R: [REC]3 – Genesis (2012)

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Last year we watched the really good sequel [REC] 2 (and had previously watched the original [REC] back in 2012 before these alphabetized marathons were invented. So it’s quite natural to bring in the third chapter here, and doubtless to ride this train until next year, content to not have to rack my brain or Google for a horror movie starting with R for one more year. As I pointed out yesterday: Yes, I am that lazy.

[Rec]³ begins true to its roots, though with a welcome twist: the opening apes the beginning of a cheesy wedding video, with a song and childhood pictures of the bride and groom. Thankfully we cut from that to the raw footage of the wedding, from two different video cameras – an amateur with his tiny camera and a pro with a steadicam. You’ll be meeting with most of the characters during this segment, but since this is a [Rec] movie, don’t get too attached to any of them. You’re probably safe with the Groom, Koldo (Diego Martin) and the bride, Clara (Leticia Dolera, who is kind of the platonic ideal of the beautiful bride. I mean, wow), though. For the moment.

See? I told you.

So we go through the wedding and the sumptuous reception. One of the uncles isn’t feeling well, The video camera picks up a police car and a couple of guys wearing hazmat suits. Odd. Then that sick uncle gets all bitey and things go straight to hell. Koldo and Clara are separated in the carnage, and the panicking groom demands of the photographer, “Why are you still filming?”, grabs the camera and smashes it to the floor.

There, at 22 minutes, we finally get our opening title. And with the camera smashed, [Rec]³ abandons the found footage format for the rest of the movie.

I’m of two minds about that. First – yeah, okay, it does feel like director Paco Plaza (one of the two co-directors of the preceding flicks) breathes an audible sigh of relief as he starts setting up shots without having to deal with the Rules of the Found Footage Film. The bizarreness of the subgenre is that making a good found footage flick is actually harder than making a regular film. Action and effects sequences have to be laid out and planned with long takes in mind, and if one thing goes wrong… well, movie making is an exercise in Things Going Wrong. This is why there are so many bad found footage movies – people think they’re easy to make. And the first two [Rec] movies are good found footage movies.

From that last sentence, you might think I didn’t like [Rec]³, and up to a point, you’re right. Oh, it’s a good zombie flick – plenty of gore and suspense, the mythology of the series advances somewhat – the attending priest has a theory about fallen angels and finds out the afflicted can be paralyzed by saying Bible verses to them (at least if you’re a clergyman) – but absent the sort of berserk creativity necessary to following the aforementioned Rules of the Found Footage Film, it becomes exactly that: another zombie movie. The trials of Clara and Koldo trying to get back together without dying is compelling, but toward the end of the flick viewing simply became an exercise in yelling things at the screen (these people have a lot invested in dropping weapons).

I swore off zombie movies for a decade, and after only a few years of cautiously watching them, I find myself succumbing to Zombie Fatigue once more. To anybody bitching about being tired of superhero movies, I say unto you, try being tired of zombie movies. There are lots more of those.

But it’s the care that went into [Rec]³ that makes me hold off that particular kill switch for a while (that and the fact that I have at least one more zombie flick to review this Hubrisween). Plaza makes some clever connections to the first movie, letting us know how [Rec]³ fits in with the first two: that sick uncle is a veterinarian, bitten by a dog that was thought to be dead. That’s a bit from the first movie that I had almost forgotten. In a TV in the background of one scene, we see news footage of the police and army outside the building from [Rec] 2. The Marvel fan in me appreciates that sort of callback.

Plaza and Jaume Balagueró co-directed the first two movies, then split up the duties between [Rec]³ and [Rec] 4. So I’ve also got to hold off abandoning zombies movies until I can see what Balagueró pulls off on his own. At least I have a year to build up my resistance again.

 

Q: The Quatermass Conclusion (1979)

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I said I was going to ride this Quatermass train as long as I could, and seeing as how this one is called The Quatermass Conclusion, it’s looks like I may have to actually put some effort into finding an entry for Q next year.

