Marcilla Karnstein from time to time comes back from her death sleep, and under a different name, such as Carmilla or, now, Mircalla, spreads terror in a village with her vampire powers. General Von Spielsdorf loses his nubile daughter to Mircalla, and swears revenge, with the help of expert vampire-killer Baron Hartog, and the Doctor. Eventually, they will kill the female vampire, but not before she traps a number of female lovers/victims.
Ingrid Pitt ... Marcilla / Carmilla / Mircalla Karnstein
George Cole ... Roger Morton
Kate O'Mara ... The Governess (Mme. Perrodot)
Peter Cushing ... General von Spielsdorf
Ferdy Mayne ... Doctor
Douglas Wilmer ... Baron Joachim von Hartog
Madeline Smith ... Emma Morton
Dawn Addams ... The Countess
Jon Finch ... Carl Ebhardt
Pippa Steel ... Laura (as Pippa Steele)
Kirsten Lindholm ... 1st Vampire (as Kirsten Betts)
Janet Key ... Gretchin
Hammer studios, having more-or-less exhausted the Dracula franchise by 1970, decided to freshen up their tales of vampirism by bringing in a lesbian angle. The result was The Vampire Lovers, a decent horror flick taken from Sheridan Le Fanu's story "Carmilla". The film breaks no new ground in terms of horror, but in terms of eroticism it probably raised a few eyebrows back in 1970, with its frequent nudity and explicit lesbianism. There's more to it than just the erotic stuff though - Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing are in commanding form; Tudor Gates's screenplay is pretty good; and there are some gruesome moments - including several decapitations - to satisfy gore-hounds.
Elusive vampiress Carmilla (also known as Mircalla and Marcilla - and played by the luscious Ingrid Pitt) escapes death at the hands of an Austrian vampire hunter. Carmilla fakes an accident to win the sympathy of the Morton family - nearby aristocrats - and soon she has been taken into their noble household. One thing to which Carmilla is quite partial is the blood of female victims, and pretty soon she has befriended Emma Morton (Madeline Smith), whom she hopes to entice into a lesbian love affair before vampirising her. However, Emma's father Roger (George Cole) and his friend Von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) realize that something isn't quite right and eventually uncover Carmilla's sinister secret.
The film is handsomely photographed and nicely directed by Hammer veteran Roy Ward Baker. There's not much here to distinguish this one from all the other Hammer horrors, other than the stronger-than-usual sexuality. However, fans of the Hammer style films will not mind that, as the "sameness" of the studio's films quite often adds to their charm. I can't really bring myself to recommend this film whole-heartedly. Let's just say that if you like Hammer's period horror films - or if you're a fan of Pitt or Cushing - you'll find plenty to enjoy here.
Where would the horror field be if it weren't for the legendary Hammer Studios? With their constant creativity and new variations on the general topic of vampirism they delivered some of the most important genre-films ever. Roy Ward Baker's film the Vampire Lovers is one of the most essential movies Hammer ever released and it meant a landmark turning point for the sub-genre of bloodsuckers. Due to THIS film, vampirism afterwards always got immediately associated with eroticism and lust. The Vampire Lovers influenced notorious directors like Jess Franco (Vampyros Lesbos, Les Avaleuses) or Jean Rollin (Lips of Blood, The Living Dead Girl) who practically made an entire career out of lesbian vampire movies. But this is the real thing! A stunning screenplay, based on a classic tale by Sheridan Le Fanu, solid acting performances and an atmospheric – almost dreamlike – photography. Ingrid Pitt plays the best, most memorable role of her career as the gypsy vampire Carmilla. Her sensual character seduces attractive young girls at the homes of prominent men where she's at guest and turns them into weak, lifeless slaves. The worried men have to uncover the origin of this vampire wench in order to destroy her forever.
'The Vampire Lovers' offers a nearly perfect combination of atmosphere, beauty and tension. Mostly thanks to the female cast led by Ingrid Pitt, this is the most bewitching horror tale Hammer ever told. The ravishing naked bodies of Pitt, Madeline Smith (Theathre of Blood) and Kate O'Mara (Horror of Frankenstein) will give this film a spot in your memory forevermore. And that's not a sexist remark; it just needs to be said. Other than the charismatic female appearances, this production also depends a lot on the eerie set pieces and the nightmarishly dark images of graveyards, ruins and castles. Overall, a splendid horror film and a must see for all fans of Hammer, vampirism or gorgeous beauties.
Certainly a movie one would use the word "good" for rather than "great", but this movie does contain flashes of the unique attributes that made Hammer such a winner in the first place but which had been largely forgotten by the company in its rush to replicate the success of "One Million Years B.C." with cheap imitations. Ingrid Pitt is probably the film's greatest asset, along with the very well done sets and art design in general.
Pitt plays a vampire lesbian who uses various forms of deception to seduce the daughters of England's upper crust. She comes off great in the role of seductress and is just barely convincing enough as the "innocent" her character pretends to be.
Cushing makes only 2 brief appearances, not making much of an impression (but he's given very little to work with here in a role that just about anyone could have played).
Memorable, not as good as Hammer's best vampire film "Dracula" (aka "Horror of Dracula", US) but definately one of its better, if not its best, films of the 70s.
# Peter Cushing was cast at a late stage.
# The role of the Man in Black was offered to Christopher Lee but he declined the role and John Forbes-Robertson was cast instead. Forbes-Robertson would also later replace Lee in Hammer's The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974).