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The Vampire Lovers – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

For a few years now, Scream Factory has become the premiere spot for cranking out the Hammer Horror catalog onto Blu-ay. Long releasing at miniscule efforts, since they’ve stepped in, both the quantity and quality of what is coming from the history of one of horror’s most legendary studios has been a relief and a joy to collect. Its even inspired other smaller distributors and studios to up their game, seeing as (duh) its a brand and catalog collector’s are wanting. Though much prior to this, and during their first year of existence, The Vampire Lovers (correct me if I’m wrong) was the first Hammer title put out by the distributor. They are now revisiting it with not only brand new featurettes and a commentary, but a 4K scan of the original negative to boot. Having done Lust for a Vampire in a Collector’s Edition recently, this now has 2/3 of the Karnstein trilogy under the Scream Factory banner. This title released on December 21st and you can order it using the paid Amazon Associates link below. There is a replacement disc program available for this release, I have provided details and a link below. 

Film

A diabolical female vampire ravages the young girls and other townsfolk of a peaceful hamlet in eighteenth century Europe in revenge for the killing of her fellow vampires years earlier. A rousing hunt for the vampiress ensues as a group of men follow her bloody trail of terror through the countryside. Adapted from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla, The Vampire Lovers stars many familiar Hammer performers in Ingrid Pitt (Countess Dracula), Madeline Smith (Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell) and Peter Cushing (Horror Of Dracula, The Curse Of Frankenstein).

While not as flashy a creature as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster or that of a Mummy or Werewolf, Carmilla and that of the Karnstein family might be one of the Hammer’s most provocative and important contributions to horror cinema during their big run. At least in its first installment, The Vampire Lovers, does it prove to make a strong case as a top film from the studio’s overall catalog. The film features an iconic launching pad for actor Ingrid Pitt with her iconic portrayal of Carmilla to go along with good haunts and tastefully done eroticism that shows every bit of confidence when approaching its lesbian territory.

There’s no getting around the biggest factor in the film – Ingrid Pitt. Her performance here as Carmilla is pretty damn outstanding, holding its own to the best of Hammer’s regular thespians throughout time in that of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Oliver Reed. She’s absolutely sexy and seductive here in the film. Pitt puts both the viewers and the other actors in the frame in such a trance like state with here diving deep into this role. There’s a vibe, a walk, a candor and power that comes with her floating in every frame and bouncing off of every performer.

Shrouding around Pitt, is your expected glorious Hammer production design with beautiful sets and costumes as well as some pretty rich gore. What helps this one along finely and to stand tall where it could have floundered, is the direction of Roy Ward Baker. Given the nudity and sexual encounters found in the film, especially being mainly female on female, the film manages to have a care and artfulness about it as opposed to the exploitative and softcore nature it could have slipped into. Some might actually see it that way, anyway, but you have a real feel of comfort from the actors and a real eye for keeping this to fit character motives and perspectives from the lens as well.

The Vampire Lovers is honestly one of the finest chapters in their wheelhouse. Its a terrific vampire story, moreso than most of the Dracula output. Roy Ward Baker’s film carries a tremendously spooky atmosphere which his casts relishes in playing in. Definitely not an overlooked piece of the Hammer roster, but one that certainly grows and continues to deserve to be found or given a second look by audiences in its 51 plus years of existence.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of The Vampire Lovers updates its transfer to a new 4K scan from the original camera negative. This is their second stab at the film on Blu-ray and one that has catapulted far ahead of the previous iteration. This is a beautiful looking transfer, improving in colors, depth and clarity with ease. They continue to make good work and improvements on Hammer’s films that get a second run on the format, and The Vampire Lovers is one of their tip top jobs.

Depth:  Here’s a great area of attention where this new transfer skyrockets over the original. This is much more spacious, roomy and 3 dimensional appearing. It has much more confident camera movements and a pushback on the backgrounds be it inside or out. Movements are smooth, cinematic and natural with no issues coming from rapid motions in the frame.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and close to natural with really nice touches on fabric and upholstery showing finer details and patterns. Shadows and darkness of course look quite lovely, and the image handles fog well, too. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors look pretty gorgeous in this transfer, with good saturation and contrast. Many of the garments and make-up touches are pretty standout. Even the greener areas and more gothic gray/brown environments looks pretty delicious in this brand new transfer.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures like make-up, wrinkles, lip texture, blemishes, stubble and more are impressively clear and discernible.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The Vampire Lovers appears to have carried over it original mono track in this new release. As far as I can tell, there are no changes. Its a good, clean mix, that really brings out some nice moments in the score and flourishes well with some nicely handled dialogue throughout the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

The Vampire Lovers – Collector’s Edition comes with a reversible cover featuring the original poster artwork.

Audio Commentary

  • With Film Historian/Author Dr. Steve Haberman And Film Historian/Filmmaker Constantine Nasr
  • With Director Roy Ward Baker, Actress Ingrid Pitt, And Screenwriter Tudor Gates
  • With Film Historians Marcus Hearn And Jonathan Rigby
  • The Rapture of Cruelty: Carmilla in Classic Cinema – Audio Essay

Carnal Crimson: Kim Newman on the Carmilla Legend (HD, 19:05) – The critic/historian goes over where the impact of Carmilla as a novel, Hammer’s utilization of it for its Karnstein trilogy and how Ingrid Pitt is the definitive cinematic portrayal of the titualar character.

Fangs for the Memories: Remembering The Vampire Lovers (HD, 24:31) – Film critic/historian Jeff Rigby gives a detailed account of the film’s production. Includes stills and such to accompany his discourse.

To Love A Vampire: An Introduction By Madeline Smith (HD, 15:53) – A little extra interview with Madeline Smith reflecting on the film and how she’s always found herself championing it and it being her finest work.

Madeline Smith: Vampire Lover (HD, 20:32)

Trailers From Hell: The Vampire Lovers (HD, 2:34)

Feminine Fantastique: Resurrecting The Vampire Lovers (HD, 9:56) 

New Blood: Hammer Enters the ’70s (HD, 26:22) 

Reading of Carmilla by Ingrid Pitt (HD, 12:05)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:19) 

Radio Spot (HD, 1:25)

Image Gallery (HD,15:05)

Deleted Scene (HD, 1:22)

Summary

There’s no question that The Vampire Lover’s – Collector’s Edition isn’t a notable a step up from the previous (Out of print) Blu-ray from many moons ago. The new transfer is excellent and we have some terrific new interviews as well as the old stuff as well. In my book, the Hammer catalog is one to collect and hang on to as you never know down the road as to when you’d find it again, as when format changes happen they can become scarce. I imagine these aren’t friendly or easy to gather in one place on streamers either. Definitely pick up this sexy, seductive little blood drinking gothic romp.

A replacement disc program is currently available for this disc. FOLLOW THIS LINK to request one. The cut of the film featured on the first pressing has an alternate edit of the iconic moment of Ingrid Pitt rising from the bathtub. 

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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