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The Vampire Lovers (Shout! Factory) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Vampire Lovers (Shout! Factory) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: December 21st, 2021.
    Director: Roy Ward Baker
    Cast: Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Madeleine Smith
    Year: 1970
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Vampire Lovers - Movie Review:

    As the sixties turned into the seventies, England's Hammer Studios was going through a bit of a restructuring. They'd scored hits in decades past with war movies, crime thrillers and other films that don't exactly fit in the horror movie mold but it seemed to be the horror films that were winning at the box office. With censorship loosening a bit, it was decided that an adaptation of LeFanu's Carmilla might make for a good addition to the studio's catalogue, and thus was born The The Vampire Lovers, a fantastic blend of gothic horror, vampirism and racy sexy thrills.

    The story follows a woman named Carmilla (played by Pitt) who has managed to retain her youthful vigor and good looks despite the fact that she is, in fact, hundreds of years old. Her secret? She's a vampire, of course, and she becomes under the command of the equally beautiful Countess Karnstein (Dawn Addams) and a mysterious man dressed all in black (John Forbes-Robertson). By chance, she becomes welcomed into the home of General Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) who lives with his gorgeous young niece, Laura (Pippa Steele), who takes a liking to Carmilla but soon turns up, her life taken suddenly by what Spielsdorf assumes is an illness. Closer inspection reveals to puncture wounds in Laura's pale skinned neck, however - and you know what that means.

    Carmilla, no fool, disappears without a trace but soon shows up again, this time in the home of Mr. Morton (George Cole), who also shares his home with a beautiful young woman in the form of his only daughter, the stunning Emma (Madeline Smith). When Morton has to travel, Carmilla is left alone with Emma and her true intentions soon start to show and when Morton returns, he finds his daughter looking gaunt and pale. Though he assumes she's ill, there's more going on here than he realizes, and when Spielsdorf and a vampire hunter named Barton Hartog (Douglas Wilmer) show up, Carmilla's game seems to be up.

    Despite the fact that, according to Marcus Hearn's The Hammer Vault, producer Harry Fine wanted Bond Girl Shirley Eaton to play Carmilla and initially dismissed Polish born beauty Ingrid Pitt due to her age (obviously not realizing Eaton was, in fact, older than Pitt!) this movie would not have been the same without Ingrid in the lead. Here the actress makes the most of the role she's since become best known for, vamping it up and exuding more sex appeal than any Hammer starlet before or since. She's seductive, mysterious, alluring and beautiful but also powerful and frightening in the role - in short, she's perfect for the part and it's easy to see how she's able to seduce the various characters in the film, male and female alike. Of course, Cushing is great here too, he and Wilmer make a great team and both Dawn Addams and John Forbes-Robertson are both great in their supporting roles as well, but this is, first and foremost, Pitt's movie - let there be no doubt about that.

    This is also a well-paced and slick looking film, with Roy Ward Baker at the top of his game, keeping the action moving at a good pace and balancing the macabre vampiric elements with enough sex to make crowds of the day stand up and take notice (the age restriction on the UK's X certificate had just been raised to eighteen years and Hammer was clever enough to take advantage of what that would allow them to show). There's loads of atmosphere here, lots of great sets and period costumes and while the budget was low, comparatively speaking, all involved do a fine job of ensuring that every penny winds up there on the screen. The end result is a slick, sexy film that looks far more lavish than it probably should have and which would pave the way for Hammer to enter a resurgence of sorts in the early seventies. Pitt would follow this up with Countess Dracula for Peter Sasdy and then leave the Hammer fold but would later appear in Amicus' The House That Dripped Blood as a female vampire, playing a role similar to the two Hammer parts that earned her a place in horror movie history. Sadly, both she and director Roy Ward Baker would pass away in 2010.

