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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Vampire > Vampire Lovers/Countess Dracula

Countess Dracula / The Vampire Lovers


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: B- / B+



Among their seemingly endless series of Horror genre double features, MGM has put out a double-sided DVD of two classic Hammer films for a change, which both happen to star horror queen Ingrid Pitt.  Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers (both 1970) are two fine examples of gothic tales told in the English studio's rich tradition.  One was licensed from Canal Plus, while the other is an MGM through their ownership of American International’s catalog.


Countess Dracula is based on the Elisabeth Bathory legend.  Ingrid Pitt plays an elderly countess whose husband has passed away.  As his assets are divided at the reading of the will, she becomes attracted to the young man who is to be given charge of the stables.  The possibilities extend when she accidental cuts a chambermaid only to find that the blood spilled on her has restored her youthful appearance.


A jealous lover, a returning daughter, and various other scrupulous characters keep the plot twisting along to its destination.  Ingrid Pitt does a fantastic job of exposing the insanity that drives the countess.  The makeup is sometimes unconvincing but is relegated to an afterthought due to the strength of the performance.


Director Peter Sasdy gets solid performances from his supporting cast that includes Nigel Green and Sandor Eles.  Terrific lighting schemes and realistic sets are also invaluable to selling the drama. 


Extras include an audio commentary with Pitt, Sasdy, and screenwriter Jeremy Paul, as well as the original theatrical trailer.  Unfortunately, the trailer here is the more boring of two issued.  The one NOT included has devilish fun with the idea of the title vamp stealing youth, and can be found on the awesome Horror of Hammer DVD reviewed elsewhere on this site.


The Vampire Lovers is a top-notch film of vampire erotica.  It is adapted from Sheridan Le Fanu's story Carmilla (1871) by screenwriter Tudor Gates.  Ingrid Pitt again has the lead, this time as the lusty vampiress Mircalla Karnstein.  Mircalla, known also as Marcilla and Carmilla, befriends young ladies and, after inserting herself into their homes, proceeds to drain them of their blood, as well as their lives.


Director Roy Ward Baker does an excellent job of bringing Vampiric sexuality to this film. The lesbian overtones do not engulf and cheapen the story.  Instead, we are left to ponder whether Mircalla is a lover who can't help but hurt the one she loves, or merely a predator using every method to seduce her prey.  The supporting cast includes Peter Cushing in a small role as The General, as well as George Cole, Kate O'Mara, Pippa Steele and the very sexy Madeline Smith.


Both prints are clean and in good watchable condition.   Vampire Lovers is in an anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 framing, while Countess Dracula is in an unfortunately non-anamorphic 1.66 X 1.  The former has a slight edge over the latter, but they are on the same level overall, with the anamorphic image having some more depth and solid look.  The 1.66 image has the advantage in area, though it looks like an analog recycling from possibly a LaserDisc.  They are also the slightest bit closer to the original Hammer-type color than many of the Anchor Bay Hammer DVDs, if not as clean.  Both exhibit softness.


Extras for the second film include another audio commentary with Pitt, director Roy Ward Baker, and screenwriter Tudor Gates, excerpts of "Carmilla" read by Pitt, and the original theatrical trailer as well.  It is the only one we’ve seen on DVD so far, including on that aforementioned Hammer DVD.


For fans of Hammer and/or Ingrid Pitt, this Countess Dracula / The Vampire Lovers DVD is topnotch and should be grabbed before it could possibly go out of print!



-   Michael M. Burkett


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