Vampire Lovers, The (Blu-ray) (1970)

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Released 3-Jul-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Audio Commentary-Ingrid Pitt, Roy Ward Baker and Tudor Gates
More…-”Carmilla” Excerpts read by Ingrid Pitt (11:56)
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 87:35 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Roy Ward Baker
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Ingrid Pitt
Peter Cushing
Douglas Wilmer
Pippa Steel
George Cole
Madeline Smith
Jon Finch
Dawn Addams
John Forbes-Robertson
Kate O’Mara
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Harry Robertson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The Vampire Lovers starts with an atmospheric and tense pre-title sequence: a man, the Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer), is waiting in the ruins of the Karstein castle amid the graves for a vampire to return to its coffin. The vampire materialises as a beautiful, seductive woman but under extreme pressure Hartog cuts off its head. After the titles the film shifts some years later to a birthday ball being given by General Spielsdoft (Peter Cushing) for his beautiful niece Laura (Pippa Steel) who is happily dancing with the young and handsome Carl (a very young Jon Finch). Attending the ball is the Countess (Dawn Addams) and her beautiful daughter Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt) but when the Countess is called away by a mysterious man in black (John Forbes-Robertson) Marcilla remains in the General’s house as companion to Laura. Very soon Laura is having nightmares about a cat and she quickly becomes pale and sick, before dying. When the doctor attends he finds puncture wounds on Laura’s breasts; Marcilla disappears.

     Shortly after Marcilla, now called Carmilla (again Pitt), is staying in the house of wealthy landowner Mr Morton (George Cole who became well known as Arthur in the original Minder TV series and who has just passed away), his lovely young daughter Emma (Madeline Smith) and her Governess (Kate O’Mara). When Morton leaves on business Emma starts to have the same nightmares as Laura had and she becomes ill and drained of blood. We learn that after the death of his niece the General had gone in search of Baron Hartog. Can the Baron, the General, Carl and Morton find the coffin of the Karstein vampire the Baron had missed all those years before, and kill the vampire before it is too late to save Emma?

     By 1970 censorship restrictions had started to be eased in the UK and Hammer with The Vampire Lovers took advantage of the new liberality by adding nudity and lesbianism to the horror elements they had used so successful during the late 1950s and 1960s. The Vampire Lovers is based upon the 1871 novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu and is the first film in a trilogy made by Hammer based upon the Karstein characters, the others being Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil (both 1971), and although the three films were written by Tudor Gates they had different directors and substantially different casts.

     The Vampire Lovers, over 40 years after being made, is still a fabulous film with an good script, production values that belie its limited budget (which was apparently only ₤170,000), competent direction from veteran Roy Ward Baker and a star-making turn from the alluring and sexy Ingrid Pitt. Before The Vampire Lovers Roy Ward Baker had been directing since the mid-1940; his credits had included the excellent Titanic film (but without the extravagant CGI) A Night to Remember (1958) and he had already directed for Hammer Quatermass and the Pitt in 1967. For The Vampire Lovers Baker avoids anything too flashy and sensibly allows the story, the atmospheric sets and Pitt to shine. Polish born Pitt is simply sensational. She had a bit part in Where Eagles Dare (1968) but her role in The Vampire Lovers elevated her to icon status and she became the queen of Hammer horror in the 1970s. She is beautiful and very sexy, looking stunning in low cut gowns, but she also provides a sadness and depth to Camilla that is as alluring as it is deadly.

     The Vampire Lovers does include overt lesbianism, bare breasts and brief full frontal female nudity but it is far more than a sexploitation film taking advantage of the relaxing censorship in the UK for the film is well-directed and atmospheric, the story is tense, and the acting by the cast generally, and Pitt in particular, very good. Made over 40 years ago The Vampire Lovers stands up very well indeed. This is Hammer at the top of their game.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Vampire Lovers is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, using the MPEG-4 AVC code. The Blu-ray cover advertises the film as 1080p, but it is in fact 1080i.

     The interior colours of the print are rich and detail good, showing off, for example, the costumes and the set of the ball. Exteriors are more muted, but the colours are still fine. Blacks are solid and shadow detail very good which is important as some pivotal scenes occur at night in a ruined castle. Brightness and contrast are consistent, skin tones natural.

     There is some slight ghosting against broken surfaces, but the bigger issue is small, and not so small, white marks throughout the film. They are not overly distracting, but they are there. There are also a number of vertical scratches, especially near the start of the film. Grain is present, but nicely under control.

     There are no subtitles.

     This is a reasonable print considering the age and budget of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The Blu-ray cover indicates that the audio is English LPCM 2.0, but the feature audio is only Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps, the audio commentary having the same specifications.

     Dialogue is clear and easy to hear and the effects, such footsteps and galloping horses, do have some resonance. There were occasional abrupt changes in volume, but no hiss. The original score by Harry Robertson is quite strident and signals horror moments, but it suits the film. There is no surround or subwoofer use, consistent with the mono original audio of the film.

     Lip synchronisation appeared out in some early sequences.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary

     Star Ingrid Pitt, director Roy Ward Baker and writer Tudor Gates participate in a commentary hosted by Jonathan Sothcott. They discuss how the film got started, how they got involved, various other cast members, Peter Cushing and his wife, the budget, lesbianism, Hammer productions, other films they had done and critical reaction to the film. The commentary is worth a listen although some of their memories are now a bit vague, there are periods of silence and they do not talk much about the actual filming.

”Carmilla” Excerpts read by Ingrid Pitt (11:56)

     Pitt reads while film and on set stills automatically advance. Interestingly, this extra has LPCM 2.0 48/16 audio.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray release of The Vampire Lovers is 1080p with lossless audio, has the same extras as our version and adds a production featurette (9:40), an interview with actress Madeline Smith (20:35) and a radio spot (0:51). The Region B UK Blu-ray is advertised as having remastered video and audio (although I have not been able to find a review) and includes different extras: a commentary by Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby, a featurette on Hammer running approximately 25 minutes and a restoration comparison featurette.

     Either of the other two Blu-rays would seem to be superior to our release.

Summary

     I had a blast with The Vampire Lovers. Hammer horror, lesbian vampires, nudity and a well-made, atmospheric horror film; what is not to like, especially when a sexy and alluring Ingrid Pitt is on screen. The Vampire Lovers was a huge hit for Hammer and it is easy to see why!

     The Vampire Lovers has previously been released by Shock in August 2011. From reviews I have read, this rerelease is exactly the same technically, retaining the 1080i, the Dolby Digital 2.0 and the same extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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