The Sexy Side Of UK Horror - The Vampire Lovers (1970)
These films turned both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing into international icons.
As the decades passed, the market for campy horror began to fade and the studio found itself making their films racier and racier in an attempt to keep up with the times and lure more people into movie theater seats. These more erotic takes on classic horror themes, proved initially profitable, but ultimately lead to the studios demise. Seems that movie goers of the time preferred a good fright to naked women.
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In 2009 Marcus Hearn cast a spotlight on the unsung heroines of these now iconic horror films in his book, "Hammer Glamour."
The cover of the book features a rather titular photograph of on of the most infamous of these UK scream queens, Madeline Smith, who's most iconic role was as lesbian blood sucker (yes, I said 'blood sucker') in the 1970 film, "The Vampire Lovers."
Tim Masters of the BBC caught up with Smith and interviewed her about time in from of the camera for Hammer.
Here are some excerpts from that interview:
That's a striking front cover photograph - what do you remember about it?
What I remember is hating that dress. I thought, 'I can't wear that - what on earth am I going to wear under it?'
I have no idea where we were, on a set or a commercial, it certainly wasn't a Hammer film. I remember being photographed in that, and I remember pulling these terrible expressions.
I used to get rung up from time to time by these photographers. Mostly they came along and took photographs of me on my bed in my bedroom.
What's your earliest memory of Hammer?
I had secretly yearned to be in one of these horror films, but because I was so innocent, gormless and untried in every sense I had no idea what a bordello scene was, or why I was in that extraordinary little outfit... but I knew how to pull gormless faces.
Shortly after, I was given the part in The Vampire Lovers.
The Vampire Lovers was a much more adult direction for Hammer in 1970...
I have to remind you of my previous remark about being completely gormless and innocent - we've only moved on about three months.
I got a very worried phone call from the producer who said he was concerned about my lack of bosom. He said 'we like you a lot, but we don't think you are voluptuous enough'.
I reassured him, and then I scuttled off to Hornby and Clarke dairy round the corner and I bought every yogurt I could find and stuffed myself like you might fatten cattle, and it worked!
As you see [motions to book cover], need I say more?
Looking back at films like The Vampire Lovers, do you feel you were exploited?
I was a very willing exploitee - I didn't mind at all. My main point of existence is to make people laugh and I was able to use those bosoms later for comedy, I was the foil in a lot of comedy shows and sketches and I have absolutely no regret about being 'sexploited'.
Others I know take against it. I didn't mind looking womanly, that's not ever been concern of mine - but it is for others, and good for them.
Did you get much fan reaction when the films came out?
There was no great marketing machine or PR in those days. You did your photo session, but there were no videos or DVDs in those days. Your fan base was actually very small.
A lot of these films crept out with no premiere and because Hammer was very, very, very low budget there were no first nights. It's really TV that's brought about my fan base. It's wonderful - I'm ancient now and I've got far more fans and far more mail than I ever had.
In Styria, Austria, General von Spielsdorf gives a party and a countess explains to him that she needs to travel immediately to visit a relative that is ill. She leaves her daughter Marcilla under the care of the General. Marcilla befriends his daughter Laura and then the teenager has nightmares, where she is attacked by a dreadful creature. The doctor finds that Laura is anemic and soon she dies. Marcilla leaves the house and the countess fakes a carriage accident to leave Marcilla, now known as Carmilla, with the wealthy Mr. Roger Morton. Camilla befriends Emma Morton and soon she starts having nightmares. Her governess Madame Perrodot is seduced by Carmilla and helps her to be close to Emma. Mr. Morton travels and the butler Renton and the doctor suspect that Madame Perrodot might be a vampire but they do not suspect of Carmilla. Will Emma be saved from Carmilla?
James Carreras rejected a suggestion that Bond girl Shirley Eaton play the lead on the grounds that she was too old. Ingrid Pitt, actually older than Eaton, was eventually cast.
This film was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America due to the vampire bites inflicted on the women's bosoms.
The role of the Man in Black was offered to Christopher Lee but he declined the role and John Forbes-Robertson was cast instead. Forbes-Robertson would also later replace Lee in Hammer's The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974).
While filming, Ingrid Pitt and the girls have a great deal of trouble getting through scenes without giggling. In the scene where Ingrid has to drink from Kate O'Mara, her vampire teeth kept falling out and into Kate's cleavage. She eventually had to steal some gum from one of the stagehands to stick the fangs back in.