Middling Hammer vampire effort gets superior DVD treatment
Surfink | Racine, WI | 12/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lust for a Vampire is the second and generally acknowledged as the least of Hammer's Carmilla Karnstein trilogy (Vampire Lovers, Lust, Twins of Evil). The movie is actually better than I expected, with most of the downside apparently due to postproduction fiddling by producers Harry Fine and Michael Style. The script by Tudor Gates contains a few fresh twists, Jimmy Sangster's direction is competent, the women, especially Yutte Stensgaard as Mircalla, are gorgeous, and Ralph Bates is excellent in a difficult role (originally intended for Peter Cushing). But what really mars the film and no doubt contributes to its poor reputation are some shockingly bad editing and soundtrack decisions: an otherwise effective scene of three `vampiresses' stalking Michael Johnson in Karnstein castle is ruined by an idiotic voiceover; the unintentionally hilarious "subjective" murder shots were no doubt intended to be cut away from much sooner than they are; blatantly obvious, mismatched closeups of Christopher Lee's bloodshot eyes are substituted for Mike Raven's; Stensgaard and Johnson's big vampire attack/love scene is rendered completely ludicrous by an absolutely awful pop song ("Strange Love") warbling in the background, etc., etc. The movie's quite watchable but frustrating because you keep thinking, "if only Jimmy Sangster had been allowed to edit this it probably would've been much better." (After saving Hammer's bacon by replacing injured Terence Fisher at the last minute, Sangster was unceremoniously ordered off the film by the producers as soon as shooting wrapped.) As it is, it's worth a look for Hammer and vampire fans, but ultimately less than completely satisfying.
Whatever one thinks of the film, you can't complain about Anchor's DVD package. The uncut, anamorphic widescreen (1.77:1) source print is a wee bit soft, but otherwise virtually flawless, with great color, contrast, detail, and nary a speckle to be seen. Extras include an equally gorgeous trailer, radio spots, poster and still gallery, filmographies, and a commentary by Jimmy Sangster, Suzanna Leigh, and Hammer historian Marcus Hearn. This is a real treat, since they spend most of the time discussing a wide range of personalities and topics, including some behind-the-scenes Hammer dish, rather than just focusing on the movie. Overall another fine release from Anchor, who've really been setting the standard for "special edition" DVDs lately, horror or otherwise. 5 stars for the DVD, 3 or 4 for the movie."
"These are not normal times...you'll not find any young girl
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 08/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What's that me hounds of classic Hammer horror films? You say you want more of the titillating, fantabuloso, bloodsucking, Sapphic action you enjoyed so much in the popular film The Vampire Lovers (1970)? Well, fret not, as Hammer Studios heard your grubby pleas and punched out this sequel, titled Lust for a Vampire (1971). Directed Jimmy Sangster, known for his excellent writing work on such films like X the Unknown (1956), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), and Dracula (1958), the film stars Ralph Bates (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde), Michael Johnson (Anne of the Thousand Days), and Yutte Stensgaard (Scream and Scream Again), in her last silver screen appearance. Also appearing is Barbara Jefford (The Ninth Gate), Suzanna Leigh (The Lost Continent), Helen Christie (Rasputin: The Mad Monk), and former pirate radio station disc jockey Mike Raven, whom I last saw in the fairly rotten film Crucible of Terror (1971).
The film, set in the year 1830, begins with the abduction of a peasant girl, whose yams are literally bursting forth from her cleavage, begging for a squeeze. The girl ends up being used in some black magic ritual (what a waste), one that reincarnates what I guess to be a vampire, and a sexy one at that...we then switch to a nearby town where we meet noted author Richard Lestrange (Johnson), who's visiting the area interested in researching material for a new book. Seems the town has had some bad luck over the years, specifically with a family by the name of Karnstein, and their now dilapidated castle that is no longer occupied...or is it? Anyway, turns out the vampiric activity follows a 40-year cyclical timetable, and the anniversary is here...sure enough, young, boobalicious girlies begin to go missing. Richard thinks the idea of vampires is a lot of hooey, decides to visit the castle, where he meets the nerdy and bespeckled teacher Giles Barton (Bates), co-founder of a newly opened school for buxom bouncing beauties who enjoy giving themselves massages (oops, that girl's shirt fell off) and nekkid nighttime swims (yowsa). Richard becomes infatuated with a teacher named Janet Playfair (Leigh), and subsequently weasels his way into a teaching position, but then later falls under the thrall Mircalla (Stensgaard), who is actually Carmilla Karnstein, the same girl we saw brought back from the dead (or undead) at the beginning of the film! Soon a sinister cloud of evil falls over the school, as the blood drained bodies begin to pile up...it's a veritable vampires virginal smorgasbord, and no one is safe...