    Note that there is a brief full frontal nude scene of Ingrid Pitt around the thirty-two minute mark getting out the tub that runs literally about one second that was accidently cut out of this release, replaced with edited footage from the AIP release that was included on the previous Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory. Oddly enough, these fleeting seconds of precious nudity do appear in the Feminine Fantastique featurette included on the disc. Regardless, Shout! Factory is aware of this and is doing the right things by putting a replacement disc program in place to rectify the problem. You can visit this website for more information: https://www.discshipment.com/request

    The Vampire Lovers - Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings The Vampire Lovers to Blu-ray taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative (which has "an American International-Hammer Films Production" on screen to start the film off) framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation using up 24.4GBs of space on the dual-layered 50GB disc. Compared to past editions, colors look considerably better here and detail is a bit stronger as well. Skin tones, important in a movie like this, look nice and natural and we get strong black levels here as well. There aren't any noticeable compression artifacts to complain about and the image, which is almost entirely devoid of print damage while still retaining a nice amount of natural film grain, always looks properly film-like and shows no obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement quirks. All in all, the picture quality here is very strong.

    The only audio option provided on the Blu-ray is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono mix with optional subtitles offered up in English only. This track sounds quite good. The levels are nicely balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. The score has a decent amount of depth to it and the dialogue is always easy to understand.

    Extras start off with a great audio commentary with film historian/author Dr. Steve Haberman and film historian/filmmaker Constantine Nasr that goes over the source material that Hammer used for the film (that being Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla), differences between the screenplay and the filmed version of the movie, loads of details about the different cast and crew members that worked on the film, how Roy Ward Baker wound up directing the picture and why Terrance Fisher didn't, how Hammer was trying to 'get with the times' during this period in their history, Baker's own thoughts on the construction of the film, the quality of the film's production values, the film's more voyeuristic and exploitative elements, Tudor Gates' additions to the story, how the film compares to other vampires in film and literature and lots more. It's quite an interesting talk.

    The disc also includes an audio commentary with film historians Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby that is also very worthwhile, Hearn being the official Hammer Films historian and Rigby having authored some excellent books on the subject. They note how the castle in the opening scene also appears in Scars Of Dracula, go over the details of the pre-credits sequence, what was shot on a soundstage versus locations, how sets from Taste The Blood Of Dracula were recycled for the production, the film's issues with the BBFC and the decapitation in the early moments of the picture, Sheridan Le Fanu's source material, the influence of Carmilla on Stoker's Dracula, the iconoclastic elements of the picture, the quality of the period detail on display in the movie, thoughts on which performances work better than others, yet more information on the cast and crew and lots more. This track is also very good and quite worth listening to.

    Carried over from the DVD release that was put out domestically by MGM's Midnight Movies line a few years ago is the commentary track with director Roy Ward Baker, actress Ingrid Pitt and writer Tudor Gates that covers a lot of ground. Moderated by Jonathan Sothcott, the discussion covers the importance of this role to Pitt's career, script changes, the sexuality in the film, casting, location shooting and much more. It's pretty much an invaluable resource for those who want to know more about this particular film and this period in the history of Hammer horror.

    The Rapture Of Cruelty: Carmilla In Classic Cinema is an audio essay read by actress Madeline Smith, written by Dr. Steve Haberman. This plays out as a fifth audio track on the disc over the film and it provides a lot of information on the different adaptations of the story that have occured over the years. It runs for fifty-three minutes, after which the movie switches back to the default audio for the feature itself.

    To Love A Vampire - An Introduction By Actress Madeline Smith is a fifteen minute piece where she talks about her character, how over fifty years have passed since she made the film in a freezing cold studio, what Baker was like to work with, how surprised she was to get the part in the film without ever auditioning for it, how innocent she was at the time she made the picture and how happy she was to have lots of lines, the quality of the costumes she and Pitt were given for the picture and the reason why the film worked and remains popular to this day.

    Carnal Crimson is a nineteen minute piece with film historian/author Kim Newman wherein he goes into quite a bit of detail on the Carmilla Legend. He talks about first seeing The Vampire Lovers on TV in the seventies, how censorship standards in the UK were relaxing at the time it was made and how Hammer took advantage of this after getting a bit stale in the late sixties and how in the early seventies they started to stir things up a bit. He notes that The Vampire Lovers does look tame compared to what Franco and Rollin were doing around the same time but that it does retain a certain element of classiness. He then talks about Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla and goes over its publishing history, its influence and the many and different adaptations that have been done of the film over the years.

