Friday, August 2, 2019

LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) Blu-ray Review

Lust for a Vampire (1971) d. Jimmy Sangster (UK) (95 min)

Austria, 1830. Terrifying and erotic female vampire Carmilla Karnstein (Yutte Stensgaard) is brought back to life via a blood sacrifice, this time as a younger, blonder version of her previous incarnation (1970’s The Vampire Lovers). Seeking fresh flesh and drink, she is enrolled – as Mircalla Karnstein – in a prestigious finishing school for girls run by the very proper Miss Simpson (Helen Christie) and surrounded by a bevy of shapely students flitting about in various states of undress.

Her prime pickings are disrupted, however, by the arrival of rakish young author Richard LeStrange (Michael Johnson) who proffers his services to Miss Simpson as an English teacher in a thinly veiled attempt to mingle with the minxes. Before long, the class roster is dropping as quickly as the maidens’ blouses, LeStrange and Mircalla are engaged in a passionate if ill-advised love affair, and the local villagers are sharpening pitchforks and dusting off their torches for a climactic showdown.

Even before Hammer’s first foray into the lesbian vampire subgenre became a smashing international sensation, producers Harry Fine and Michael Style were already goading screenwriter Tudor Gates to conjure a sequel. Unfortunately, having already delivered a rather faithful adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel Carmilla, Gates found himself relying on pre-existing tropes to stretch out the Karnstein legacy, borrowing Brides of Dracula’s girls school setting and Dracula, Prince of Darkness’ resurrection scene, among others.

The production also suffered two major setbacks before cameras even rolled. Peter Cushing was slated to appear as the Karnstein clan’s in-house familiar, schoolteacher Giles Barton, but when his beloved wife Helen suddenly fell ill, he bowed out. Secondly, resident gothic maestro Terence Fisher had been tapped to direct, but ended up in hospital as a result of a serious car accident just days before shooting was supposed to commence. Famed screenwriter Jimmy Sangster (Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula), who had just notched his directorial debut with Horror of Frankenstein, was quickly given the reins and he reached out to that film’s star, Ralph Bates, to fill Cushing’s formidable, top-billed shoes.

While the film is hardly the disaster it is often made out to be, it’s easily the least of the three Karnstein efforts, due in large part to Sangster’s uninspired direction and Gates’ clunking script (which was admittedly tinkered with throughout production). None of the performers are really given an opportunity to stand out, though Suzanna Leigh (The Lost Continent) fares best as schoolteacher Janet Playfair thanks purely to her inherently strong and sensual presence.

Bates is fine, considering his supremely underwritten supporting role, but Mike Raven (as the shoehorned-in Man in Black aka Count Karnstein) and Barbara Jeffords (as the shoehorned-in Countess Herritzen aka Countess Karnstein) are left with little to do but stand around looking vaguely sinister, and the lovely lasses (including Vampire Lovers alumnus Pippa Steele and Kirsten Lindholm) are there merely to cavort in and out of their clothes as dictated by the exploitation playbook.

As our lead bloodsucker, Danish starlet Stensgaard possesses a mere fraction of Ingrid Pitt’s sensual screen presence; it’s perhaps an unfair comparison, but she never seems comfortable as either a ferocious predator or a conflicted emotional being, both of which her predecessor nailed in spades. Yes, I’m sure the teen lads of the day were not displeased when Yutte doffed her kit, but her (literally) eye-rolling love scenes opposite Johnson are about as sexy as a Thanksgiving gravy boat.

Of course, one can’t discuss Lust for a Vampire without mentioning the cheesy pop song “Strange Love” (inserted in post-production by Fine and Styles without anyone’s knowledge), which plays underneath the aforementioned love scene. Reportedly when Bates and Sangster first viewed the picture at a packed Hammersmith cinema, the audience hooted and laughed so hard that the pair sunk down in their chairs so as to avoid anyone seeing them.

In short, even as Lust for a Vampire still offers ample female flesh and fangs for Hammerheads to enjoy, it will always be remembered as the weak link between its superior bookends, The Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil.

Trivia: Former disc jockey Mike Raven was dubbed (much to his chagrin) by veteran actor Valentine Dyall. Raven also had to suffer the indignity of seeing inserts of Christopher Lee’s eyes projected instead of his own.


NEW 4K scan of the negative – presented in two aspect ratios – 1.66:1 And 1.85:1

NEW Audio commentary by author/film historian Bruce Hallenbeck

Audio commentary by director Jimmy Sangster, actor Suzanna Leigh, and Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn

NEW Interview with actress Mel Churcher (4 min)

Theatrical Trailer

Radio Spots

Still Galleries

Lust for a Vampire is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:



  1. Ah, this brings back fond memories as a budding horror movie aficionado with only magazines and books to offer tantalizing snippets and still images of movies I could only dream of watching. L4AV was one of my favorite movies to dream about watching. Better to have remained in that state then to have faced to ugly reality of what a woefully bad movie it was.

    1. Right there with you! That publicity shot of Yutte sitting there draped in nothing but a bloody sheet and a vampiric smile lodged in my brain for decades before I actually got around to seeing the movie proper. And, like you, once I actually saw the movie, I was not all that impressed.

      By contrast, however, I was completely knocked out by Ms. Pitt and The Vampire Lovers when I finally caught up with it in my early 30s. I think if I had watched it any sooner than that, my tender young mind would have been completely destroyed. When she stands up from that bathtub.... oh, my, my, my.