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Lust for a Vampire Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Lust For A Vampire Large

Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Written by Tudor Gates
1971, 96 minutes, Unrated
Released on July 30th, 2019

Starring:
Ralph Bates as Giles Barton
Yutte Stensgaard as Mircalla/ Carmilla Karnstein
Michael Johnson as Richard Lestrange
Suzanna Leigh as Janet Playfair
Judy Matheson as Amanda McBride
Barbara Jefford as Countess Herritzen

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Review:

A mysterious man performs a blood ritual, sacrificing a beautiful maiden to bring the notorious vampire Carmilla Karnstein back to life. In order to quench her bloodlust, she assumes the identity of a young debutante using the anagram Mircalla and enrolls in an exclusive girls’ finishing school. She catches the eye of the new English teacher, Richard Lestrange, and the interest of history professor Giles Barton. When a student disappears, fellow instructor Janet Playfair urges the headmistress to go to the police, but the woman is reluctant to cause a scandal and opts to keep things quiet. The villagers live in fear of the vampire legend surrounding the Karnstein family and tensions mount when locals begin turning up dead outside a tavern and other victims are found on campus – all with bite marks on their necks. Richard suspects Mircalla to be a vampire, but is falling in love with her and determined to keep her safe. Can he make this unusual relationship work or will he be her next victim?

Hammer Films started out making “classy” monster movies in the 1950s with great success. By the 1970s however, profits were falling as audience tastes were changing. The studio opted to go with the flow and provide more gratuitous thrills in their pictures. In 1970, they began their series of films derived from Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, known as the Karnstein trilogy. Beginning with The Vampire Lovers starring Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt, followed a year later with Lust for a Vampire (originally titled To Love a Vampire) and concluding withTwins of Evil (1971). This middle installment got off to a bumpy start with several problems plaguing pre-production, including an ever-changing script, a lack of returning cast members and a last-minute replacement of the director.

Hammer veteran Jimmy Sangster (The Horror of Frankenstein) took the helm and delivers a film that overcomes its troubles and really entertains. Tudor Gates (Danger: Diabolik) contributes a screenplay that moves at a brisk pace and is more titillating than terrifying, but hits all the right notes. There are a lot of familiar elements and ample nudity peppered throughout and it features some memorable set pieces. One highlight comes when the lesbian vampire Mircalla is seduced by a man who looks twice her age but appears to be quite the lover given her reactions. The scene is silly and is accompanied by a laughable pop song of the era.

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The beautiful Yutte Stensgaard (Scream and Scream Again) stars as Mircalla, the irresistible creature of the night. She works her way through the all-girl school, seducing students and faculty alike. Ralph Bates (Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde) receives top billing, but is more of a supporting character as history professor Giles Barton. The role was intended for Peter Cushing and meant to be much older, but Bates does a fine job and has at least one great scene with the vampire. Michael Johnsonas (Anne of the Thousand Days) plays the lead role of Richard Lestrange, the lovestruck professor with an eye for his students. He is occasionally stiff, but shares decent chemistry with Stensgaard and Bates. Suzanna Leigh (Son of Dracula) is the voice of reason as Janet Playfair, whose first instinct with trouble is to go to the police. She does a fine job as the frustrated female protagonist to whom no one listens.

Lust for a Vampire is an early entry in the erotic horror subgenre. There are plenty of heaving bosoms and generous nudity throughout, though director Sangster seems uncomfortable with the material. There is not a lot of bloodshed outside of the pre-credit sacrifice, but the vampire claims her fair share of victims. The film started out under the title To Love a Vampire, but took the more salacious moniker to cater to a wider audience. Not everything works, including the abrupt ending, but there are enough memorable moments to recommend the picture to both ravenous Hammer fans and casual genre fans alike.

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Video and Audio:

Presented in both the traditional 1.66:1 and native 1.85:1 aspect ratios, the original camera negative has received a 4K scan and restoration with gorgeous results. Colors pop and black levels are solid with plenty of small-object detail.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 preserves the mono recording with well-balanced dialogue and music cues. The track has been remastered and is clean and free from hiss, pops or other distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

There are two audio commentaries on this disc; the first is a newly-recorded track with film historian Bruce Hallenbeck. The discussion begins tracing the roots of the Carmilla legend and its influence on Dracula. He continues with early film adaptations and an overview of lesbian vampires before moving on to cover the troubled production history of this film. This is a thoughtful discussion that is worth checking out.

The second commentary is a vintage track featuring director Jimmy Sangster and actress Suzanna Leigh, moderated by film historian Marcus Hearn. Leigh is really enthusiastic to participate in this discussion and has a lot of fond memories of the production. Sangster’s recollections are not as rosy, as he focuses on his troubles with the producers and negative reviews.

Actress Melinda Churcher played one of the students and reflects on her time on the film in Just One of the (School) Girls (4 minutes). She remembers dancing on the lawn and working with Ralph Bates and has kind words for the director.

A spoiler-heavy theatrical trailer has been included along with two radio spots.

There are two photo galleries, one of publicity stills (10 minutes) and the other a gallery of posters and lobby cards (5 minutes) featuring international artwork and stills.

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Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars Lust For A Vampire Small
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Threeandahalfstars
Overall: Threeandahalfstars

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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