Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Season of Horror Lives Again: The Vampire Lovers (1970)

It is now 3 pm, and I continue the marathon of horror movies from the 1970s with the first film in The Karnstein Trilogy of vampire flicks produced by Hammer Films. While I do own this movie, this will be my first time watching it. The salacious picture of vampire women attacking half naked, chained people on the Blu Ray case includes a warning that this film is "Not for the mentally immature!" I wrote about the third film in this trilogy, Twins of Eviltwo years ago, so I know what to expect. 

"Not for the mentally immature!"

Joachim von Hartog is finishing his account of the Karnsteins, hoping for an end to the supernatural happenings he apparently documented, as he tells us of how his sister died and how he avenged her death by murderers beyond the grave.  

Von Hartog lets us know that the vampire can't rest without the shroud it was buried with, and as we witness him watching a shrouded figure rise from a grave in the cemetery, he goes to retrieve its shroud on the ground.

At a tavern, a young fellow goes out to relieve himself, and is subsequently heard screaming and found at the door with a bloody neck wound. When the creature tries to return to its grave and can't find its shroud, Von Hartog waves it out the window to lure the vampire to him. 

He stands ready with his sword, but becomes entranced by the vampire's nakedness in her see-through dress. Fortunately, when she goes to embrace him, her breasts brush up against his crucifix, causing her to pull back and allowing him to grab her by the hair and lop off her head. The opening credits roll over the image of her bloodied, decapitated head on the ground. 

Peter Cushing makes an appearance as General von Spielsdorf at a birthday ball with some lively dancing. Two women arrive in a carriage and cause a bit of a stir amongst the lads at the ball when they enter. Spielsdorf apparently knows the Countess, who introduces her daughter, Marcilla. They begin to waltz and twirl. Laura thinks Marcilla wants to steal her beau, since she appears to be staring at him, but he claims she's staring at her. 

A man in a black cape with red satin lining arrives. The Countess excuses herself to greet him, and he whispers in her ear. She initially appears mesmerized and tells Spielsdorf that her friend is dying and she has to go. He says he'll look after Marcilla for her. 

He is not doing such a good job, since Marcilla sneaks outside and sees the man in the cape on a horse, who gives her a toothy grin. 

The next day, Laura tells Marcilla how everyone was looking for her for hours. Marcilla tells Laura she's beautiful and puts her arm around her in a way that's more than just friendly.

At night, Laura is having bad dreams, as something furry covers her on her bed and a woman's eyes appear. She wakes up screaming her head off. Spielsdorf comes running with the housekeeper, and she tells them a huge cat was choking her. They say it was a nightmare and go to check on Marcilla, who doesn't answer to their knocks. She is outside, looking up at Laura's window. 

Spielsdorf is consulting with the doctor about Laura's weakening condition. He claims it's just anemia from dieting. He prescribes, meat, greens and port. 

Laura tells Marcilla she'll miss her when she leaves. Marcilla says she'll never leave her and gives her affectionate kisses on the lips and chest. 

Carl asks Spielsdorf if he can see Laura, but he says she won't see anyone but Marcilla. He says he'll be glad when the Countess comes back for her. 

Laura has another screaming nightmare. Carl rides through the countryside to fetch the doctor. 

Spielsdorf is at Laura's bedside and she asks for Marcilla, but the housekeeper can't find her in her room. She suddenly appears and tells them to open the curtains to the daylight, claiming that Laura is dead. Spielsdorf is distraught. Carl and the doctor rush in. The doctor exposes her breast so he can listen for her heartbeat, and after not detecting one, notes the bite marks on her breast. Spielsdorf calls to Marcilla, but she has disappeared. He screams her name, his shouts echoing through the house. We are shown the grave of Mircalla Karnstein, 1522-1545.

A basket toting girl walks alone through the forest and gets spooked. She begins running, drops her basket and falls to the ground. She screams as she gets bitten by Marcilla, as the caped man appears in shadow nearby.

Emma, and her dad, Morton, witness a carriage accident after coming from Spielsdorf's house, who has gone to see von Hartog. The Countess emerges from the carriage saying she has to go attend to her dying brother. Morton invites her niece, Carmilla, to stay with them. We see that Marcilla is the niece inside the carriage. 

Emma walks in on Carmilla in the bath, but notices the pretty dresses on her bed. She tells her she can wear one. As Carmilla steps out of the bath, Emma begins undressing to try on a dress. Carmilla tells her to take off her bodice, and subsequently begins to chase her around the room until they fall on the bed together, staring longingly at one another. 

