Lust for a Vampire (1971)

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Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Starring Michael Johnson and Yutte Stensgaard, and some other people you neither know nor care about

BMM Keywords: So bad it hurts, gratuitous sex, heaving bosoms, strange love.

    A girl is taken into a carriage by a group of black-clad weirdoes (you'd think the village girls of Transylvania, or in this case Styria, would learn), and her blood is used to resurrect a chesty vampiress.

    Itinerant nobleman and author at large, Lestrange (Johnson), turns up in the village, poo-poos the warnings and visits Castle Karnstein, where he is menaced by three random bints from the nearby Miss Simpson's school for random bints, where respectable girls learn to be random Hammer softcore horror-porn bints in floaty dresses. Blagging a job as an English teacher, Lestrange oils his way about the grounds, makking on new girl Mircalla (Stensgaard) while the Gym teacher shoots him dewy-eyed glances, and all in all, pretty much everyone fails to notice that folks are disappearing.

    A parade of hapless victims fling themselves onto Mircalla's waiting fangs, including Lestrange, whom - sadly, since he's an irritating, oily twerp - she doesn't kill; just shags to the accompaniment of the horrifying 'Strange Love'. To cover things up, Mircalla's equally chesty aunt arrives with her trusty 'doctor', ever eager to diagnose 'a heart attack', or bump off a nosy policeman.

    Then a bishop arrives and they burn down the castle, and Mircalla takes a falling roof-beam through the cleavage.

What's wrong with it?

    In addition to the usual flaws of Hammer horrors - bright red paint for blood, gratuitously plunging necklines, naff dialogue - this film brings us a bevy of new complaints. The necklines don't so much plunge as hurl themselves over the brink, crashing in a suicidal mania to the floor and leaving many a breast bared, but all in a strangely unerotic way. The lesbian issue is played up, but in a really weird and coy fashion that baffles more than titillates. The sex scenes represent Hammer's brief and misguided foray into the realms of actual softcore porno, but at the same time that it's too shallow, plotless and insipid to be good drama, it doesn't work as porn either.
    The dialogue is even worse than usual, and there aren't even any decent actors. I mean, sure, we usually give up on the male lead in Hammer horror straight off the bat, but the Doctor is so clearly a cheap Christopher Lee knockoff that it's pathetic to behold. The supporting cast of assorted cretins is not much to write home about, and while Yutte Stensgaard may be easy on the eye, she's not exactly much of an actress. I dunno; maybe she's better in Danish. Also, all of the characters are either lecherous morons or vacuous zombies in frocks, so it's really hard to feel sympathy for any one of them.
    And then there's the song.
    Oh God. Nothing I say can possibly prepare you for the song.

What's right with it?

    Not much really. Some of the girls are nice to look at, but that's about it.
    I suppose at least the vampires are pretty boss: sunlight doesn't work, nor does fire. You have to stake or decapitate these bad boys; no crawling through a hedge to end this one.

How bad is it really?

    Lust for a Vampire set a new standard for bad cheesy horror movies. It is vitally important for those who have seen the likes of Dracula, Brides of same, or Twins of Evil, to realise that this is a whole order of magnitude worse. It's not quite Zoltan Hound of Dracula, but it's close.

Best bit?

What's up with...?


Production values - It's a Hammer horror film, with all the production values that entails. Plus it was made at a time when they evidently felt the need to drum up takings by adding a few extra inches to a few extra cleavages, so that lowers expectations along with the budget and the necklines. The blood is red paint, and the flashbacks (usually to what happened a few minutes ago) have a really bad filter on them. 15

Dialogue and performances - Almost universally terrible. The doctor delivers 'a heart attack' with some aplomb, but even when the actors manage to scrape up some energy, the dialogue is flat and horrible. 18

Plot and execution - Cheesy bisexual vampire in a girl's school. Shag, kill, shag, kill, kill, shag, shag, Strange Love, kill, shag, kill, stake, The End. That's pretty much the plot. 20

Randomness - The vampcam, the Greco-Roman cheesecake, the girls school in the mountains right next to the evil castle where young girls get eaten by vampires. And of course, the strange, strange love. 16

Waste of Potential - This was never going to be much of a film with the concept it has, but frankly it still could have been a thousand times better than it ended up. Just for starter, it's 'based' on Sheridan le Fanu's Carmilla, and is not just worse than that, but also worse than either of the other two crappy Hammer Horrors 'based' on the same short story. 12

Overall 81%


Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)

aka, Dracula's Dog (I shit ye not my friends)

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There's more to the legend than meets...the throat!

Directed by Albert Band
Starring Michael Pataki

BMM Keywords: So bad it hurts, dull.

    When Russian soldiers accidentally rouse Dracula's seneschal, and his angry pooch, Zoltan the vampire dog, set out for the USA, to track down the Count's last living descendent, whose blood is needed for his resurrection. A police officer from Romania also travels to America, in order to warn the unsuspecting Michael Drake (Pataki) of his peril. Drake is on a caravanning holiday with his wife, children and two Alsatians.

    What follows, is 90 minutes of abject boredom, as Zoltan - a big, mean-looking Doberman - bites one dog after another, creating a veritable army of rather unconvincing vampire dogs. Finally, all are destroyed except the mewling vampire puppy, which crawls about over the end credits like he thinks he's getting a rerun.

What's wrong with it?

    Fundamentally: Nothing happens. I think one person may be bitten in the whole film. The rest is a series of shots of the Drake family searching for their missing pets, and Zoltan giving other dogs hickeys.

