If the past Hammer films seem bloody but chaste to you, by 1970 these films made the leap to the Karnestein Trilogy, replete nudity, sex and lesbianism. Offshoots — outright rip-offs is too mean — of the story of Carmilla, blame American-International Pictures, who wanted more explicit content to take advantage of the relaxed morals of the time.
We start in Styria, where a gorgeous blonde in just a nightgown (Kristen Lindholm, who is in all three of the trilogy) shows up in a graveyard where she’s decapitated by Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer, Nayland Smith in the British Fu Manchu movies), a vampire destroying man out to kill every bloodsucker for what they did to his sister.
Years later, Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt!) comes to stay in the home of distant relative General Spielsdor (Peter Cushing). She soon causes nightmares for his niece Laura (Pippa Steel, who sadly died from cancer way too young at 44) and a gradual illness that claims her life.
Now known as Carmilla, Pitt continues seducing women like Madeline Smith from Theatre of Blood and sucking blood directly from their hearts. She’s helped by Governess Mademoiselle Perrodot (Kate O’Mara, who played Joan Collins’ sister on Dynasty, which is casting I approve of) and kills everyone who suspects them as an unexplained man in black watches.
Finally, the General and Baron trap her in her castle and lop off her head, because all this murder — and probably the fact that she was stealing so many wives — is too much for them to take. That’s when they learn that her true name is Countess Mircalla Karnstein and the portrait on the wall is no longer a gorgeous woman, but a fanged skull.
Look for vampire actor Ferdy Mayne as a doctor. He played Count von Krolock in The Fearless Vampire Killers, Dracula in Freddie Francis’ The Vampire Happening and, of course, God in Night Train to Terror.
This film — that dares you to taste the deadly passion of the blood-nymphs — was directed by Roy Ward Baker, who Scars of Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde, Asylum, The Vault of Horror and The Monster Club.
You can watch this on YouTube and Shudder.