On the heels of The Vampire Lovers quickly followed the very controversial sequel Lust for a Vampire. Controversial in the sense that everyone seems to have an extremely different opinon about it. What's most surprising is the opinions of those who actually worked on it.
Forty years since their last appearance (which I assume was in The Vampire Lovers) the Karnstein family has risen once again! If you were under the impression the entire family had been slaughtered in the prior film, you would be mistaken, remember there was still the mysterious man in black and the Countess, who were never destroyed they simply disappeared, presumably to sleep for forty years. Calling upon the Devil they summon the dark powers to reincarnate Mircalla / Carmilla (formally played by Ingrid Pitt now played by Yutte Stensgaard who by the way looks nothing like Ingrid) with the blood of an innocent virgin.
Now back in fashionable vampire form the Countess once again proceeds to pawn Mircalla off on some unsuspecting victims, a gold mine of young blood at the newly established all girls boarding school! By some ill fated luck renowned Gothic story writer Richard Lestrange happens to be in the area researching the legend of the nearby Karnstein castle. Not a believer in the stories he writes, he soon has a change of mind when people suddenly start dropping dead with nothing but two single fang marks on their necks. In visiting the boarding school Lestrange immediately becomes infatuated with the lovely Mircalla and scams his way into the schools English literature position with the sole purpose of getting closer to her.
But Mircalla is not there to fall in love, she's there to feast and regain her strength after her rebirth, a feast which begins with a barmaid and her boarding house roommate. Unfortunately Mircalla is discovered draining the life from her fellow classmate by the school's history teacher, a man by the name of Barton who has an eccentric enthusiasm for the dark arts. He takes it upon himself to dispose of the body and then makes it known to Mircalla that he wishes to serve her... bad idea. Now with a local girl dead, a student at the boarding school missing and Mr. Barton turning up a little less flushed the town begins to get in an uproar suspecting it to be the work of the Karnsteins. Surprisingly, the discovery of Mircalla's true identity doesn't seem to stop Lestrange's infatuation over her, in fact it only grows stronger, and for some strange reason this is highly attractive to Mircalla who eventually returns his advances. But the lust between a human and a vampire is destined to end in tragedy for one or both parties, as the conclusion of Lust for a Vampire clearly portrays.
While Lust for a Vampire has a very similar storyline to its predecessor, the two films are almost as different as night and day. The film seemed to be fairly doomed from the beginning. Peter Cushing was originally cast to play the perverse nut job Giles Barton but as was the case with Blood From The Mummy's Tomb was forced to drop out due the to grave condition of his wife. Following that the original director Terence Fisher became incapacitated and Jimmy Sangster was brought in to replace him. The role of Barton was eventually taken over by actor Ralph Bates who only signed up as a favor to the director and later made it well known he thought it was a tasteless film and regretted having anything to do with it. Ironically I thought Bates played the rather quirky role of Barton very well and probably gave the best performance of the entire cast.
Ingrid Pitt's replacement for the role of Mircalla went to Danish actress and model Yutte Stensgaard who had been in a few British films in the past such as the Carry On series (who in Hammer hasn't?), and told a BBC film crew visiting on the set that she had Oscar ambitions. Unfortunately for her those ambitions ended with Lust for a Vampire the closest she'd ever reach to fame before her career evaporated. To round it all off a pivotal scene of Mircalla seducing and feeding on the body of a schoolgirl was axed completely from the film, and an overly corny pop song entitled Strange Love was inserted into the scene where Lestrange and Mircalla literally make "strange love". It's the same scene where Mircalla is seen crying during the love making, you can assume it's because she's never experienced that before, or my personal opinon is it was because the song was so horrible! It's the films' low point and even brought the director to comment that he'd never been so embarrassed in his life when that song played.
While Lust for a Vampire fails to live up to the quality of The Vampire Lovers, I strangely found myself enjoying this film. It's extremely corny compared to the original with bumbling characters such as Richard Lestrange and Giles Barton both falling for who they know to be a murderous vampire, followed by the audacious pop song which would probably rank among the worst things ever to be featured in a Hammer horror film. Yutte Stensgaard is nothing close to Ingrid Pitt, in fact I found her to be more like Madeline Smith's character in The Vampire Lovers, very juvenile and ditsy. She reminded me of a young well endowed Shelley Long, and that's not really a compliment. Still I couldn't help enjoying it, I really have no explanation except to say the story has enough going for it and the characters are interesting enough that it's a rather fun ride.
In terms of the lesbian aspect, Lust for a Vampire is actually toned down a little more, especially since the film is really about Lestrange and Mircalla falling in love, not so much about her seducing women. Really the lesbian aspect of both films is in my opinon somewhat of a stretch. The character is merely toying with her victims as a cat would play with a mouse before the kill, it just happens some of those victims are women. Overall, Lust for a Vampire is what I would call a decent follow up, it's not great compared to the first film and you probably could even call it bad, but it's still surprisingly entertaining. I'll admit my score is almost overly generous, but purely going on how much I enjoyed it I think it's fair, but I'll leave you with a quote from the book The Hammer Story which I think encompasses a lot of individuals opinions of this film and you make your own decision.
"Lust for a Vampire is a cynical and depressing exercise that has all been disowned by its director, who accidentally wanders into shot towards the end of the film. One can only imagine what Fisher, Cushing and Bray's craftsmen might have made of Gates' reasonably literate draft."