The Vampire Lovers [Blu-Ray] Roy Ward Baker

The Vampire Lovers [Blu-Ray] Roy Ward Baker
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Yes, this is that "lesbian vampire movie," in HD. Everyone involved in making Hammer's highly sexualized 1970's adaptation of Carmilla, one of the earliest writings on the blood-sucking undead, is keenly aware of the movie's reputation and attack the subject head-on in the special features, both newly shot and repurposed from an earlier DVD release. In the commentary track, director Roy Ward Baker, star Ingrid Pitt and screenwriter Tudor Gates are interviewed about the film, with much of the conversation turning to its heaving sexuality, particularly how much came from emphasising the implied lesbianism of Fanu's gothic novella and how much was a result of studio pressure to inject the production with some flesh peddling. As a testament to Baker's tasteful filmmaking, The Vampire Lovers largely holds up and looks great in this pristine restoration. Even though Pitt's delivery as the enticing vampire girl who pulls a cuckoo-bird-draining-scam on the aristocracy in Victorian England is laughably flat, the sense of atmosphere established by the slinky cinematography, spooky art design, emotionally complex score and committed performances of many of the supporting players keep the film from being overwhelmed by camp and sleaze. The gore, while not frequent, is very convincing for its time and was likely almost as shocking as the notion that a hot Polish woman was going around forcibly turning proper young English girls into members of the pink mafia — a suggestion much bolder in 1872 than a few years after the summer of love. While the "Making Of" is quite explicit in describing the sex positive (read: give us boobies) mandate of Hammer productions at the time, it's an interview with actress Madeline Smith that proves the most fascinating of the extras. Fresh out of a convent at the time of filming, Smith openly discusses her feelings about being talked into doing nude scenes when she was very naïve and eager to please. It's obviously a complicated issue for the former scream queen and one she continues to revise her position on throughout the course of the interview. Perhaps whoever edited the sequence together could have shown a bit more tact though and refrained from cutting to images of her bare breasts while she's discussing how uncomfortable she was doing the scene. Gratuitous use of the boob footage shows up again in an audio recording of Pitt reading from Carmilla. Leading with nude scenes, her low, creepy voice is set to still shots from the film; it's kind of terrifying when it's, presumably, supposed to be titillating. For the obsessive viewer, there's a photo gallery, theatrical trailer (studios have been giving far too much away for a long time) and radio spot. It's a fine rebirth for the original sexy vampire of celluloid. (Shout! Factory)