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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:

  • Adaptational Badass: This version of Carmilla directly engages a foe in battle and is only warded off by a makeshift crucifix. Her powers of seduction are also put to more extensive use; she forges two minions with her possibly-supernatural charms.
  • 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 retains her book counterpart's aversion to the consequences of her murders, but her inspiration was an innocent when alive. Here, her entire family is said to have been wicked even before becoming vampires, presumably including herself.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Laura becomes Emma in this version, while Bertha Spielsdorf, one of Carmilla's earlier victims, becomes (somewhat confusingly) Laura.
  • Ambiguously Evil: For a good 3/4 of the film Marcilla/Carmilla keeps her fangs hidden and almost seems to be acting as an inside woman for the real villain, the sinister Man in Black. Indeed, given that she clearly has feelings for both Laura and Emma, and is never seen feeding on either of them, a case could almost be made that she was being placed in these households in order that she could allow her Master entry so that he could feed on these young women.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Often placed in 1790s Styria, the internal evidence would appear to place it decades later. Baron Hartogís vendetta against the Karnsteins follows the death of his sister in 1794, and itís not specified how long it took him to track them down. Either way, heís shown and described as a young man in the flashback, but when he returns to finish the job he is at least 20 years older, possibly more. This would place the setting somewhere around the 1820s, possibly as late as 1840, and definately after the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Karnsteins who all became vampires after death.
  • Big Bad: Mircalla Karnstein, a Lesbian Vampire seeking her latest prey.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Carl shows up just in the nick of time to save Emma from Mircalla
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mircalla.
  • Bling of War: General Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) in the ball scene.
  • 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.
    • Renton the butler who tried to protect Emma from the vampire likewise falls prey to her seductions
  • 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.
  • Crusading Uncle: General Spielsdorf avenges his niece by staking Mircalla and cutting off her head.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Mircalla Karnstein primarily seduces women to feed upon, but is perfectly willing to do the same to men.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Implied. The mysterious vampire patriarch loses his good cheer when he observes the reburial of a now very dead Carmilla.
  • 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.
  • Hero of Another Story: Baron Hartog killed almost all of the Karnstein vampires after his sister was killed.
  • 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. The doctor tries to pull this off by drawing in the dirt but fails.
  • 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.
  • Only Sane Man: Renton the butler who put two and two together and realizes a vampire is responsible for Emma's condition. He promptly calls in the doctor, gets garlic flowers, and sends a message to Mr. Morton.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampire abilities either vary depending on how they became Undead or are presented inconsistently. The first vampire shown in the prologue can only sleep/return to the grave if they have their burial shroud, but Mircalla has no such restriction, a fact that Baron Hartog himself finds surprising. It appears that Karnstein vampires spend long periods in a form of stupor interspersed with periods of feeding, as the first vampire is the only one shown as active when Hartog comes to the castle; they don't even wake up when he stakes them. Hartog stakes each Karnstein with the same sharpened branch, but when the General stakes Mircalla he leaves his stake in her heart and takes her head for good measure, possibly implying that Hertog's original massacre might not have permanently disposed of the Karnstein's he unearthed.
  • 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.
  • Significant Anagram: Marcilla and Carmilla for Mircalla
  • This Was His True Form: Mircalla's portrait decays to reveal a fanged skeleton after her death.
  • Tragic Monster: Carmilla is implied to have genuine feelings for Emma, but sadly her vampire instincts are way too strong to overcome.
  • ‹berwald: 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 before coming back at the end, revealed as a vampire.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Mircalla kills the Governess once the latter isn't useful to her.