Synopsis: “They share the pleasures of the flesh, and unleashed the horrors of the grave!” screamed the ads. The beautiful Marianne Morris and stunning Playboy centerfold Anulka star as bisexual seductresses who roam the English countryside with an insatiable lust for the blood of mortals as well as the succulent bodies of each other. Director José Ramón Larraz packs this landmark adult hit with chilling atmosphere, shocking bloodshed and some of the most torrid sexuality of any vampire movie in horror history.
eyelights: its setting. its atmosphere. its sexy bits.
eyesores: its thin plot. its opaque character motivations.
“Does this kind of thing excite you?”
Vampirism in cinema has long been used as a metaphor for sex, with the cloaked lover seducing an enthralled woman late in the night, penetrating her with his fangs, making her his own. Was it an expression of anxiety about female sexuality, that women could lose all control at the hands of a lover?
I’m not quite sure.
But it was subtextual, a cloak for sexuality.
By the late ’60s, early ’70s, when on-screen sex became more acceptable, if not fashionable, it was no longer a subtext; vampirism was a pretext for overt sexuality. If the vampire was to bite in the pristine neck of a beautiful woman, then he might as well bare her breast too. Perhaps even sink his teeth in.
Or drink from it.
Then came a wave of lesbian vampire films, some of which took their inspiration from the legend of Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (ex: ‘Countess Dracula‘, ‘Daughters of Darkness‘) and others from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novel ‘Carmilla’ (ex: ‘Et mourir de plaisir‘, ‘The Vampire Lovers‘).
Most of them were sexy.
But none of them match the lurid qualities of ‘Vampyres’, the 1974 motion picture by José Ramón Larraz starring Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska as two undead women terrorizing the English countryside. Holed up in an abandoned manor, they pick up men and bring them home for a sexy little party.
And a little death.
There’s really not much to the picture, truth be told: it’s pretty clear from the onset that the women are killing men, though the context isn’t properly established. In the opening, we see Fran and Miriam get shot by a shadowy figure while they’re having sex in a large manor, but we don’t know why.
Or why they’re still alive.
We also don’t know:
- Why Ted is recognized from years ago by the innkeeper, even the though he professes to have never been there.
- Why are John and Harriet camping out on the property? Can you just do that in England? Can you just drive up and camp in any deserted place?
- Why does Fran pick up Ted and not kill him like she does with the others? Does it have anything to do with the quality that made the innkeeper recognize him?
- Why don’t John and Harriet leave the property after she sees and hears all these spooky things? John dismisses everything she says, true, but why not leave if only to calm her down?
- Why is the manor still in such good shape and fully furnished if it’s deserted?
- Why doesn’t Ted ask Fran about the grotesque gash on his left arm after their first night together? And isn’t he concerned by the fact that she drinks from it each time they have sex?
- Why does Fran confront Harriet while she’s painting outside and tell her that she knew they’d find each other again? And that she’d always recognize her for the mark on her forehead (which is invisible to us)?
- Why do Fran and Miriam sleep in the manor’s basement? And why does Miriam drag Fran there one morning shouting “It’s day! It’s day!”? Is it because they’re vampires? If so, then why are they able to walk around in daylight the rest of the time?
- Why doesn’t Harriet show John where Fran and Miriam sleep when he disbelieves her?
None of these questions are answered in the picture, which depends on atmosphere and visceral thrills to keep the audience on edge. It also floods the screen with gratuitous nudity, which sort of makes sense contextually, given that Fran and Miriam lure men to the manor with the promise of sex.
What I found interesting about the on-screen sex is that it’s nearly pornographic and probably was considered as such back in the day. It’s not especially explicit, but it’s in the presentation, like when the naked women feed on a man, lapping at him and breaking to kiss each other in between.
You know, just like in porn.
(I’m not complaining – I’m just sayin’…)
Sexy bits aside, I found the picture interesting aesthetically. It’s so British, all gloomy and damp; there’s not one shot that features bright sunshine in it. Despite this, the property (which is actually Oakley Court, in Berkshire) is rather impressive with its awe-inspiring manor and grounds.
So, while ‘Vampyres’ has a jumbled narrative, it’s got atmosphere a-plenty and it can largely coast on it. It’s all a bit silly if you spend too much time thinking about it, but if you just allow it to do its thing, whatever it is, it’s enjoyable. And its pretty sexy for the genre, in a genre that already is.
Vampires + blood + sex = yum!
Date of viewing: July 24, 2017