I had a hard time getting through The Vampire Lovers. It two me about two weeks of stopping and resuming. 15 or 20 minutes before I would get bored and move on to something else. This came as a surprise to me because it was directed by Roy Ward Baker, the helmsman of A Night to Remember (1958), one of my all-time favorite movies and what I consider to be the definitive Titanic story. Nevertheless, this one plods along endlessly.
If I was straight, then I suppose the amount of female flesh and what seemed like one Lesbian vampire orgy after another would have kept me entertained. But I’m not and it didn’t. I actually did a double take on the year of this production because two women even merely kissing would have been scandalous for the day. Being a British production especially, I’m surprised it was not censored on those grounds. As it happens, Baker read the source novel and did not feel the romance was Lesbian. Rather he likened it to asexuality—meaning the vampires weren’t sexually attracted to anyone—the victims of the female vampire (Ingrid Pitt) just happened to be other women used to satisfy her bloodlust. You could have fooled me. There was enough steam to fog your TV screen.
The Vampire Lovers is a well-made movie. The production ideals are there: atmospheric sets, a microscopic amount of violence and gore, and above average acting. In fact, it’s as if Baker set out to make a horror movie while intentionally leaving out so much of the blood and killing we are used to in a Hammer film…well, except for the final scene.
Peter Cushing is limited to essentially a large cameo in his role as a general out to put an end to a vicious rule of vampires under the Karnstein Family (the same name which would come up again a year later in Twins of Evil, but there appears to be zero relation). He is aided by various actors as they meander pointlessly in and out of the story. And that’s where this sleek-looking film falls apart. The story lacks cohesion, and the pace was as slow as molasses. Maybe that’s because Baker was a caliber of director too great for the genre at this time and tried to do too much. We’ll never know. The Vampire Lovers gets a 4.5 out of 10 stars from me.