31 Days of Halloween-Day 16: Lust for a Vampire (1971)

More Hammer vampires! This time we offer up for your approval another of the Karnstein vampire flicks, Lust for a Vampire from 1971. While technically the second of the trilogy (preceded by The Vampire Lovers and followed by Twins of Evil), the movies are not connected except for use of the Karnstein name. Like the other two films, Lust for a Vampire continues with the lesbian themes but with a bit more camp than we see in the other entries in the trilogy. It’s the 70s in Hammer land and we get our usual dose of gore and nudity that were quickly becoming a staple of this era. Set some forty years since the last appearance of Carmilla and the Karnstein family never seems to learn. Carmilla is brought back and a nearby girl’s school is the buffet of lovelies offered up for consumption. Yutte Stensgaard heads up our cast as Mircalla Herritzen aka Carmilla Karnstein. This seems to be the highlight of her career (or perhaps downfall considering she retired from the business the following year). Michael Johnson stars as Richard Lestrange, giving what I thought to be a disappointing and unimpressive performance. This too seems to be the peak of an otherwise forgettable career. Finally, we have the ever-present Ralph Bates as Giles Barton. Bates certainly did the best he could with what he was given. This film followed his performance in The Horror of Frankenstein and preceded his work in Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.

The lesbian themes were less obvious than The Vampire Lovers, most likely to keep the censors happy.  Ingrid Pitt was originally offered the lead role but turned it down. Peter Cushing was also offered a role as Giles but was forced to turn it down as this was the period of time where his wife was sick and near death. Cushing was less than generous in his comments about the movie. Director Terrence Fisher was replaced at the last minute by Jimmy Sangster. All of these what-ifs lead one to wonder how this movie would have differed with the different actors and director. Most will agree the movie would have been better since critical reaction at the time and since has been less than stellar. This was my first time viewing the film and I doubt I’ll revisit it anytime soon. If you want a good Hammer vampire film, there are much better choices with any starring Christopher Lee being a good start. Okay, maybe not The Satanic Rites of Dracula but that’s for another discussion.

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