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May 19, 2013

Movie Review: The Vampire Lovers (Blu-ray, 1970)

The legendary Hammer Studios output is finally starting see some very well deserved life on glorious Blu-ray. Scream Factory has made a splash with several Blu-ray releases of some of the best of 80's slashers (Halloween II, Funhouse, Terror Train), and now have taken a stab at releasing one of the finer Hammer vampire films in Roy Ward Baker's The Vampire Lovers. This release of course is a filled to the brim HD special edition.

Based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, The Vampire Lovers is the story about a family living in the English countryside who has taken upon themselves to invite a gorgeous stranger into their home by the name of Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt, Countess Dracula, and The Wicker Man). This lovely stranger isn't exactly the best guest you’d want to be around other nubile women, when in fact this buxom siren is actually a vampire, thirsting for their blood. Of course no great vampire film coming out of Hammer Studios is complete without the always professional, Peter Cushing (Twins of Evil, Dracula: Prince of Darkness). Cushing is hot on the tail of Carmilla, who even for this seasoned vampire hunter proves to be a tough catch.

Hammer Studios and Amicus stalwart Roy Ward Baker (Scars of Dracula, Vault of Horror, and Asylum) helms this classier take on the lesbian vampire sub-genre and most assuredly does a terrific job with plenty of rich atmosphere that's as good as any of that era.

As fine as Cushing is, Ingrid Pitt takes The Vampire Lovers to a level of eroticism that is extraordinary. She's a true alpha-female, and still maintains softness to the Carmilla character that's hypnotizing. Oh, and yes, she is very naked! The Vampire Lovers is also surprisingly bloody for a picture coming out of the early 70's - Heads fly off at regularity amongst other grotesqueries.

Scream Factory has actually improved upon the MGM release as the colors are rich, skin-tones are spot-on and the night scenes (specifically in the vampire's crypt) are much clearer. Extra features are a big surprise here, since I wasn't expecting something comparable to what Scream Factory has shown with their releases.

The Vampire Lovers is as loaded as any of the Blu-ray releases - You get an excellent and spirited audio commentary by director Roy Ward Baker, actor Ingrid Pitt, and writer Tudor Gates. A special feature called "Feminine Fantastique - Resurrecting 'The Vampire Lovers'" shows some more background on the movie and the novella, "Carmilla," it's based on. 

 Ingrid Pitt also reads the source material for the movie with slideshow of clips from "The Vampire Lovers." We also get a fun 20-minute interview entitled "Madeline Smith: Vampire Lover!" Smith has some interesting anecdotes. One that stood out was how she got her bust to grow just by eating yogurts. Oh boy did she fill out. There are also the usual trailers and promotional items as well on the disc.

Hammer is rarely sexier than The Vampire Lovers. Pitt is awesome and Baker delivers one of his finest films of his career. Most importantly, for those looking to upgrade, Scream Factory does yet another stellar job on a great film. Highly Recommended!

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