In the intervening years since Quatermass and the Pit, the British Rocket Program has shut down, and Bernard Quatermass (John Mills, this time) has retired. He journeys from his home in Scotland to London on a twofold mission: to appear as a guest on a talk show, and to look for his granddaughter, who ran away from Scotland in a fit of rebellious boredom. London, Quatermass finds, has gone right downhill; street gangs have turned the city into a combination of Mad Max and Clockwork Orange. He’s only saved from a savage beating by the arrival of radio astronomer Joe Kapp (Simon MacCorkindale) in his armored vehicle, complete with guard dog.

The TV show is celebrating the linking of American and Soviet spacecraft in a precursor to the International Space Station. Quatermass’ bitter dismissal of it is rather undercut by the station’s sudden destruction, though. Quatermass accompanies Kapp to his home/radio telescope base to find some answers, only to discover another bit of weirdness in play: lines of young people trooping across the countryside, following leaders with plumb bobs and apparently walking along Ley Lines to rings of standing stones. These are “the Planet People”, claiming they are going to be taken to another world. One such gathering is obliterated by a colossal beam of energy from the sky. Quatermass and Kapp find a girl that was on the very edge of the blast area, burned and delirious. They carry her away to treat her wounds, much over the violent protestations of the Planet People who didn’t get reduced to ash (or “transported”, as they insist).

A visit from the local commissioner (Margaret Tyzack) causes Kapp to use his radio telescopes to bounce off some satellites to receive a video call from America, because there have been more energy beams, killing thousands, and they need to get Quatermass’ opinion (I do love the fact that, no matter how much crap Quatermass has been through, if something weird comes from space, he’s the go-to guy). Quatermass and the Commissioner manage to get the girl (who looks eerily like Yolandi Visser from Die Antwoord) to a hospital; her burned tissues are turning into crystal. Well, they are until she levitates and explodes, anyway.

Quatermass theorizes that something ahead of the energy beams – some advance waves, or similar – has been feeding into the youthful members of society, causing the upset of gang warfare, and the mass migrations to the ancient sites, standing stones erected by bygone societies as a warning. As the beams continue to rain down, he recruits a group of literally senior scientists, immune from the alien influence, to attempt to forge a solution before mankind is virtually exterminated.

Writer Nigel Kneale was approaching 60 at this time, and I’m amused that his cause for youthful sullenness and rebellion is alien intervention. It is no coincidence that Kneale fan John Carpenter took a similar tack in They Live: the only possible explanation for the callousness and cruelty of the Reagan Revolution was an alien invasion, right? People wouldn’t do that normally, right? Right?

The budget on Conclusion is quite low, and the story somewhat drawn out at times – as traditional, this was a TV series first. Kneale wrote a separate script for the feature film version, but the seams are still somewhat apparent. Director Piers Haggard moves it all along quite amiably and well. The Quatermass Conclusion – simply Quatermass in its native land – is the most lo-fi of the Quatermass stories. There’s no giant monster shambling around, no conspiracies; the enemy and its motive is, as Quatermass concludes, ultimately unknowable, and the best humanity can manage is to bite them so hard they don’t come back – but at a terrible price. There’s a quite good BBC series called Invasion: Earth that owes a lot to Quatermass. That’s worth seeking out, too, if you haven’t had enough bleak science fiction pitting man against unimaginable forces.

P: Pieces (1982)

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If you know me at all, you know that I hate slasher movies. Hate them with the heat of a thousand suns. Hate them with a passion I usually reserve for licorice candy and overlong meetings. I hate hate hate them. Yet here I am watching Pieces, which is the platonic ideal of everything I hate about them. Not for nothing is its tag line “It’s exactly what you think it is!”

Why am I doing this? Because it’s Hubrisween.

