General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) is having a birthday party for his niece and ward, Laura (Pippa Steel). One of the guests is a Countess (Dawn Addams) who lives in a nearby estate. With her is her daughter Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt). During the party a messenger arrives to give the countess an urgent message about a sick relative. The countess asks the General if he will take care of Marcilla while she is away, and it should only be a few days. The General agrees.
Marcilla and Laura become fast friends and lovers. Not long after that Laura’s health begins to wane, and she experiences nightmares. Laura dies and Marcilla disappears. The General sees two puncture marks on Laura’s breast.
Outside of the Morton residence a carriage crashes. On board are the countess and her niece, Carmilla (Formerly Marcilla) (Ingrid Pitt). Carmilla appears to be injured. The countess says she has an appointment she cannot miss but doesn’t want to move her niece. The owner of the estate, Roger Morton (George Cole) offers to let Carmilla stay with him and his daughter, Emma (Madeline Smith). Carmilla and Emma become friends, and lovers. Carmilla is actually a vampire. Emma begins to lose energy and becomes listless. Emma’s father goes on a trip, so he leaves Emma’s governess, Mademoiselle Perrodot (Kate O’Mara) in charge. While he is away Emma becomes ill. When Mme. Perrodot gets in the way, Carmilla seduces her as well.
“The Vampire Lovers” was released in 1970 and was directed by Roy Ward Baker. It is a British horror film produced by the Hammer Film Studios. The movie is based on the 1872 novel “Carmilla” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Some aspects of the film remind me of the 1964 film “Terror in the Crypt” with Christopher Lee. That film was also based on the same novel.
This is the first of three basically erotic Hammer Films in what is known as the Karnstein Trilogy. The Karnstein’s are family of vampires. The other films in the series are “Lust for a Vampire” 1971 and “Twins of Evil” 1971. All three films are Hammer’s experimenting with Lesbian themes. Hammer planned on a fourth film in the series, but it never materialized. Hammer’s 1974 vampire film, “Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter” has a vampire that is from the Karnstein family, but the film is technically not part of the Karnstein cannon.
It is a very sexy vampire movie. Hammer is good at staging the female form. There isn’t much in the way of plot and the film is rather slow going but, I don’t think that is what Hammer was going for anyway.
Unlike the standard vampire, Karnstein vampires can walk around in the daytime and fire has no effect on them. The Karnstein films are part of Hammer’s vampire series but are not part of the Dracula series. Mircalla’s name and her aliases, Carmilla and Marcilla, are all anagrams.