Lust for a Vampire is the second movie to fall under the Karnstein Trilogy banner, and while it is usually billed as a sequel, it is a loose one as it features none of the characters from the first film except for Carmilla Karnstein. The film stars Yutte Stensgaard, Michael Johnson, Ralph Bates, Suzanna Leigh, Pippa Steele, Helen Christie, Barbara Jefford, and Mike Raven, and takes place sometime afterwards, though no time frame is given and sees the vampiress resurrected from the dead. Here the movie takes a different turn as she does not seek to pick up where she left off in the previous film, nor is she out for revenge. The film does find her attending an all-girl preparatory school though and still looking to feed on those of the fairer sex. Yet for all of that, Carmilla even seems to find love with an author who is teaching at the school and by having her do as such, it changes how her character was portrayed in The Vampire Lovers.
In the first chapter of this story, Ingrid Pitt would play the villainess of the film, but choosing not to return, the role would go to Swedish actress Yutte Stensgaard. While she did fine in the role, the characterization given her by writer Tudor Gates would be far different than what was seen previously. Where she used to be conniving and devious, she was now meek and fairly shy. When it was called for Carmilla would still do whatever was necessary to protect her identity and to feed and Stensgaard was capable in the role, but really had very little to do except stand and look pretty and sometimes flash a little skin. What was also a minor bother was not having Pitt return. Stensgaard is a beautiful woman, which the part calls for, but she looks nothing like Ingrid Pitt and creates just a little break in the narrative if you happen to be watching the films all in a single day. To put it mildly, Pitt had teeth where Stensgaard does not, no pun intended.
Another change that this film would proffer is the slight change in tone and the difference in themes. Much of what would make the first film successful would carry over, but The Vampire Lovers seemed proud of its exploitative traits, with the amount of nudity portrayed and the lesbian predispositions of its main character. It was a horror movie cloaked in a gothic romance draped in the substance and stylings of the 1970s, yet taking place at least a hundred and fifty years before. With Lust for a Vampire, it is almost like during the time between the first movie and the second film’s production, Hammer must have gotten their hand slapped and the filmmakers wanted to distance themselves from that first Karnstein picture. Carmilla would still go on to seduce and feed on other women in the film, but with the focus off of those proclivities, and set more squarely, and on the more familiar, male lead of the picture, it changed the movie from being daring to a somewhat average vampire film. This was still a good film and would still fall under the gothic horror banner, containing both drama and romance, as well as those elements needed to make a good horror film like blood and death and even a little witchcraft for good measure, but it is missing that edge, that slight chill of fear that the first film delivered so well.
The production values were great, as they usually are on near every film Hammer has a hand in making and visually, the film was as beautiful as the women who starred in it. There were some great shots from the director of photography, David Muir, thus making it far easier for director Jimmy Sangster to deliver a solid picture. This was, sadly, one of the few horror films that Hammer would release with very little scares though, and very little suspense. There would be a little tension at times such as when Carmilla was in fear of her identity being exposed, but it would never last as she would soon make short work of the threat. The most striking scenes of the movie were saved for the beginning and the end of the film, taking place within Karnstein Castle where Carmilla would rise and eventually, fall. Lust for a Vampire is a good film, there is not anything inherently bad about it, but it could have been so much more.
3.5 out of 5