LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) was Hammer’s second instalment in the Karnstein trilogy though in terms of plot the films are not related. LUST FOR… is a typical example of how an increasingly desperate studio used copious amounts of sex and nudity to lure a new audience into cinemas. The result is an admittedly lush affair with sumptuous sets and a befitting cinematography courtesy of David Muir – however, as far as casting and storyline goes it does lack bite.

It’s 1830 and we find ourselves in a finishing school in Styria where new student Mircalla Herritzen (Danish-born Yutte Stensgaard) arrives. What her fellow pupils and teacher Janet Playfair (Suzanna Leigh) don’t know is that prior to her arrival, Mircalla has in fact been resurrected from the dead in a bloody ritual staged by Count Karnstein (Mike Raven) and Countess Herritzen (Barbara Jefford). One human sacrifice (a young peasant girl, naturally) and several buckets of Kensington Gore later we witness the re-incarnation of evil and seductive Carmilla Karnstein (Stensgaard) who was more convincingly portrayed by Ingrid Pitt in the previous THE VAMPIRE LOVERS. With her peroxide blond hair and an obvious sexuality that lacks the subtle danger of ‘Carmilla’ from Sheridan LeFanu’s famous gothic novel, Stensgaard’s appearance simply feels to modern. Alas, she arrives in the aforementioned finishing school under the moniker Mircalla. Teacher Giles Barton (Ralph Bates, who later stated he hated the script) soon discovers her secret and is eager to become Mircalla/Carmilla’s disciple…

Meanwhile in the village, rumours start to circulate that the Karnstein clan is at it again… what with more and more young girls gone missing and found dead (if they are found at all) bearing bite-marks on their necks. When visiting writer and lecturer Richard LeStrange (Michael Johnson) witnesses the aftermath of a vampire attack in the local inn, the landlord (Michael Brennan) reveals certain suspicions and points the finger of blame direction castle. When LeStrange takes up a post as lecturer in the finishing school he is immediately smitten by one particular pupil: yes you guessed it, Mircalla! Unfortunately for him, the exotic blonde initially prefers her own sex while teacher Miss Playfair (the more mature Suzanna Leigh would have made for a considerably more convincing Carmilla) falls for the dashing writer – who only has eyes for his preferred pupil who seems to know a lot about 18th century literature but precious little about 19th century literature. LeStrange offers ‘private lessons’ which eventually lead to a midnight frolicking in the nearby fields – cue for a particular corny love song (‘Strange Love’) utterly misplaced even in this vampire flick. As the silliness goes on, the body count rises and it’s down to Miss Playfair’s logic and Inspector Heinrich’s (Harvey Hall) inquisitiveness to save the day – and by doing so save LeStrange from his own stupidity. In a torching finale, Mircalla gets her much deserved comeuppance though Mike Raven’s Count Karnstein would appear again in the shape of the considerably more attractive Damien Thomas in TWINS OF EVIL – Hammers third and final Karnstein adventure.

With a different script and perhaps even a different direction LUST FOR A VAMPIRE certainly could have been more than it is. As it stands, we are presented with a plot that more often than not lacks any logic and heaps of exposed flesh in scenes that don’t call for nudity at all. Why Mike Raven’s voice had been dubbed by character actor Valentine Dyall is anyone’s guess – presumably because Dyall’s deep voice resembled that of Christopher Lee (who would never agree to be part of this movie). Indeed, two close-ups of Raven’s blood-shot eyes look suspiciously like those of Lee from a previous Hammer film! Yutte Stensgaard doesn’t do a bad job either and it’s not her fault that she appears too ‘modern’ – it’s the casting director who is to blame. That said, the film boasts a rather trippy dream sequence!

LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (gloriously restored and also available Blu-ray format) is of course a ‘must’ for Hammer fans though it will anger the purists who might prefer the studio’s more distinguished affairs starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
The disc furthermore offers Bonus Features incl. ‘Strange Love: Hammer in 1970’.

LATEST REVIEWS