What's right with it?

    Not a damn thing.

How bad is it really?

    Zoltan belongs to a class of seventies horror movie that set new heights in terror: The modern day fashion horror. In these films, there were always lots of horrible trousers, and nothing much happened beyond someone getting killed or laid every fifteen minutes. Unless you count the dogs, there isn't that much happening in Zoltan, but there are plenty of terrifying fashion mistakes.
    Zoltan is a staggeringly bad piece of film-making, that fails even to raise the unintentional chuckles of Lust for a Vampire.

Best bit?

    Don't make me hurt you.

What's up with...?


Production values - Well, the vampire dogs are occasionally spray-painted grey, and have glowing eyes. There's also a little red-paint blood, but not much. 16

Dialogue and performances - Difficult to say, given that most of the characters are dogs, but pretty awful. Even the dogs don't really convince, and their motivation is basically: "You're a dog". 17

Plot and execution - Big yawn. Sort of 'dog bites dog; and then another dog'. No tension, no scares, no horror; no interest. 20

Randomness - Not much, aside from the dog. The film really doesn't have enough ideas to even aspire to randomness. 8

Waste of potential - There might be some mileage somewhere in Dracula's attack dog, but one can't hold out too much hope. Nonetheless, there must have been a better film in it than this pile of pants. 12

Overall 73%


Vampire Circus (1971)

Human fangs ripping throats - no sawdust can soak up the torrent of blood!

Directed by Robert Young
Starring Adrienne Corri,

BMM Keywords: So bad it's good, gratuitous sex (mild, but very gratuitous), cruel and unusual clothing, heaving bosoms, really stupid characters.

    In 19th-century Serbia, the vampire Count Mittenhaus preys on the children of his peasants, lured to him by the village schoolmaster's wife, Anna. But the schoolmaster finds out, and after a brief debate on the feudal implications of marching on the count's castle with pitchforks and torches, they do exactly that, and after a nasty brawl in which the villagers roundly prove their incompetence (one going so far as to stake the Count in the groin - ouchy, but not good enough) he gets the traditional stake to the heart, his castle is set on fire, and his accomplice is beaten with sticks and thrown into the castle to burn. With his last breath, the Count promises that his killers and their children will all die, and he will rise again, instructing Anna to find his cousin Emil with the Circus of Nights, who will know what to do.

    Fifteen years later, it seems as though the curse has struck, as a plague sweeps through the town. The doctor rides to the capital for help, running the roadblocks set up by paranoid neighbouring villages, just as a mysterious circus arrives in town.

    So much for plot. There then follows a series of circus acts which should probably have sent any self-respecting, plague-stricken, superstitious 19th century villagers into a blood-crazed rampage of carnage and stake burning - including a sort of interpretative dance number, a panther that turns into a man, and two acrobats who turn into just pain bats. But no, not a hair on their heads is harmed until after the burgomaster's daughter has been seduced, two small boys exsanguinated, and a family mutilated by the rampaging panther. Then the interpretative dancers show up dead, the schoolmaster's daughter is kidnapped by the circus leader (Corri, playing the girl's own long-absent mother, natch) and her father and rather effete boyfriend must race to the rescue before one of the vampires remembers to pull the stake out and the Count rises again.

What's wrong with it?

    This is another lateish Hammer in the vein (drum roll; cymbal crash) of Lust for a Vampire, and suffers from most of the same problems (although not, thank god, from the Strange Love). The heroes and heroines are all such a bunch of drips that you'd root for the villains if only they were much better. As it is, Emil spends his whole time swaning around in a puffy red shirt and tight black pants that make him look like a waiter in a particularly naff tapas bar, and with a perpetually stoned look on his face. And the victims are so mind-numbingly stupid that its hard to really give a damn.

What's right with it?

    Well, it has more of a plot than many, although it gets a little lost in the later phases. As with most Hammer horrors, some of the victims and vampires are pretty to look at, if only you could get around how damned vapid they all are.

How bad is it really?

    It's certainly the best of this lot here, and watched with friends can be quite a laugh. Just don't expect too much.

Best bit?

    Without question, the dénouement, where the floppy-fringed hero wards off the revitalised Count by using a crossbow as a crucifix, then puts the bow over his head and fires it, decapitating the Count with the bow string. Adaptation; improvisation. 
    Better than killing Dracula by tricking him into crawling through a hawthorn bush anyway.

What's up with?


Production values - Well, the jump-cut man-into-panther and tumbler-into-badly superimposed bat are almost forgivable for the time, but they go and ruin it all with two things. Firstly, a very slickly done cut from Emil's boots to the panther's feet as he goes upstairs to maul a bunch of boarding students by way of a distraction, thus showing they could have done better; and secondly, the stuffed panther attack, as a family are mauled to death by an obvious stuffed toy. 14

Dialogue and performances - A fairly drippy ensemble, without a decent ham among them. The dialogue is largely forgettable, but not wincingly bad. 16

Plot and execution - Uneven to say the least. What starts off as a pretty sturdy revenge and resurrection deal becomes mired in the carnival of bizarreness, and ends in a stock bloodbath. 12

Randomness - The interpretative dance routine is pretty random, even if we aren't supposed to accept it as a 19th century Serbian original. Other than that, it's mostly strange, but valid. 8

Waste of Potential - Aside from the fraying of plot and atmosphere towards the end of the film, the material is pretty much given its due. 5

Overall 55%