Lust for a Vampire (1971)
“A vampire’s lust knows no boundaries…”
Lust for a Vampire (1971)
Director: Jimmy Sangster
Cast: Barbara Jefford, Ralph Bates, Suzanna Leigh
Synopsis: A writer becomes obsessed with a young woman without realising she’s a vampire.
In the early 1970s, the ailing Hammer studios came to the decision that the dwindling popularity of old stalwarts Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee meant that they could no longer be relied upon to pull in a decent audience. The studio needed something new and exciting if it was to recapture the kind of audiences it had enjoyed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and so hit upon the idea of adding a few bare boobs to the over-familiar setting of 17th Century peasant villages overlooked by menacing castles. Unfortunately, they couldn’t figure out how to insert the aforementioned lady parts in a way that contributed in any meaningful way to the same hoary old plot, so that their inclusion looked both awkward and out of place. Like a pair of curious teenagers terrified of the thing which they both find so fascinating, Hammer edged towards scenes of naked lovemaking and lesbian trysts before scurrying away almost red-faced with shame. They also assumed – wrongly – that the regular presence of bare breasts on the screen meant they no longer had to pay attention to such trivialities as plot or characterisation, meaning that a supposedly daring combination of soft-porn and horror falls horribly flat.
Tudor Gates’ workmanlike screenplay sees holidaying writer Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) becoming so infatuated with finishing school pupil Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard) that he engineers a situation which calls upon Miss Simpson (Helen Christie), the school’s headmistress, to employ him as a temporary teacher to her girls. It’s not long before Richard is making the moves on Mircalla, but what he doesn’t realise is that Mircalla is a vampire descended from the Karnstein family which owns that brooding castle overlooking the village where peasants warn of the dangers of the Karnsteins without really showing any sign of the dread you’d expect with each approaching sundown.
The fact that Lust for a Vampire’s hero is a manipulative low-life who is willing to seduce an innocent schoolgirl in order to satisfy his lust sort of illustrates just how confused Hammer was when the movie was produced. Richard Lestrange really should be the villain of the piece and does nothing even vaguely heroic throughout the movie. It’s true that Mircalla isn’t quite the innocent teenage virgin she appears to be, but he doesn’t know that. But then, how could he even suspect that she’s a vampire when she shows no ill-effects from exposure to sunlight (she does, however, have the traditional aversion to a crucifix)?
Lust for a Vampire is a dull picture with little in the way of a storyline and very few scares. There’s a shadowy figure who looks a bit like Christopher Lee who’s sometimes seen lurking in dark corners, and the occasional buxom serving wench found with fang marks in her neck, and there’s an incredibly cheesy lovemaking scene to a horribly dated song called ‘Strange Love’ which, apart from Yutte’s breasts, is probably the only thing that makes Lust for a Vampire worth watching.
(Reviewed 30th March 2015)