Jules picks up where he left off in October by running through some of the choice horror offerings from the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.
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Starring: Yutte Stensgaard, Michael Johnson, Ralph Bates
Director: Jimmy Sangster
One thing you can usually say about Hammer films is they are never boring. Even the lesser entries usually have something to catch the interest. Until now.
The second instalment in the loose Karnstein trilogy, Lust For A Vampire somehow manages to take the concepts of vampires, sex and gothic horror and make them tedious. Quite the achievement.
It’s 1830, 40 years to the day since the vampire family Karnstein were last sighted. At a finishing school in Styria, Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard) arrives as a new student and soon forms a relationship with visiting author of the supernatural Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson). The bodies start piling up though, as Mircalla is secretly the resurrected vampire Carmilla Karnstein.
Dear lord, this is hard going. At least it’s predecessor The Vampire Lovers looked good and had folk like Peter Cushing, George Cole and Ingrid Pitt to hold the interest.
First things first, she might be more believable as a student in an all-girls school than Ingrid Pitt would have been, but Yutte Stensgaard is a poor choice for Mircalla. She’s pretty, beautiful even, but there’s no personality there. You just can’t believe anyone would be obsessed by her, let alone supplicate themselves at her feet as the weaselly Giles Barton (Ralph Bates) does. There’s no menace there either, even when the fangs are out.
The lesbian overtones have been dialled right down from the last film, while the horror, which had been increasingly getting more explicit with Hammer in recent years is thin in the ground too. There’s a nice scene right at the start where the corpse of Mircalla is resurrected by Count Karnstein (Mike Raven) in a ritual that calls to mind Dracula, Prince Of Darkness, but that’s as good as it gets.
Instead, we have the truly horrific experience of Strange Love, an actual pop song by a singer called Tracy. First up it soundtracks a overwrought sex scene with an extreme close-up on Mircalla’s orgasm-induced cross eyes, then it comes back over a montage of earlier scenes from the film. Thanks for that.
The great Terence Fisher was originally in line to direct Lust For A Vampire, but was replaced by Jimmy Sangster at short notice and it shows. Maybe if he had more time, Sangster would have done something better with Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic character, or maybe he wouldn’t. We’ll never know.
Similarly, Peter Cushing was in line for Ralph Bates’ role. As always Bates puts in a fine shift, but Cushing could have lifted the whole shebang as he always does.
It’s all by the by though. What we have here is arguably the least engaging horror film Hammer ever produced, lacking even the occasional charm of its predecessor. Hard to endure and even harder to care about, Lust For A Vampire has very little to recommend it at all.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy