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Film / The Vampire Lovers

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The Vampire Lovers is a 1970 Hammer Horror film directed by Roy Ward Baker, starring Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer, Ferdy Mayne, Madeline Smith and Kate O'Mara. It is based off Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's novella Carmilla.

A woman calling herself Carmilla (Pitt) arrives at the residence of one Mr. Morton, where she befriends Morton's daughter Emma (Smith) and Emma's governess (O'Mara); thereafter Emma suffers mysterious nightmares. The secret to Carmilla's mysterious past may lie with General Spielsdorf (Cushing) and Baron Hartog (Wilmer).

Followed by two loose sequels, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil; altogether these films are known as "The Karnstein Trilogy".


Features examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Laura becomes Emma in this version, while Bertha Spielsdorf, one of Carmilla's earlier victims, becomes (somewhat confusingly) Laura.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: In the book, the main character Laura is highly educated, speaks three languages, and is steeped in Enlightenment ideals due to her father not wanting her to be superstitious. Here, Emma is a wide-eyed ingenue who doesn't know the German word for "eyebrow" and is easily spooked.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Carmilla shows more sympathetic traits in the book, and was an innocent when alive. Here she is purely evil, and apparently her whole family was even before becoming vampires.
  • Big Bad: Mircalla Karnstein, a Lesbian Vampire seeking her latest prey.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mircalla.
  • Bling of War: General Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) in the ball scene.
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  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Carmilla's three main victims are Laura (blonde), the Governess (brunette), and Emma (redhead).
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Mademoiselle Perrodot, Emma's governess who seemed protective of her, turns on a dime after Carmilla seduces her.
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: A young woman is asleep in her cottage. She's startled awake by Carmilla stroking her face but soon after is delighted to see her.
  • Bury Your Gays: Mircalla and the Governess' fates.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Mircalla Karnstein primarily seduces women to feed upon, but is perfectly willing to do the same to men.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Mircalla seems to prefer hunting prey barefoot and in a sleek nightgown.
  • Death by Sex: Played with as some who have sex with Mircalla die while others do not.
  • Demoted to Extra: Due to Adaptation Name Change, Laura is portrayed as Carmilla's first victim who is quickly killed off in the first twenty minutes.
  • Fanservice: Oh, yes, very much. Naked Mircalla taking a bath, Mircalla kissing a topless Emma, the list goes on.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot:
    • Emma and Carmilla fool around in the nude after Carmilla takes a bath.
    • Carmilla's seduction of the governess is a great example of how a scene can be charged with eroticism without even showing anything that explicit. See Sexy Discretion Shot below.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors. In the same ball, Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt) is dressed in blood-red and her mother has a black dress (although white roses in the hair). Guess what it means?
  • Haunted Castle: As per the ISO Standard for Hammer Horror.
  • Horror Hunger: Carmilla appears to have genuine feelings for Emma, but can't keep her fangs to herself.
  • Improvised Cross: Carl Ebhardt's cruciform dagger.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Emma.
  • Lesbian Vampire: Countess Mircalla Karnstein, also known as Carmilla and Marcilla. Also an adaptation of the trope origin, Carmilla.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Mircalla, and also the governess, though in the latter case, Mircalla's vampiric influence may be at play.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ingrid Pitt and all the other young women in the film, who all have at least one scene in a translucent gown.
  • Must Be Invited: Implied on both occasions when Mircalla is a house-guest. Averted with the woman in the cottage.
  • Off with His Head!: The only way to truly kill a vampire.
  • Ominous Fog: In the cemetery during the climax.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Carmilla seems to have human cohorts who help con unsuspecting families into hosting her.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot:
    • Mircalla and Emma eventually kiss in bed, before Mircalla undresses Emma, leaving her topless, and continues kissing her. It then cuts to a close-up of Emma's face reacting to it before cutting away.
    • Mircalla leads the Governess to her room, at which point Mircalla, obscured under shadows, takes off her gown, leaving herself completely nude, and invites the Governess to come closer. The Governess, at this point clearly enthralled with Mircalla, obligues, before cutting away to the next morning.
  • Tragic Monster: Carmilla is implied to have geniune feelings for Emma, but sadly her vampire instincts are way too strong to overcome.
  • Überwald: Officially Styria.
  • Vampire Hunter: The Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer) becomes one to avenge his sister. He seeks out every member of the Karnstein family to exterminate them before they wake up from their grave and feed upon the living.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: How much of everyone's attraction to Mircalla is real is left ambiguous. Is it mind control, pure lust, or something more?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Carmilla's "mother" is never seen again after leaving Carmilla with the Mortons, and it is never explained who exactly she really was. The same goes for the mysterious man in black who watches over the events from a distance then just disappears around the third act.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Mircalla kills the Governess once the latter isn't useful to her.