Lust for a Vampire (1971)

DIRECTOR: Jimmy Sangster

CAST: Ralph Bates, Barbara Gefford, Suzanna Leigh, Michael Johnson, Yutte Stensgaard, Helen Christie, Pippa Steel, David Healey, Mike Raven.

SYNOPSIS: In 19th-century Europe, a writer travels to the mysterious Karnstein Castle to research for a novel. While there, he cannot resist engineering an opportunity to teach at a prestigious girls' school. Unfortunately, the evil Count Karnstein is also at work amongst the girls, one of whom is an ancestor of the infamous Carmilla Karnstein -- a vampire.

COMMENTS: This was the second of three films Hammer based on the works of gothic novelist Sheridan le Fanu, the first being The Vampire Lovers in 1970, the trilogy ending in 1972 with John Hough's Twins of Evil.

Le Fanu's original works were known for their atmosphere; unfortunately, the atmosphere in this film is reliant almost solely on Harry Robinson's typically lush and impressive score. Certainly Sangster's direction is leaden and the cast are markedly lacklustre, with Mike Raven awkwardly moulded to the look and persona of Christopher Lee -- indeed, there are even one or two lazy stock-shots from Lee's earlier Dracula appearances -- but he is utterly lacking in Lee's magnetism and acting ability. In the absence of a convincing villain, the absence of a strong hero is even more conspicuous, with the vampire hunter turning up too late in the game in the form of an elderly bishop managing only to utter a few cliches about fighting the devil. What Hammer's earlier vampire films had was two weighty antagonists, well-sketched and providing conflict to fuel the drama on a cosmic scale. What Lust for a Vampire has is lots of bare breasts and very little narrative drive.





David L Rattigan 2005





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