I've been looking forward to this review, "The Vampire Lovers," first of Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy, and no, its not a porno, its a legit horror film, that just so happens to feature a fair amount of nudity and lesbian themes...ITS NOT A PORNO! ARGHH! "turns into a vampire bat and flies away"
The Premise: The setting is 19th century Styria, the film opening with a man, Baron Hartog, slaying the vampire who'd taken his sister. Years later, General von Spielfsdorf, played by Peter Cushing, plays host to a grand ball for his daughter Laura, during which he agrees to look after the daughter of a countess who's been called away to deal with an emergency, the daughter's name? Marcilla, played by the legendary Ingrid Pitt
. Marcilla & Laura become fast friends, but Laura begins suffering terrible nightmares & eventually dies of an unknown ailment...Marcilla disappearing suspiciously soon after. Marcilla resurfaces under a new identity however, Carmilla, & repeats her con of convincing kind strangers to take her in while her mother is away, this time her host family being Mr. Morton and his daughter Emma, played by Madeline Smith. From here, worms her way into Emma's heart, first as a friend, but then much more, while the rest of the household begins to suspect there is something more to Carmilla than meets the eye, something dangerous...
The Pros: Ingrid Pitt, Ingrid Pitt MAKES this movie, not only was she SMOKING HOT, but unlike many modern actors she manages to be both sexy AND frightening, switching from seductive to intimidating quickly and effectively...That kind of range is rare these days. Madeline Smith also plays the role of the naive and innocent Emma well and she and Pitt have many great scenes together, though I definitely feel Pitt eclipses her more than once. The eroticism of the film is handled as well as the horror, coming off as sexy rather than sleazy. Peter Cushing doesn't get as much to do as he usually does in Hammer films, but he delivers as always, especially after he becomes a vengeful father on the hunt for the monster who killed his daughter, demanding answers for what became of her (when Cushing is afoot, vampires beware! lol). The vampire and gore effects are stellar as always in Hammer films, there's a really good early death scene that caught me off guard when I first saw it, was just so sudden and convincing for an older film like this one. Even though we in the audience figure out vampires are afoot sooner than our heroes do (if the title didn't give it away alone lol), it is interesting to see how they slowly piece everything together, from Carmilla being a vampire to her connection to a long thought dead family of vampires, the Karnsteins, and how Carmilla craftily throws them off the trail, displaying genuine deadly intelligence (and all without making the heroes stupid, they're smart, she's just that much smarter cuz she's been at this longer). Its also interesting how the Karnstein vampires don't possess all of the same weaknesses as Dracula vampires, able to handle running water and sunlight with no problem (which is fine by me, makes it easier for them to pass for human).
The Cons: It is never explained what Carmilla's relationship with her "mother" truly is, are they really related or is she a Renfield style servant? Also, there's a mysterious man in black who poses as their footman and appears sporadically throughout the film, definitely a vampire and very sinister, but he does little to aid Carmilla & his relationship to her is never clearly defined, so its kinda like "Okay, he's creepy, what's his deal?" XD. It doesn't ruin the movie, & we can kinda infirm or guess what their deals are, but its not explained well...Alas, the sequel, "Lust for a Vampire" does explain who those two were and I honestly liked my theories about them better (spoiler alert, the first sequel of the Karnstein Trilogy is pretty bad lol). The beginning is confusing at first because I thought the disk had skipped ahead somehow to the middle or end of the movie, but ya get over that fast as it is a spooky beginning...Though the whole "the vampire must have its shroud" thing seemed pointless since, again, Karnstein vampires are daywalkers and Carmilla herself never has any shroud issues lol. Otherwise, I really have no complaints, tis a great flick.
The Verdict: Excellent first rate movie, its a solid Hammer picture and a must see for vampire fans, or fans of Ingrid Pitt, since this is the film that cemented her status as a horror icon.