Gruesome Galleries: 1971’s LUST FOR A VAMPIRE

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Gruesome Galleries collects some hot shots from Hammer’s 1971 sex vampire classic.

I’m never been sure as to why LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, Jimmy Sangster’s full-blooded follow up to Roy Ward Baker’s groundbreaking Hammer Horror film THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, has been historically met with such disdain. As much of a fan of Baker’s once daring adaptation of LeFanu’s “Carmilla” I am, I always found it a bit reserved in tone, boosted by the presence of Peter Cushing and made most memorable by the freely sexual performance of Hammer Glamour legend Ingrid Pitt. When the lesbian sex hits, it’s sweet, not hot, with certain bathing sequences straight out of a nudie cutie.

LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, the film’s immediate sequel, is anything but restrained, with arch performances, a much more potent melange of sex and bloodletting and many strange, eccentric moments.

Its never dull and even a bit cruel and cold around the heart.

LUST continues, or rather sort of re-boots, the story of Mircalla Karnstein, the young by appearance, yet ancient female vampire heir to the evil, unded Karnstein legacy. Replacing Pitt in the role is the oddly beautiful (and yet, in certain scenes, almost comically cross-eyed) Scandinavian model Yutte Stensgasrd, who is resurrected by her evil family and dispatched to spread her vampiric virus across the land, specifically at a local, high-end girls school, where she manipulates the faculty in order to be enrolled.

Once there, Mircalla has light yet lurid lesbian romps with her classmates, draining them of their syrup and setting off a panic. A lecherous professor (wildly played by Ralph Bates, who replaced Cushing at the 11th hour) is on to Mircalla and stalks her, not with the intent to kill her but to instead, to blackmail her into making him one of the undead. It doesn’t quite work out that way.

Meanwhile, visiting author Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) falls in love with the girl ghoul and, inexplicably she falls for him, resulting in a torturous conflict of interest and a really beautiful, totally out of place, psychedelic rock ballad called “Strange Love” (sung by teen singer Tracy and orchestrated by composer Harry Robinson) to play over their dreamy first sexual encounter.

LUST was originally supposed to be directed by Terence Fischer but as much as I obsess over Fisher’s eye, I’m glad it was helmed by Sangster. The director was primarily a screenwriter for the studio, but directed a handful of films, including the equally underrated THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, a just as strange melange of eccentricity and Grand Guignol that also starred Bates. The movie was followed by the final of the loose “Karnstein Trilogy”, 1972’s TWINS OF EVIL, another decent Hammer sex romp.

But LUST FOR A VAMPIRE is, to me, the most potent of the pack. The hottest. The weirdest. The bloodiest. The best.

Have a look at some of the sanguinary stills from the film below:

 

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