of girl on girl action, full frontal female nudity, big beautiful bloody tits, are all a welcome addition but admittedly seem a tad out of place as if the filmmakers were just discovering the magic of filming naked sluts frolicking about, brushing each other’s hair, skinny dipping, et al.
All my Hammer gushing aside, the story is also very well crafted and was based loosely on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s early vampire novella Carmilla. As such we have the newly resurrected Mircalla Karnstein (Yutte Stensgaard; Scream and Scream Again), a new student at the finishing school next door (read: vampire buffet)  who manages to make pretty much everyone fall madly in love with her including both headmasters; one a smarmy published author who managed to weasel his way into the school in order to get close to her, and the other a bookish greasy rodent of a man (the always excellent Ralph Bates; Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, The Horror of Frankenstein) who has been researching  the history of the Karnstein family and soon confirms what everyone watching the film from the beginning already knew: Mircalla is actually Carmilla Karnstein! Anyway, shit starts to get real when bodies start to pile up, drained of blood and their necks predictably perforated, everyone wants to Bang Mircalla, and the villagers finally manage to get drunk in a large enough mob to actually do something about the whole bloody mess. At its core, Lust For a Vampire is really just a tale of forbidden love gone horribly, horribly wrong.
The resurrection scene / black magic rite at the beginning of the film alone is fucking awesome and is something you’re not likely to forget any time soon, as you’re treated to Carmilla’s bones getting rejuvenated by the blood of a virgin, complete with her newly forming blood vessels pulsing with new life. Expect lots of spooky castles, cobwebs, dark forests, and beautiful shots of the gloomy English countryside. There’s a ton to look at in Lust For a Vampire, whether you’re enamored with all the jiggly titties or just taking a stroll through the gloom, pint firmly in hand.
I can with clear conscience recommend Lust For a Vampire to Hammer newbies and veterans alike, as well as those looking for a solid gothic horror film with a heavy dollop of Eurosleaze. Worthy of note: although this is the second part of a trilogy, they are by no means linear and can certainly be enjoyed out of sequence without confusion. Fucking essential.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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