The opening is, I admit, pretty effective. “Thirty years ago” a boy is putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a nude woman when he’s discovered by his abusive mother. She starts screeching at him that she’s going to burn all his things, resulting in an axe to her head and the boy sawing her body apart. When the cops finally come, he hides in a closet and says the bad man did it.

If you need any early indicators as to attention to detail in Pieces – though this prologue takes place circa 1952, the mother is yelling at her homicidal child to get a “plastic bag” to burn his porn stash in, and they have a touch tone phone.

In the present of 1982, on your typical fake college campus, a girl riding a skateboard crashes through a huge mirror, and this all it takes for our now grown axe-wielding kid to start putting together his blood-stained jigsaw puzzle and assembling a woman of his own from the chainsawed-off body parts of nubile young co-eds in various stages of undress (that this is the trigger is never expressly alluded to in the movie).

Director Juan Piquer Simón delivers a movie that is almost more giallo than slasher – the preponderance of red herrings (you just know Paul Smith is not the killer, no matter how ham-handedly the movie tries to make you think he is), the utter uselessness of the cops (Christopher George and Lynda Day George), and because of that uselessness, the solution to the killings lies with an outside investigator, in this case student Kendall (Ian Sera). The only thing that keeps it from being a giallo is it lacks that genre’s devotion to artistry, to finding beauty in the worst places. What it does have is nothing that will quell accusations of misogyny in either genre – the murder scenes are drawn out, graphic, and exclusively female. Possibly the most remarkable thing about Pieces is the ending, when Simón reasons that most slasher movies have a shock ending that comes out of left field… “but what if mine came all the way from the parking lot?” It’s that outre.

“I’m not THAT worthless!”

How bad are the cops? The decision is made to keep the murders quiet to avoid a panic, which allows the killer to act with impunity, multiplying his potential number of unguarded, unaware victims. How you manage to cover up a girl getting decapitated with a chainsaw in broad daylight is quite beyond me, though. The fact that Christopher George is the detective in charge caused me to assume this movie was Italian, not Spanish, for many years.

As Joe Bob Briggs pointed out in his Last Drive-In marathon, Pieces is a picture of what Simón thinks college in America is like: non-stop sex, right down to a water bed in the training room (was this ever a thing? I mean, just look at me, I’ve never seen the inside of a training room). Well, at least it gives Lynda a chance to really go for that Oscar nom:

And, oh please, let’s not forget this (and somebody owes Goblin some money):

But, alas, one bit of glorious over-acting and a surprise cameo by Bruce Le does not move me to suddenly overcome my hatred of these things. The best I can say is that it’s undeniably trash, but at least it’s fairly well-made trash.

It was exactly what I thought it was.

 

O: The Offspring (1987)

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Let’s get one thing straight, right off the bat. The Offspring is the title used for this movie’s initial U.S. theatrical and video release. Thereafter it was known by its original title, From A Whisper to A Scream, which does not begin with an O, so the hell with that.

We open with a dream sequence of a woman getting out of the bath, getting into a formal gown, and then embracing a handsome man in a tuxedo (we know it’s a dream because the guy enters in a welter of fog). The woman is shocked awake because she is strapped to a gurney, and is about to be executed by lethal injection for a series of murders.

But wait a minute. The woman is Martine Beswick. The Warden is Lawrence Tierney. And the attending reporter is Susan Tyrell.

What is going on here?

Tyrell goes to visit Martine’s uncle, Vincent Price, who lives in your typical haunted house – in fact she has to enter through a narrow hall reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt, just minus the razor blades. Price is the Librarian of Oldfield, Tennessee, a town he claims warps its inhabitants and makes them do evil things… like his niece. And to prove it to the dubious Tyrell, he tells her some stories from the history of Oldfield.

Yes, this is an anthology movie. Didn’t they tell you that at the box office?

Oh, look, it’s dream scene #2.