    Fangs For The Memories is a twenty-five minute segment in which Jonathan Rigby discusses The Vampire Lovers. Here he talks about how the film was brought to Hammer in 1969 and how the studio was excited about adapting the film, the significance of the X-certificate in the UK at the time, Hammer's deal with AIP, Roy Ward Baker's career and how he wound up directing it, why Christopher Lee didn't wind up in the film but Peter Cushing did, the importance of Ingrid Pitt's work in this film as well as Countess Dracula and The House That Dripped Blood as well as The Wicker Man, the nudity in the film and Pitt's views on it, differences between the characters of Carmilla and Dracula, and thoughts on the rest of the cast and the film overall.

    Feminine Fantastique - Resurrecting The The Vampire Lovers is a ten minute featurette that talks about the involvement of producers Harry Fine and Michael Style in getting the picture made as well as Tudor Gates' work penning the film for Hammer adapting Carmilla. There's discussion here about the film's faithfulness to the source, how it differs from the Dracula films Hammer had made, Hammer's desire to incorporate more sex into their pictures, the pros and cons of the casting of Ingrid Pitt, what Peter Cushing brought to the film, the ridiculous hotness of Madeleine Smith and the way that the film portrays lesbianism as both alluring and horrifying at the same time (very much a product of its time in that regard). John-Paul Checkett, Kim Newman, Ted Newsom, Wayne Kinsey, Eric Hoffman and David J. Skal all contribute their thoughts here and there are lots of archival stills and images used here alongside plenty of pertinent clips from the feature itself.

    New Blood: Hammer Enters The 70s - Film Historians Discuss Hammer Films During The 70s runs for just over twenty-six minutes in features input from Marcus Hearn, Jonathan Rigby, the BFI's Jo Cotting, De Montfort University's Professors Iq Hunter and Steve Chibnall and History Of Horrors author Denis Meikle. There are lots of interesting archival and promotional pictures in here and a nice trip into the archive to check out a wealth of vintage promotional materials from the film, as the participants talk Hammer's shift in direction that occur in the seventies with the release of The Vampire Lovers, how the studio took advantage of relaxing censorship restrictions, the marketing of the film and other details surrounding Hammer's history during this period.

    Madeline Smith: Vampire Lover - An Interview with Actress Madeline Smith is a twenty-one minute interview with Smith who speaks here quite candidly about playing Emma in the film. She'd been acting for two or three years when she took the role after playing a small role in Hammer's Taste The Blood Of Dracula. She notes that the script wasn't particularly explicit and that she was impressed with getting a big part in the film, AIP's involvement in the film (she describes it as an 'uneasy marriage'), how she didn't realize the film would require the nudity that it wound up asking of her, how she felt that her appearance did indeed make her a good match for the part, and how she stuffed herself with yogurt for a week before the shoot to enhance her cleavage! From there she talks about how she got along with her co-stars, acting in the film's lesbian scenes, how Roy Ward Baker 'really got some acting' out of her in the nightmare scene, going into the production as a very naí¯ve young woman and what it was like working with Peter Cushing on this film (describing him as much loved by many but a very grave individual during this particular production).

    Shout! Factory has also included the deleted scene of the opening beheading. This has not been inserted into the film as reportedly it wasn't included in the original negative and has been taken from a noticeably inferior source, though it was included in the film itself on the Anolis Blu-ray release that came out in Germany a few years ago. It's very brief and amounts to only a couple of seconds.

    Additionally, you'll find excerpts of J. Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla read by Ms. Pitt (roughly twelve minutes' worth). Finishing up the extras is a Trailers From Hell entry for the film featuring Mick Garris, the film's original theatrical trailer, a few radio spots, four different still galleries (movie stills, behind the scenes stills, theatrical posters and lobby cards) as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    This release also comes packaged with a reversible cover sleeve and a slipcover.

    The Vampire Lovers - The Final Word:

    The Vampire Lovers holds up well, a sexy, swanky tale of bloodsucking lust the makes great use of a perfect cast and some strong production values. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release is, aside from that missing snippet soon to be corrected, a really solid effort. The picture quality is excellent and there's a host of quality supplements included here as well. Highly recommended!
    Click on the images below for full sized The The Vampire Lovers Blu-ray screen caps!







































    Ian Jane
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    Last edited by Ian Jane; 01-21-2022, 06:22 PM.
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