Release Date: October 4th, 1970 (UK)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Harry Fine, Tudor Gates, Michael Style
Based on: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu
Music by: Harry Robertson
Cast: Ingrid Pitt, George Cole, Kate O’Mara, Peter Cushing, Dawn Addams, Madeline Smith, Pippa Steel
Fantale Films, Hammer Films, 91 Minutes
“They were all evil and remain evil after death.” – Baron Joachim von Hartog
While the most famous vampire films to come out of Hammer are the ones featuring Christopher Lee as Dracula, there was also The Karnstein Trilogy, which focused on lesbian vampires that didn’t have the weaknesses of sunlight and fire.
This was the first of those three movies, which sort of helped kick off a trend, as other studios in other parts of the world tried to also bank on the vampire lesbian craze, which was pretty racy stuff for 1970.
The story is loosely based off of the second most famous literary vampire story, Carmilla by Irish writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, which was originally published in 1872.
While that novel would serve to give a narrative tone and inspiration to The Karnstein Trilogy, the films really kind of just do their own thing beyond the initial setup.
I’d say that this is the weakest of the three movies within the trilogy but it is still entertaining and it goes to show just how good Ingrid Pitt was in her prime. The woman is stunning, seductive and she has the acting chops to convincingly stand beside some of the other Hammer legends. In this film, she has to share space with the legendary Peter Cushing but the two were able to play off of each other quite well.
The film also stars Madeline Smith, another Hammer regular, in a smaller role. But she always had a certain charisma that made the movies she was in better.
Ultimately, this is an interesting and overtly sexual motion picture. It’s all done as classy as a Hammer movie is capable of but it’s honestly pretty tame when compared to films that borrowed these themes later on. And without this picture, we wouldn’t have gotten the sequels, which I enjoy more, and the knockoffs which kind of became their own subgenre within the vampire subgenre of horror.
Pairs well with: the other parts of The Karnstein Trilogy and Countess Dracula, as well as Vampire Circus and Hammer’s Dracula films.