The first story is fairly modern. Clu Gulager is Stanley Burnside, an aging, mild-mannered clerk at a trucking company who is obsessed with Grace (Megan MacFarland), a secretary there. He finally gets up the gumption to ask her for a date, he confesses her love for her, but he’s too weird and pathetic for her, so he strangles her, as one does. He also sneaks into the funeral home for his fantasy one-night stand with her. Nine months later, something crawls out of her grave and goes looking for Stanley.

The necrophilia angle is bad enough, but the creep factor is heightened by the Tennessee Williams overlay that Stanley cares for his sister, who had rheumatic fever so he has to give her ice water baths every night. This part gets really weird until Stanley decides to murder her, too.

…aaand there’s dream scene #3.

The next story goes back to the 1950s, when Jessie (Terry Kiser) rips off the wrong local crooks and gets shot in the back while running away. He manages to get to a boat and push himself into the swamp, a poor excuse for an escape being better than none. He wakes up in the cabin of Felder Evans (Harry Caesar) a long time recluse who’s frankly glad to have some company for a change. Felder nurses Jessie back to health, but Jessie, being a scumbag, goes through his things and discovers that Felder is, in fact, over 200 years old. It must be the strange chanting he does at night, and the weird potion he drinks. Jessie means to have that potion, and is willing to kill for it. And you know, that sort of thing never ends up well.

We now go back to the 1930s, and, I kid you not, Lovecraft’s Traveling Amusements, where in the freak show Ron (Steven Arden) obligingly chews broken glass, steel nuts and razor blades for the yokels. One of these yokels is Amarrillis (Didi Lanier)(and I wonder if that name isn’t a nod to Price’s wife in The Comedy of Terrors), a young lady who has fallen hard for Ron, and vice versa. But with a name like Lovecraft’s, you know something ain’t right with that carnival, and its owner, Rosalind Cash, has a hold over each of her performers. Most of them are hiding from the law, but the hold goes… deeper. And when Ron decides to leave the carnival anyway, things are going to get… bloody.

This segment, incidentally has Angelo Rossitto in his final role as a barker.

The last story goes back to the Civil War, where four Union soldiers, led by Cameron Mitchell, wander separated from their unit. They come upon three Confederate soldiers, who they slaughter (well, C.J. Cox doesn’t slaughter, he’s the nice Union soldier), only to find out in the papers the rebels were carrying that the war is over. Pike doesn’t like his fellows’ plan to continue a-killin’ and a-rapin’, and decides to go back home. For which Mitchell shoots him in the back.

The three head over to some town called Oldfield they deem “ripe for the pickin!” only to be knocked ass over teakettle by some land mines. When they come to, they are the prisoners of the remaining inhabitants of the town after the two armies clashed there: children. And given that one of Mitchell’s men tries to threaten the leader of the kids and gets knifed in the balls for his trouble, you can bet our villains are in for a bad time.

This is the most gleefully sadistic of the four stories (though the previous three certainly haven’t held back in the violence department). Mitchell will make his escape by killing the most trusting of the children, and on his way out sees the assembled kids playing a ghastly game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, using his men’s body parts. His escape is cut off by the not-quite-dead-yet Cox, who puts a bayonet through Mitchell’s leg just to make sure he gets caught again. So Mitchell is taken to finally meet the master of the town, The Magistrate – and that is not something you want to meet.

From that grisly origin, Price says, Oldfield grew to the pit of evil it is today corrupting its inhabitants. “How do you stay away from it?” asks Tyrell. “How do you know that I did?” asks Price. These two have a surprise or two left for each other.

Now, you notice I haven’t used a whole lot of character names in the above synopsis. The stories themselves are pretty much the expected EC Comics bad-people-getting-what-they deserve outrageousness, though, it has to be admitted, with a little extra dimension than those ever attempted. No, the truly amazing thing is THAT CAST, and how the hell did Jeff Burr, who had one previous movie to his resume (the low- budget Civil War drama Divided We Fall) get that cast?

