The Vampire Lovers (1970)/Lust for a Vampire (1971)
I have the Optimum Releasing two-fer (pictured) of these films, so here they both are in a two-fer review. If I had the third in the set (Twins of Evil) I’d round up the whole trilogy, but I’ll have to consider that separately one day. Anyway…
The Vampire Lovers (1970): In his book on Hammer Films, Sinclair McKay notes regarding another film how even the look of the celluloid seemed different. The same seems to apply to this one too; by 1970 Hammer was not only losing its American allies (apparently this was their last one with American backing, via AIP) but some of its own important people like Anthony Hinds, Jack Asher and Bernard Robinson. These losses kind of show in The Vampire Lovers, which somehow didn’t look like a “Hammer film” to me, not in the way Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed did just a year earlier. With hindsight, of course, it’s easy to see Hammer struggling to adapt to changing times, and the decision to try a different source of vampire literature (LeFanu’s “Carmilla”) was a good one cos it gave new opportunities for gratuitous nudity and lesbianism without having to adapt the old gothic formula too much (indeed, to some extent it’s not dissimilar to Horror of Dracula, just with more tits). And, well, it’s OK, I suppose, but it also feels a lot cheaper than Hammer used to. I mean, you know they were low-budget affairs, but they used to make more of an effort to hide the fact than Vampire Lovers seemed willing or able to do. And giving Peter Cushing so little to do in a Hammer film seems, frankly, rude.
Lust for a Vampire (1971): Generally considered one of the studio’s all-time turkeys—Sinclair McKay, again, calles it “unwatchable”—though this review is a remarkably dissenting one. I don’t propose to go to either extreme, obviously; I don’t think it’s quite as bad as its many detractors (including several people involved in making it) would have you believe, although that’s not to say that’s it’s actually a good film. Whatever else you can say about it, I’m fairly sure you can’t quite go that far. There are a number of what may charitably be called problems; cf. the very ending, which doesn’t actually make much sense—they’re thanking God for the destruction of the vampires, even though fire doesn’t actually destroy them and only one is actually staked—and as I’ve said elsewhere, if I notice logical problems in a film, you know they’re bad. And let’s not talk about the ghastly song in the sex scene, which is wrong on many levels. But, on the plus side. I thought it at least looked better than Vampire Lovers, or at least it did a better job of hiding its cheapness, and “Strange Love” notwithstanding I think the music is better used than in the last film too. And since some of its problems did stem from last-minute replacement of director and major supporting actor (Jimmy Sangster and Ralph Bates filling in for the suddenly unavailable Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing), I’ll cut it a bit of slack. Plus, though Mike Raven as the vampire count apparently stormed out of the premiere or something when he discovered the studio had redubbed him with Valentine Dyall’s voice, that was probably still a good move. Because, you know, Valentine Dyall’s voice.