All right, I tend to agree with some of the others in that this film may not be as bad as many claim it is, but in terms of a Hammer Production, it is pretty stinky...Sangster himself was embarrassed by the results (particularly the inclusion of the song `Strange Love', to which I'd agree with him), and claimed he was basically along for the ride, taking the helm just prior to shooting after the original director, Terrence Fisher, was unable to proceed after breaking his leg. Apparently Peter Cushing was meant to appear, but due to his wife's illness at the time, opted out, to which Ralph Bates was brought in...and then there's Ingrid Pitt, who played the role of Mircalla/Carmilla Karnstein in The Vampire Lovers...she declined to appear in this follow up because she thought the script awful. Seems this film had a lot going against it from the get go, but I'll tell you what, there is some fun to be had, if you don't expect too much. If you look at Sangster's credits, you'll notice his specialty seemed more in crafting tales, rather than directing, but he did do a decent job here, even if his heart wasn't in it. I thought most of the actors did reasonably well, but the main problem to me was a lack of focus. There were a great number of characters running around, more than necessary, and some of them ended up getting the short end of the stick. I though Raven played an interesting character, and assumed he'd have more screen time based on his pronounced present of the DVD case artwork, but that wasn't the case. Most of the time he slinked around on the peripheral, throwing sinister glares about. He should have been utilized more, especially given his commanding presence and booming, baritone voice. Also, I thought more could have been done with Barbara Jefford's character of Countess Herritzen...she seemed a rich (and sexy), untapped vein of juiciness waiting to be mined. And then there was the police inspector, played by Harvey Hall (The Vampire Lovers). I thought his character surprisingly strong, but ultimately wasted. What was up with Ralph Bates character? He prominent in the story initially, but then poof! He's gone...sort of pointless, if you ask me. Like I said, too many characters floating around resulting in uneven focus overall. Yutte Stensgaard did well, but let's face it, she's no Ingrid Pitt, and as many a Hammer fan knows, that's one corset that's especially hard to fill...the general atmosphere of the film worked alright (there are some really beautiful settings), but it felt lacking in the signature darker, more gothic tones normally associated with previous Hammer horror works, but then again, the studio was in a period of decline, one which it sadly wouldn't survive. There were a few good films that came out in this later period, Twins of Evil (1971) for example, but it wasn't like it was in the old days. Some of my favorite parts of the film (beside the copious boobage) included the scenes where the weak willed head mistress Miss Simpson gets chastised by not only the police inspector, but later by a father of one of the dead girls, presenting the best `deer caught in the headlights' expression I've ever seen...you see, Miss Simpson neglected to report the various incidents in a timely manner as she was so worried about a scandal, as she had all her money tied up in the school. Also, be sure to catch the exchange between the characters of Richard Lestrange and the uber effeminate Professor Herz, played by Erik Chitty (The Vault of Horror), as Richard fools the man into leaving prior to his arriving at the school so that Richard may take his place. The ending provides quite the entertaining (if not cliché) spectacle, in that of the old `angry townspeople with torches' routine...I never get tired of that...
Anchor Bay Entertainment provides an excellent uncut, uncensored widescreen (1.77:1) picture on this DVD, enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture quality is clear, vibrant, and generally beautiful. Also, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is crisp and comes through very well. There are some excellent features, including an audio commentary track with director Jimmy Sangster and actress Suzanna Leigh (she never popped her top in the film), moderated by Hammer film historian Marcus Hearn, along with a theatrical trailer, radio spots, a poster and still gallery, talent bios, and a 5X7 insert reproduction of original poster artwork for the film, the flipside listing the chapter stops. All in all a five star release of a three star film, hence the four star rating.
By the way, I never knew how useful an old, dried up well could be, especially if you have some corpses that need disposing of...
An excellent atmospheric movie!
Susan Craig-Gilson | Milwaukee, WI USA | 03/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even though so many people think poorly of this film, it really is an excellent film. The sets are excellent and, really, the acting is just fine. The music is some of the best music I've heard in a horror movie. Even some of the scenes are perfectly timed with this music. This is one of my favorite vampire films. I enjoy watching this one over and over. It's not scary, and it's not bloody...if you're looking for something like that, this movie is not it. But if you want a dreamy, atmospheric movie with beautiful people, beautiful sets, and great music, this is it!"
TO LOVE A VAMPIRE(aka LUST FOR A VAMPIRE)
Michael Reed | Eugene,Oregon,United States of America | 10/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have a lot of favorite Vampire films...this is one.Starring the STUNNING danish beauty YUTTE STENSGAARD who replaced INGRID PITT(busy filimg COUNTESS DRACULA)..the story is very intersting as the trailer says "Welcome to the most exclusive finishing school where they really do FINISH YOU!"..Ralph Bates is an intersting choice as a last minute replacment for Peter Cushing, Jimmy Sangster did an a very good job..would have LOVED to see what Terrence Fisher(orignally slated to direct) would have done with it.I think if you like THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and TWINS OF EVIL you will like this film..coming out VERY soon on DVD!"