The one clue is provided by the IMDb entry, that he simply walked up to Vincent Price and asked him. Price was impressed by his confidence and agreed – though apparently he later disowned it and claimed it was misrepresented to him. That seems a bit odd coming from the guy who was in the Dr. Phibes movies and Theater of Blood, but perhaps it’s because the gore in Offspring is not campy – it is seriously disturbing and goes for the throat.

Our character actors go for the gusto in all cases – Clu Gulager in particular decides to own his bizarre character. Susan Tyrell is sadly wasted, and it looks like she knew it. She tries a southern accent for approximately two lines, and then drops it. Price’s accent is similarly spotty, but he remembers to do it more often than not.

The Offspring is a better-than-average horror movie, elevated by its cast and a generous dose of nastiness. Burr became known largely as a director of horror movie sequels: Stepfather II, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Pumpkinhead II, Puppet Master 4 and 5. I’ve… seen none of those, actually. But Burr shows a steady hand at the horror stuff, and hopefully he got better.

Did I mention that besides the framing story, the first and second stories start with dream scenes?

Yeah, I hope he got better.

N: Night Watch (2004)

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Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had a Russian representative on Hubrisween…

First of all, we are informed that there are people who not quite human, called “others” for their various talents, and they are basically arrayed into Light and Darkness factions. In olden times there was a tremendous battle between the two, but the armies were too evenly matched, and a truce was called. Each faction watches the other, Nightwatch is the light side watching the dark side, and Daywatch is the vice versa.

Twelve years ago, our protagonist Anton (Konstantin Khabenskiy) consults a matronly woman to get his estranged wife back from her new beau; the woman is a witch who claims a baby his wife is carrying must be aborted before she will come back to him. She can do this, but Anton must take the sin of the child’s death upon himself. That’s a violation of the truce, and she is busted by a Nightwatch team. The fact that Anton can see the team proves that he is an Other.

Twelve years later, Anton is working for Nightwatch, and it’s a job that really sucks. The mission that opens the story major requires him to get in sync with a young boy who is experiencing “The Call” – the spell of a vampire summoning him to a remote location to be exsanguinated. To do this, Anton must exploit his friendship with the vampire next door to get some pig blood to drink. This leads him to a vampire and his new bride, who is the one performing The Call – the boy is to be her first victim. Anton’s backup is late in arriving (mainly because Anton is a crap operative) and he winds up killing the male vampire in self-defense. This is going complicate his life exponentially for the rest of the movie, as the new female vampire escapes and still has a bead on the boy.

Further, while he was on the hunt, Anton saw a woman in the subway who his vision reveals was under a curse, and in his debriefing finds out it is THE curse – one that will cause a vortex of suffering and evil that will bring on, at last, the final battle between Nightwatch and Daywatch, and the end of the world.

There’s quite a bit of mythology thrown at you in Night Watch, some of it pretty standard fantasy boilerplate, some not. The not part seems pretty elastic, for instance the concept of “The Gloom”, a sort of twilight dimension only accessible by Others. First we’re told this is the safest way for Nightwatch operatives to interact with rogue Dark members, then we are told it has a time limit and requires blood sacrifice.

Night Watch is based on a novel by Sergey Lukyanenko, which itself is composed of three interlocking stories, of which the movie is only one. The sequel, Day Watch, is another, and the supposed third movie in the trilogy, Twilight Watch was the last of these. Director Timur Bekmambetov, however, split to make the 2008 Wanted, and never looked back. If, like me, you saw Wanted before Night Watch, the dazzling, rushing camerawork in many of the sequences are going to be very familiar. It’s stuff like that which made Night Watch the highest-grossing Russian movie of that year, and an international success (and made certain Russian film types grumble that it was “too American”).

The nature of the segmented source novel, though, carries with it an ironic violation of Chekov’s gun; you’re given a lot of characters with very cool potential that is never exploited. That was left, I assume, for the sequels, one of which we are never going to get.

