Thursday, 7 May 2015

Vampire Week Day 3: Vampyres (guest review by Derek Tate)

They shared the pleasures of the flesh, and the horrors of the grave!”

Long evening shadows.  Scattered leaves blowing across Berkshire park land.  Gothic towers pictured at angles against a darkening sky, all set to bizarre electric guitar and synth music that only the zenith of 70’s exploitation cinema could bring.  And so begins this hammer-esque gothic shocker, also known as “Satan’s Daughters” and “Daughters of Dracula”.

A Spanish/British co-production of the mid-decade, the film follows a female vampire double act, played with cool sexiness and aplomb by Marianne Morris (Fran, the brunette) and ex-Playboy centrefold Anulka (Miriam, the blonde), who during the daytime share a regal bed in their gothic pile (Oakley Court, the famous Victorian mansion near Windsor and home to many a classic British horror film as well as ’Rocky Horror’s’ groovy pad) and by night, hunt down male victims for some blood drinking and lots of lurid softcore sex, of which these beauties have lots of enthusiasm for.  This seems to be very thirsty work, as our two lasses have an endless supply of wine.  One of their victims, Ted (played by Murray Brown) falls in love with Fran after being picked up on the road for a night of chat, rolling around on the covers, and lots and lots of the aforementioned red.  You have to feel sorry for the poor lad, as Fran sucks his blood after each night of passion, he grows weaker and weaker.  Meanwhile, in a nearby field, two caravaners, John (Brian Deacon) and Harriet (Sally Faulkener) watch the odd comings and goings from their window, and get increasingly concerned over their break in the country. Fran and Miriam run through eerily shot woods and graveyards, acquiring victim after victim every night, until the conquest of an un-named playboy (played by Michael Byrne) results in an orgy of ‘Kensington gore’.

This horror picture is a respectable notch on the bedpost of the sub-genre of lesbian vampire films, popular in European cinema of the early 70’s.  It follows on from such arthouse sleaze fests made by Jess Franco and Jean Rollin, and the rise of sex and cleavage shots in the later Hammer Horrors.  “Vampyres” easily tops the boobs and blood quota, firmly placing it as grindhouse classic.  What sets it apart from a lot of films of the type is the creepy atmospheric cinematography by Harry Waxman (“The Day the Earth Caught Fire”, “The Wicker Man”).  There is a definite sense of dreamlike dread contained in many of the scenes, what could easily be described as “halloweeny”.  The locale and ‘home counties’ setting really does lend the film a classic feel.  This is an enjoyable horror picture, especially for those that love a little eroticism thrown in for good measure.

The film was directed by Jose Larraz, who went onto make the 1982 horror “Black Candles”.  On the DVD commentary, his comment about sinister eyes is hilarious.  A fun way to watch the film: listen to Laraz’s thick Spanish accent, intercut with the upper class tones of producer Bryan Smedley-Aston.  By the way, it’s also worth watching the original US trailer for this feature, as it includes a fab voiceover that describes our lovely vamps: “Very un-natural…[short pause]...ladies.”

Vampyres Trailer by zombienationdotnet

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