FEARNET Movie Review: 'The Vampire Lovers' Blu-Ray



the vampire loversIt's unlikely that any of the Hammer Horror experts out there would rank 1970's The Vampire Lovers among the vaunted studio's most refined or accomplished films. Indeed many would opine that the Hammer Horror output started to show some real problems as the early 1970s turned into the mid-1970s, and it seemed that the studio was content to produce garish but amusing horror larks that replaced creepiness and creativity with broad humor and, well, fairly explicit sexuality.

But taken another way: Roy Ward Baker's The Vampire Lovers is not exactly classic Hammer, but is one of the early and better examples of the studio's newfound devotion to vampiric blood combined with good ol' plain-fashioned female nakedness. That's not to say that The Vampire Lovers is pure exploitation; historians of gay cinema, for example, should take note of the way in which the film incorporates overt lesbianism into the plot of a vampire flick. What some would dismiss as "jiggle flick" silliness others will take as a formative and influential step for gay cinema. 

And even if you care nothing about the socio-sexual impact of British horror films from 1970, I can tell you this much: The Vampire Lovers has some gorgeous women in it -- and many of them get nude. So there. Everyone's happy.

Firmly based on the short story "Carmilla," by Sheridan La Fanu, The Vampire Lovers is about little more than a gorgeous and bossy vampiress (Ingrid Pitt) who runs rampant around the nubile young women of an 18th century village. To its inestimable credit, The Vampire Lovers finds a way to involve both the "old" Hammer style (lots of vampires being staked, fake red blood, and Peter Cushing roaming around) with the newer style of having busty women bounce around and drop their corsets at the slightest provocation.

Like I said, hardly a top-tier Hammer classic but one of the better examples of the studio's later-era output. And like the finest of the Hammer Horror movies, The Vampire Lovers has an outstanding score and some truly lovely art direction / cinematography combinations. It might not be memorable for being the most literate, intelligent, or terrifying Hammer Horror flick, but it's certainly memorable enough in its own right -- if you like lesbians, vampires, and boobs, that is.

Hammer-philes will be elated to learn that this enjoyably sexy horror flick has been given the deluxe treatment from the folks at Scream (aka Shout) Factory, which means that not only does the pretty ol' movie look and sound terrific on blu-ray, but you'll also get a sweet package of supplements! There's a short but sweet documentary on the film's place in Hammer history that features some cool insights from some notable British movie geeks; a few 2003 excerpts of Ingrid Pitt reading from the "Carmilla" source material; a sweet new interview with the still-beautiful actress Madeline Smith; an older audio commentary with director Roy Ward Baker, lead actress Ingrid Pitt, and screenwriter Tibor Gates; trailers, TV spots, and an overall sweet package. 

Although probably best described as a "for fans only" blu-ray package, there's no denying that this late-era Hammer Horror treat has been digitally preserved in very fine fashion. For those who know and love the old Hammer fare rather well, this disc is a must-own proposition. And I don't care if you're a Hammer newbie or the world's leading expert on lesbian vampires: you simply haven't lived until you've seen the young Madeline Smith on blu-ray. Her body, her face, all of her. Wow.