Night Watch has a ton of interesting visuals that are worth checking out, but if you’ve never interacted with Russian cinema, be aware of some standards: a love for doomed characters, a large dose of fatalism, and a disregard for short running times. I found it interesting but not terribly engaging. As always, your mileage may vary.

M: Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975)

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Hey, you remember what I keep saying about my unconscious tendency to access director’s careers in reverse? Starting at a recent point or movie and working my way in reverse like a dunderhead? Well, I sort of foiled my own motif, this time around. Sure, I reviewed Juan López Moctezuma’s third flick, Alucarda a couple of years ago, but I also did his first movie, Mansion of Madness (better known as Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon to us gringos), back in the halcyon days of the first Mondo Macabro releases. So it was high time to watch senor Moctezuma’s sophomore effort, especially since I had been low-key obsessed with its ad art since its first-run drive-in days. I mean, just look at it. Best woman-being-turned-into-a-skeleton-making-a-horror-geek-really-want-to-see-what’s-going-on since Scream and Scream Again.

I am pleased to report I was nowhere near as disappointed in Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary as I was in Scream and Scream Again.

We first meet Mary (Christina Ferrare) while she’s having engine trouble with her van outside a creepy abandoned mansion in Mexico. As rain begins to pour down, she finds an open door and tries to find a phone, only to find herself stalked by a shadowy figure. After the standard running and screaming, we find out the figure is Ben (David Young) a drifter who is also seeking shelter from the rain. He promises to sleep upstairs while Mary stays downstairs and has a flashback.

Mary, we find out, is a successful artist who just sold one of her paintings to a guy from the American Embassy in Mexico City. This guy is also quite set on seducing Mary, with some success – at least until she pulls out a dagger disguised as an ornate hairpin and cuts his throat so she can drink his blood.

“What a waste of a perfectly good morgue attendant.”

This isn’t your typical low-budget vampire movie. Mary doesn’t do the traditional movie vampire stuff; she walks around in daylight, sleeps in a bed – at night – and has no fangs. But every so often she has to drink blood, and at those times she uses knockout drops in her necklace’s pendant to render her victim unconscious, so obviously she’s been doing this for some time. Mary is attracted to Ben, and the feeling is mutual, which is going to complicate her predatory lifestyle. There’s also the fact that the Mexican police are starting to notice the number of exsanguinated bodies, and the death of the Embassy guy has brought in the FBI. And, oh yes, there’s another vampire out there trying to track down Mary, and it’s her father… John Carradine!

If you like your vampire movies offbeat, Mary, Mary Bloody Mary is worth checking out. Some folks point to it as an inspiration for George Romero’s Martin, but I think that’s stretching a point. Mary isn’t deluded, but she has a very definite pathology, what her father refers to as “a disease”. There is one heartbreaking point where Mary’s need for a blood fix coincides with gallery owner Greta’s (Helena Rojo) pushy lesbian seduction. It’s the one time her careful searches for someone “I didn’t know or care about” has fallen through, and the first time she tearfully apologizes to one of her victims.

Yeah, yeah, it’s 1975 so there’s plenty of nudity and blood. I can see that after the surreal, Jodorowsky-influenced excesses of Mansion of Madness, it was brought to Moctezuma as a case of “Okay, can you make a normal movie?” which he does – though his penchant for creative editing and visuals is still evident. The seduction and eventual murder of Greta is shot in a lush bathroom with mirrored walls and is quite stunning. But it’s also 1975 and this is a very low budget movie, so be prepared for some slow spots, though Moctezuma tries to minimize those, and to reward you with things like unexpected car chases when you make it through them.

And now, here’s the trailer for the Code Red blu-ray, featuring a couple of my favorite bits: a newspaper with the headline NIXON CHEERED and, apropos of nothing, some dudes stabbing a dead shark to further death in shallow waters.