Emma is having bad dreams of a woman's eyes and fangs. Her governess, Mme. Perrodot, comes in and she tells her she dreamed of a cat that was as big as a wolf. She blames it on the cat, Gustav.

The governess tells Morton that Emma had a nightmare, he worries about her being pale and listless, but thinks it's because she's upset about Laura. Morton says he has to go to Vienna. Marcilla says she'll take care of Emma like a sister.

Morton comes across Carl while riding in his carriage. He asks if Carl can check on Emma while he's away in Vienna. He tells him a young girl is staying with her, so he'll have two pretty, young girls to visit. 

Emma listens to Carmilla reading a romance novel, and claims the book is silly. She asks Carmilla if she would hope for a handsome man to come into her life, but she says she doesn't. Emma tells her she hopes Carl might come see her. She then tells how her friend died and Carmilla gets irritated with her. She says she loves Emma and wants her to love her, but Mme. Perrodot interrupts, saying it's enough chat for the night.

A girl is awakened by a hand caressing her face. She sees who it is and smiles. We then hear screams coming from her cottage. She is subsequently found with a bloody neck wound.

Mircalla/Marcilla walks through a foggy graveyard and disappears into the mist.

Emma sits outside with Carmilla and asks why she won't sit in the sun. They observe a funeral procession, but Carmilla is disturbed by the chanting, and starts raving about how Emma and everybody must die. She asks Emma to hold her tight.  

Carmilla asks Emma to tell her about her disturbing dreams. She tells her about being strangled by a cat with its fur in her mouth. She says the cat then turns into Carmilla, and she feels a sharp pain like needles as she embraces and kisses her, and feels like her blood is being drawn. Carmilla says she'll always be safe with her and pulls down her nightie to expose her chest and kisses her. The caped man is in shadow atop his horse outside. 

Mme. Perrodot hears Emma scream and runs to her room. Emma says the cat was there and that it bit her, showing her the bite marks on her breast. Carmilla comes in and says it was a brooch she gave her that caused the punctures. Emma insists it was the cat. Carmilla gives Perrodot a brooch and they stare at each other longingly. Mme. Perrodot follows Carmilla to her room and she tells her to turn down the lamp as she gets naked. 

Carl shows up at the estate in the morning looking for Emma. Mme. Perrodot says she's out all day for a picnic. He asks about her friend, but she tells him the friend has left. She tells him to call on them next week as Carmilla looks down from the staircase approvingly. 

A maid goes to Emma's room with a tray and finds her unwell. The butler, Renton, tells Perrodot to send for a doctor, but as Carmilla appears behind him, she says she'll send for the doctor if she thinks she needs one. 

Renton is out at the tavern getting wasted, telling the bartender that Emma is sick, and wondering why the governess won't let him send for a doctor. He says she acts like a vampire, and the music comes to a screeching halt. The bartender tells him there have been 3 deaths, with victims that have had the blood drained from them.

Emma is in bed when Carmilla enters her room, and she tells her that she's dying. Carmilla confirms that she is. 

The doctor shows up and Mme. Perrodot is not pleased. He says Morton asked him to look in on Emma. Perrodot realizes Renton is responsible. The doctor finds the bite marks on Emma, but says she's not dead yet. Renton comes in with a bouquet of garlic flowers and the doctor chastises him, but when Perrodot reacts unpleasantly, he tells him to get more. The doctor finds a cross in Emma's jewelry box, and puts it around Emma's neck. He tells Renton to have a maid stay with her all night.

The caped man sits on his trusty steed outside the estate as Carmilla makes her way to Emma's room. She is repelled by the garlic and cross. The doctor is making his way home, but gets thrown by his horse when it gets spooked. Carmilla comes traipsing along in her nightgown, and attacks him as the caped man observes in shadow. 

Morton arrives home and is informed by the landlord that the Karnstein's have come back. He recounts how Baron Hartog chopped off the head of the vampire and staked the rest. He tells him to ask Spielsdorf if he doesn't believe him. Morton recalls that Spielsdorf went to see Hartog. He wonders where the doctor is and goes in search of him.

He comes across Spielsdorf in his carriage. Carl says the doctor is with them and reveals his bloodied corpse. 

Renton peeps through the keyhole of Mme. Perrodot's room to see her writhing and moaning in her bed. 

