Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blood Lust


This cult classic makes effective use of Hammer's Oakley Court stomping ground in its story of savage lust and supernatural desires.

THE 1970s offered a glut of lesbian vampire movies, and all of them seem to have attracted their own fanatical devotees. A rare horror film independently made in Britain, VAMPYRES is a collaboration between UK-resident Spanish director Joseph Larraz and editor Brian Smedley-Aston; yet its own precedent of the genre - Hammer’s conventional gothic THE VAMPIRE LOVERS - is shrugged aside in preference for Harry Kumel’s DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS. Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska) are the eponymous bisexual vampires, spending their days insensible in a cellar (filled with Carpathian wine), and their nights seducing unwary drivers who they proceed to sexually exhaust and kill.

The astonishing debauchery of the murder scenes - filmed mostly by Larraz using a hand-held camera - are poetic in their excess, as Fran and Miriam slice their victims and lap at open wounds with ferocious intensity. As Larraz explains, “I imagine my vampires (to) turn almost to cannibalism, to take the blood from anywhere. I can't imagine anyone coming to suck blood gently. It would be very quick with urgency … urgency for the kill, urgency for the blood, because it's what they need.” The wintry shots of the vampires waiting by the roadside are effective, but it is also the smaller details that add to the overall lingering chill: Ted (Murray Brown) is horrified by Fran’s habit of sleeping with her eyes open, and people’s watches stop when in the vicinity of the bloodsuckers.

The two stars also showed their flesh on the printed page: Dziubinska was Playboy’s Miss May 1973, and Morris appeared in the October 1976 edition of Mayfair.

The two leads were cast for their bodies and not their acting talent, and both were subsequently dubbed. But Morris and Dziubinska play their roles remarkably well; Fran is the hunter-gatherer, while Miriam is the petite blonde waif that belies her savagery. An unusual production as far as it has plenty of loose ends and unexplained back-story, VAMPYRES is nevertheless the definitive erotic horror film, a primal piece which is driven by emotion and lack of logic - both distinctive traits of the vampire ethos.