 

L: Lust for a Vampire (1971)

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I had a friend who was one of those grey market vendors, who made his living selling VHS dupes of out-of-print movies (he’s out of the biz now, ditching the whole enterprise a couple of years before torrenting made it superfluous). For years, though, this movie was his best seller; given a VHS release once, and then vanishing from sight. So I was glad to finally watch the damn thing, and find out what the shouting was all about.

Spoiler alert: boobies.

In the opening scene, a peasant girl is kidnapped by the usual evil black carriage and taken to Castle Karnstein. Her blood is used to resurrect the dried-out corpse of what we will come to know as the infamous Carmilla (Yutte Stensgaard). The guy doing the officiating is Count Karnstein, played by Mike Raven, with a cameo of Christopher Lee’s eyes.

But never mind that, wandering nobleman and author Richard LeStrange (Michael Johnson) has arrived in the village, doing research for his next book on witchcraft, vampires and black magic. Told of the Karnstein legacy, LeStrange visits the seemingly abandoned castle, only to find himself stalked by three be-caped ladies. Ho ho, though, it’s only three girls from the nearby Miss Simpson’s Finishing School, on a field trip led by their headmaster, Giles Barton (Ralph Bates). LeStrange is introduced to Miss Simpson (Helen Christie) and the rest of the girls, just as a new student arrives – Carmilla, once again using the Mircalla alias. LeStrange is instantly smitten.

(LeStrange isn’t the only one, as we are treated to some lesbian-tinged toplessness and skinny-dipping that night at the school)

Things rapidly get complicated from there. A serving girl at the inn is found dead, two bite marks on her throat. LeStrange meets the new English instructor for Simpson’s school, tricks him into going to Vienna instead, and gets his job just to be near Mircalla. Mircalla’s skinny-dipping girlfriend Susan Pelley (Pippa Steele) vanishes (we know she’s been exsanguinated and dropped down the well). Giles Barton, knowing Mircalla’s true identity (the study of local noble families is his personal obsession), offers himself to her, hoping to become a vampire and worshipping her forever. Mircalla, though, only likes girls and turns him down. His dead body is found on the outskirts of the school the next day.

Miss Simpson has gone into full cover-up mode, refusing to call in the authorities about the missing girl, and grateful that Mircalla’s personal doctor (whom we recognize as the driver of that black coach) certifies that Barton died of a heart attack. LeStrange goes through Barton’s library, and discovers Mircalla’s secret. He, too, confesses his love to Mircalla, and begins to put that only-likes-girls thing to the test (he wins). Meantime, the school’s dance teacher (Suzanna Leigh) has notified the cops and Susan’s father (David Healy), who is American and having none of this shit.

It ends as all such gothic romances must, in a burning castle with Carmilla dead again, and LeStrange’s heart broken. The end.

After the success of The Vampire Lovers, Hammer felt they’d finally found a new vein to tap with Ireland’s other favorite author of vampire stories, Sheridan Le Fanu. The Karnsteins would crop up again in Twins of Evil and the next year’s Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, but never really recaptured the popularity of their Dracula series. It didn’t help that Lust for a Vampire had a troubled production.

Jimmy Sangster replaced Terrence Fisher in the director’s chair at very short notice. Also rushed into his role was Ralph Bates – Peter Cushing was to play Giles Barton, but bowed out due to the serious illness of his wife. Bates hates this role and this movie, and most people hate him for not being Peter Cushing, but really – he’s fine. There was a reason he was Hammer’s utility player at this point. What really kills the movie is the lack of Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla – she turned it down because she thought the script was lousy (she ain’t wrong). (also, there’s no Michael Ripper, so I don’t feel it can rightly be called a Hammer film) Overall, it’s pretty emblematic of Hammer’s rudderless direction in the 70s, when they found that everybody was doing the voluptuous horror bit, and the obvious thing to do was free those bosoms from their constricting bustiers and peasant blouses. A prime example, I think, of scarcity giving a movie a panache of quality it did not warrant (see also The Incubus).