Sunday, October 22, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Lust for a Vampire

Film: Lust for a Vampire
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

The early 1970s were a weird time for Hammer horror movies. On the one hand, they were still very much enmeshed in that world of Gothic horror. Films took place in the 17th-19th Century, dealt in some respect with the aristocracy, and often tended to take place all or in part in castles. However, the horror world was changing and becoming harder and harsher. While Hammer couldn’t get away from the Gothic ideas, they could try to incorporate more sex and nudity. The Vampire Lovers was a slight indication of this, as was its sequel, Lust for a Vampire. As with the first film, this sequel has a much more titillating title than it does content. If you’re expecting a lesbian vampire orgy, you’ve come to the right movie title, but the wrong actual film.

In truth Lust for a Vampire is the middle film in Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy, and was followed the next year by Twins of Evil. In this case, it seems that this is the serious low point: both the first and third film are much more favorably reviewed. I have to think that a part of that is going to be the disconnect from the title to the content. It would be hard not to be disappointed going into a film with this name to come out the other side with a few hints of lesbianism and a couple of bared chests to show for it.

Set 40 years after The Vampire Lovers, this film begins with the abduction of a young girl whose blood is used to resurrect Carmilla Karnstein (Yutte Stensgaard), who will soon appear in the film as a woman named Mircalla Herritzen. We discover that the local villagers live in terror because the Karnsteins reappear every 40 years, and it’s 40 to the day. This comes out in a conversation with Richard LeStrange (Michael Johnson), a novelist traveling through the area. He scoffs at the local beliefs, of course, and heads off to investigate the ruined castle overlooking the town.

It is there that he discovers a trio of young girls and their teacher, Giles Barton (Ralph Bates). They are from a nearby girls’ school who is welcoming their newest student, Mircalla Herritzen, who is, of course, the risen Carmilla. She immediately sets to charming everyone with her vampire ways, including LeStrange, Barton, and the other students. Eventually, people start putting things together, noticing the anagrams of the legendary Carmilla and Mircalla, and soon there’s a body count attached to the school.

There are a number of subplots here that do their best to make the film more interesting than it actually is. We learn that the schoolmistress (Helen Christie) has sunk all of her money into the creation of her school, and thus is loathe to report the disappearances and deaths on the grounds lest she be ruined by a scandal. Despite everyone being charmed by Mircalla, the girls’ dance instructor, Janet Playfair (Suzanna Leigh) falls deeply in love with LeStrange, who seems to partly requite this aside from his own obsession with Mircalla. The father of a missing (and fed-upon) girl (David Healy) shows up with orders to disinter his daughter’s body. But try as they might, all of these plots fail to be that interesting.

It's an odd position to be in, honestly. There is very much a sense that these films have stopped trying to actually be that scary. There are no scares to be found in Lust for a Vampire,and no real genuine attempt to create any scares. There might be a moment or two of suspense, but even those are few and far between and minor at best. What’s left, then, is the titillation and nudity promised by the title, and it fails in this respect as well. This is a prude’s idea of prurient content—a few bared breasts and some suggested lesbianism (gasp) when films at the time were showing a great deal more. The need for more salacious content clashed with a desire to stay respectable and above board, and so it kind of fails in both respects.

Beyond that, Lust for a Vampire just isn’t that interesting. The plot simply isn’t very good, and isn’t enough to carry the story without either a lot of prurient content or a great deal of violence. I hate to be the “I need more sex and gore” guy because a spin through past reviews will show that I’m not that guy at all, but the plot of this is so thin that there’s nothing to keep things interesting. Simple plots can work, but not when it’s the same “vampire reborn looks for victims while people slowly figure out vampires are real” plot that shows up in every other vampire movie in existence.

This is a disappointment on every level, aside from the name, which probably sold a lot of tickets to a lot of disappointed viewers.

Why to watch Lust for a Vampire: Great title.
Why not to watch: It provides a lot less than you might expect based on that title.


  1. So there's very little ass & titties in a film like this? BOO!!!!!

    1. It's literally the only thing to recommend the film and it's almost non-existent.

    2. NGL that's what I was expecting with this title. lol

    3. Same, and boy but it doesn't deliver on those very basic expectations.