DirectorRoy Ward Baker
Release Date(s)1970 (April 30, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
The Vampire Lovers was directed by Roy Ward Baker and released by Hammer Productions in 1970. The film was a passion project by its writer and producer and helped to kickstart erotic cinema in the early 1970’s.
Looking at it today, it does feel a little bit shocking at times because of the studio that’s putting it out. The sexuality of the film isn’t completely overt at times, and the characters never engage in any on-screen acts of pleasure, but it’s certainly titillating. The film is based on the story of “Carmilla”, adapted by screenwriter Tudor Gates, and it stars Ingrid Pitt as a vampire who can’t return to her grave because of the complicated events that took place long ago. She befriends a couple of young women, feeding on them at night and trying to keep her identity a secret from everyone. While it’s an erotic film, it’s also a very interesting one. The performances are very strong, as is the direction. For instance, whenever one of the young women is being fed on, it appears that they are having a dream. It’s all in black and white from their perspective and they see flashes of images before waking up, and coming back to the world of color. It’s something different, and it works very well. Ingrid Pitt is quite mesmerizing, as one would expect, but there’s also the gorgeous Madeline Smith, the object of her affections. Peter Cushing also has an important role in the beginning and end of the film. Overall, I found it to be a very satisfying tale that ended well and was quite well-made. It had moments when it dragged a bit, but those moments were outshined by clever direction, great performances and an interesting story.
The transfer for The Vampire Lovers doesn’t have the deepest amount of image detail that you’re ever likely to see from a film its age. There’s a decent grain structure but the film does appear on the soft side. It also suffers from a light flicker throughout the proceedings. There are quite a few film blemishes on display: scratches, vertical lines, etc, but they’re never distracting. Contrast is also a bit on the low side at times, and while the color scheme isn’t as robust as you would hope, it does look quite good. Skin tones lean towards the pink side, but it feels appropriate for a story about vampires, at least to me. On the plus side, the image is quite stable and pleasant to look at. It’s certainly not a bad presentation, by any means. It may lack some of the finer image details celluloid aficionados will be familiar with, but it will definitely please fans of the film. One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely a step up from the previous DVD release. The film’s audio comes in English 2.0 DTS-HD (mono) with English subtitles. The soundtrack is very good without being perfect. A few audio imperfections, such as tape hiss, are present, but they’re minimal. The dialogue is perfectly clear and the score really benefits from the newfound clarity. There isn’t much fidelity to be found in ambience or the sound effects, but it’s the dialogue and score that are the stars of the show here, and both work quite well.
The extras that have been included aren’t bountiful, but are more than satisfactory for the film’s debut on the format. You have an audio commentary with moderator Jonathan Sothcott, director Roy Ward Baker, actor Ingrid Pitt and screenwriter Tudor Gates; the Femme Fantastique: Resurrecting The Vampire Lovers featurette; a reading of “Carmilla” by Ingrid Pitt; the Madeline Smith: Vampire Lover! interview; a Photo Gallery; the film’s theatrical trailer and a radio spot.
Having never seen it before, I wasn’t sure what to expect with The Vampire Lovers. All that I knew about it was that it was a risqué film about lesbian vampires, but I didn’t know much else beyond that. Safe to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the movie. It does contain some campy moments, but the story comes across quite well despite it. I wouldn’t call it one of Hammer’s best, per se, but I would definitely put in line as one of the most interesting and entertaining vampire tales ever told. And with Scream Factory’s involvement, genre fans will be delighted with the film’s treatment on Blu-ray.
- Tim Salmons