In this Internet Age, where accessing porn is practically part of every Term and Condition that we agree to without ever reading them, it is easy to forget that it wasn’t until the late Sixties and early Seventies that bare flesh was allowable in the movies, with the groovy liberated era allowing a relaxation of film censorship with regards to nudity and sex (and graphic violence, for that matter). Most movies of this era went this route, some even obtaining a PG rating when a PG-13 or 15 rating might be applied today.
Even Hammer Films, which were always popular financially if not critically, began to follow the zeitgeist as their movies were increasingly seen as dated, and started to spice up their Frankenstein and vampire movies. Especially their vampires movies. Especially their lesbian vampire movies.
Oh Myyy! As George Takei might say. Though probably not for the same reasons as most of the rest of us.
The Seventies might not have invented the lesbian vampire trope, but it easily blossomed in this decade: THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, LEMORA, THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE, TWINS OF EVIL… But perhaps the greatest of these was 1974’s VAMPYRES (aka VAMPYRES: DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS). Surprisingly, it was not a Hammer movie, but one from Spanish director José Ramón Larraz (SYMPTOMS, BLACK CANDLES, EDGE OF THE AXE), though he utilised a British cast and locations familiar to Hammer fans.
It opens as it seemingly means to continue, on a spooky old mansion, where in one bedroom two women are rolling around, presumably looking for fresh freckles on each other. They don’t notice a gunman walk in, until it’s too late, and he kills them both…
After the credits, we come across (Oh Myyy!) travelling salesman Ted (Murray Brown, HARDCORE), driving through the British countryside who picks up nubile hitchhiker Fran (Marianne Morris, QUEEN KONG). Fran invites Ted back to her swanky place (the same mansion we saw at the start of the movie), where they drink a little wine, do a little dance, make a little love… basically, they Get Down Tonight.
Ted wakes up the next morning, alone, hungover, and too weak to leave the bedroom. Oh, and there’s a big gash on his arm (Oh Myyy!). That evening, Fran returns, this time with her BFF Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska, LISZTOMANIA). Miriam seems more mature, more cautious than Fran when welcoming Fran’s new friend into their home – but nevertheless she is willing to hop into bed with the pair of them. Just to help them warm it up, obviously.
They keep Ted around for several days, while gathering more victims, their bloodlust not showing any sympathy for these other walking entrees, later leaving their corpses in their wrecked cars, ostensibly the victims of road accidents (and rapid blood evaporation presumably, given the state of the bodies). Meanwhile, in a caravan nearby, vacationing couple John (Brian Deacon, THE KISS OF DEATH) and Harriet (Sally Faulkner, PREY) espy the weird goings on at the mansion, but while John is more interested in getting his rod out (Oh Myyy!) for fishing, Harriet wants to play Scooby Doo and investigate the women. Yeah, that’s gonna end well, Velma…
Over the years, VAMPYRES has undergone more cuts than a Jack the Ripper victim, cuts from both the story and the copious nudity and blood, leaving it a disjointed mess even in its most unexpurgated versions. The pace is slow, with the three storylines of the ladies, their prisoner Ted, and the couple not truly converging until the very end.
But unlike many modern efforts, this movie has something for nearly everyone: numerous sultry scenes of female flesh (though never getting much more explicit than some T & A), our female leads showing immense chemistry with each other (and you know what, it’s a pleasure to see natural-looking women instead of the silicone Barbie dolls we get nowadays); campy performances; amazing and creepy cinematography of the mansion (Oakley Court in Windsor, used for exterior shots for several Hammer films and later for THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, and now a luxury hotel) and the surrounding landscape; and a creepy soundtrack that adds to the doom-laden atmosphere.
Apart from the fact that we see Fran and Miriam killed at the beginning, there’s no supernatural evidence (and no special effects) to prove that they are anything other than a couple of sex- and blood-crazed nutjobs; they even walk around in the daylight, though at other times they try to avoid sunlight itself. But that doesn’t detract from some truly gruesome scenes of how they kill some of their victims, then get horned up afterwards.
The full movie is available from a number of sources, including YouTube, but if you can, find a DVD with some interesting extras, including interviews with the two female leads (they still look good, even after 40 years- maybe they are vampires?) and commentary from Larraz, who comes across as a real dirty old man, talking about the women’s, uh, attributes.
Director: José Ramón Larraz
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy: Honorary Lesbian.