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Friday, October 05, 2018

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2018-Day 5: LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971)

Mircalla strikes.

1830: At a girls' finishing school in Styria, new student Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard) turns heads and bewitches the local male population, as well as some of her nubile classmates, and anyone who's ever seen a Hammer vampire movie will immediately peg the luscious blonde for what she is, namely an undead suckface. 


Just another day at finishing school.

Even more specifically, she's the resuscitated Carmilla Karnstein (the tragic protagonist of THE VAMPIRE LOVERS), and this time around she's head-over-heels in love with horror writer Richard LeStrange (Michael Johnson), who impersonates a another teacher at the school so he can mack on schoolgirl tail. As the body count grows, so does the unnatural romance, which does not necessarily sit well with Mircalla's master, the evil Count Karnstein (MIke Raven).

Surprisingly NOT Chrstorpher Lee: Mike Raven as Count Karnstein

I first saw LUST FOR A VAMPIRE in an edited-for-TV airing sometime in the late-1970's and found it rather uninspired for a film from Hammer Studios. It bore a heavy cult reputation as the middle installment in Hammer's unofficial Karnstein "trilogy," largely due to it returning to the supernatural lesbian fan service previously explored in the previous year's THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, but seeing it again in 2018, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE comes off like an incredibly goofy self-parody. If a filmmaker set out to make an intentional sendup of the whole "lezzie vampire" sub-genre, this is the film that likely would result. It's not scary and its plot is downright silly, punctuated with gratuitous titillation and the unintentionally (?) hilarious "romantic" song, "Strange Love," which plays over a scene in which Mircalla and LeStrange get their hump on in a graveyard. That sequence elicited laughter from the audience at Manhattan's Quad Cinema during this past summer Hammer retrospective, and several other moments in the film earned the same reaction.

A scene that would have been right at home on SCTV's "Monster Chiller Horror Theater."

As Hammer films go, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE is very much one of their weaker efforts, being pretty much by-the-numbers in every way, and it's definitely the installment of the Karnstein Trilogy that can be skipped. Admittedly, comparing it to the superb THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and the better-then-average TWINS OF EVIL (also 1971) is kind of unfair, but the truth is the truth and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE is only worth sitting through for the most die-hard of semi-erotic vampire yarn enthusiasts. And star Yutte Stensgaard is no Ingrid Pitt, that's for damned sure.

Poster for the American theatrical release.

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