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Lust for a Vampire (1970)


Main image of Lust for a Vampire (1970)
Directed byJimmy Sangster
Production CompanyHammer Film Productions
Produced byHarry Fine
 Michael Style
Screenplay byTudor Gates
CinematographyDavid Muir
Based on characters created bySheridan Le Fanu

Cast: Ralph Bates (Giles Barton); Barbara Jefford (Countess Herritzen); Suzanna Leigh (Janet Playfair); Michael Johnson (Richard Lestrange); Yutte Stensgaard (Mircalla)

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A newly resurrected female vampire and her undead family prey on the staff and pupils of an Austrian finishing school.

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Jimmy Sangster's Lust For A Vampire is the second part of the 'Karnstein Trilogy', three films very loosely based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu's novel Carmilla (1872). Preceded by The Vampire Lovers (d. Roy Ward Baker, 1970) and followed by Twins of Evil (d. John Hough, 1971), this film deals, in a crude but very English way, with the idea of the vampire as sexual predator.

In response to a more relaxed approach from the British Board of Film Censors, and the influence of European titles like Et Mourir de Plaisir (France, d. Roger Vadim, 1960) and Le Viol du Vampire (France, d. Jean Rollin, 1967), the Karnstein films marked a new direction for the Hammer vampire. Whereas the female vampire had played only a marginal role in many of the Dracula films, Carmilla (or Mircalla) Karnstein is the focus of Lust for a Vampire.

The trilogy also introduced a far more explicit approach to the sexual nature of the vampire. Dracula's victims were invariably female, and the young woman's ecstatic, breathless expression only hinted at something more than a simple bite. In Lust for A Vampire, Mircalla attacks both males and females and often drains their blood during sex.

Unfortunately, what could have been a bold move in bringing the implicit into the open is compromised by a very immature approach to the material. The hero, Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson), alternates between behaving like Sid James in a Carry On film, and a parody of a Romantic poet. When Lestrange and Mircalla make love, they are serenaded by a horribly inappropriate pop ballad, which robs the scene of all tension.

Above all, Lust for A Vampire is littered with scenes that exist only for the titillation of the male audience. The young women of the finishing school spend half their time topless or performing classically-inspired exercise routines in skimpy outfits. There is no attempt to explore Mircalla's bisexuality; instead, she is placed in a couple of soft-core sequences with her classmates. Her attacks on men are perfunctory moments, while her female victims are drained in lengthy soft-focus seductions.

George Watson

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Video Clips
1. Castle Lestrange (2:13)
Original poster
Production stills
Vampire Circus (1971)
Hammer Horror