Spielsdorf tells how he traveled for miles to find Baron Hartog, who tells Morton that the evils need to be sought out and destroyed. Spielsdorf tells him they are going to Karnstein castle. 

A ghostly voice calls to Mircalla. 

Spielsdorf, Hartog, and Morton arrive at Karnstein castle. Hartog recounts how he was determined to avenge his sister's death and describes the scene we saw at the beginning of the film when he nearly got bitten by a beautiful vampire before he came to his senses and removed her head. 

Carmilla asks Renton to remove the stinky garlic flowers from Emma's room. He says he can't and suggests that Mme. Perrodot is an evil woman. She begins to seduce him. 

Hartog tells the tale of how he dug up all the vampires and staked them, but he was too exhausted to find the last one. He shows the portrait of Mircalla, and Spielsdorf recognizes her as Marcilla. Morton says it's Carmilla, who is staying as a guest in his house. Carl dashes off to save Emma, while the caped man sits on his horse, displaying his fangs as he laughs.  

A changed Renton enters Emma's room and tells the maid to remove the cross from Emma's neck. 

Spielsdorf, Hartog, and Morton search for the vampire's grave.

Renton tells the maid to remove the garlic flowers. He sees Carmilla outside the room, who is pleased. He goes to her room for some hanky panky, and she sinks her teeth into his neck.

Carl is heroically riding through the forest as the trio of vampire killers come across Mircalla's grave. 

Carmilla enters Emma's room and helps her out of bed.

The vampire hunters find that the coffin is gone from the grave.

Carmilla tells Emma she's taking her to her home. Perrodot comes out of her room and begs Carmilla to take her with her. Carmilla bites her neck and kills her as Emma screams. Carl arrives and calls her by her proper name. He points a sword at her, but she brushes it aside and goes for his jugular. As he struggles with her, he pulls a knife from his boot with the hilt in the shape of a cross, and repels her with it. He throws the knife at her, but she disappears. He picks up Emma and carries her upstairs.

Hartog sees Mircalla, and they watch as she goes to the castle. They follow her in and find her coffin. They carry it into the chapel. 

Carl puts Emma into her bed.

They lift the coffin lid and find Mircalla inside. Spielsdorf says he'll do the deed as Morton goes to pray for Emma.

Emma cries out in her bed, and screams as Mircalla is staked with a long, pointy pole by Spielsdorf. He removes her head for good measure. 

Carl holds a whimpering Emma and tells her it's over.

The caped man watches the men as they return Mircalla's coffin to her grave. Her portrait in the castle changes to that of a fanged skull. 


So, I never did see any of the half naked folks chained to a wall as depicted on the Blu Ray cover. False advertising! This is an interesting introduction to the Karnstein family, though the fact that The Countess and the caped man on horseback remain a mystery is dissatisfying. Assuming they are members of the Karnstein family, why wasn't Hartog aware of them? Why didn't Spielsdorf question the Countess' involvement, since he seemed to know her? Also, if a vampire could not return to its grave without its shroud, why would it carelessly leave it lying on the ground where anyone could pick it up? 

This is typical Hammer vampire fare in that it features luscious ladies, bloodied necks, gruesome decapitations, and the necessary staking, but it takes a new turn with the introduction of a lesbian vampire who is looking for love in all the wrong places, biting the boobs of the women she loves, and the necks of all the rest. Of the two films I've seen in this trilogy, I prefer Twins of Evil. It felt like it had more of a solid story to carry it along. We didn't really find out much about Mircalla or the Karnstein family history, why the Countess was helping her get invitations to the houses where young girls lived, or why the caped fellow was always lurking about on the sidelines. I may have appreciated this movie a bit more if the loose ends had been tied up. 

Unfortunately, my stamina for movie viewing has been exhausted for today. It was quite an indulgent day of movies that certainly helped take my mind off of the pervasive smell of smoke in the air. Next in the line up will be a movie I've covered, but look forward to revisiting: Let's Scare Jessica to Death. Until next time...


John V said...

Christine, thanks for this look back at The Vampire Lovers. I'd agree that Twins of Evil is a better film overall, though this one does feature, Ingrid Pitt (Countess Dracula herself), Peter Cushing and Kate O'Mara, so it can't be all bad! Have fun with Let's Scare Jessica to Death. That's one of my all-time favorites!

Christine said...

I may be lacking a certain amount of testosterone to be able to appreciate this film more. 'Let's Scare Jessica' gets better with repeat viewings. I can see why it's one of your favorites!