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Ephemera from the Hammer Films’ Lesbian Vampire Karnstein Trilogy

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Twenty five years before Bram Stoker introduced Dracula to the world, the Irish writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu published his gothic vampire novella “Carmilla”. First published in the magazine The Dark Blue and then in the author’s collection of short stories In a Glass Darkly the following year. It told the story of a young woman Laura who was particularly susceptible to the close attentions of a female vampire called Carmilla. Although, as you would expect from something written in the Victorian era, Carmilla’s sexuality is treated with the typical restrained manner of the time it’s obvious that it is a lesbian attraction between the vampire and Laura the narrator of the story.

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever. (“Carmilla”, Chapter 4).

Sheridan Le Fanu's novella was first published in 1871.

Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella was first published in 1871.

Although of course, as far as the film world is concerned, Carmilla was as never as popular and as famous as Bram Stoker’s vampire novel, there have been a series of gothic vampire films based on Le Fanu’s novella including Blood and Roses by Roger Vadim and Crypt of the Vampire by Camillo Mastrocinque (using his Thomas Miller alias). Notably, however, Carmilla influenced The Karnstein Trilogy of vampire films were produced by Hammer in the early seventies. All three movies were scripted by Tudor Gates (he co-wrote Barbarella). At the end of the sixties Hammer films were on the brink of bankruptcy and were in desperate need of a hit. Vampire Lovers starring Ingrid Pitt and featuring relatively subtle nudity and lesbianism was a worldwide success and it essentially saved the studio.

After the success of The Vampire Lovers, Hammer wasted no time in putting together a hastily and loosely related sequel into production. Ingrid Pitt this time turned down the lead role (she made Countess Dracula instead) and the part of Carmilla went to the Danish actress Yutte Stensgaard.
Twins of Evil, also made in 1971 (the three films were made within 12 months of each other), starred the notorious Collinson twins who had been the first identical twins to appear together in the October 1971 edition of Playboy magazine. Although this film’s plot has no real connection to Le Fanu’s novella it was still based around Karnstein Castle albeit in the 1400s.
Vampire Lovers, the first of the trilogy released in 1971.

Vampire Lovers, the first of the trilogy released in 1971.

 

A spanish poster for Vampire Lovers

A spanish poster for Vampire Lovers

 

Vampire Lovers lobby card featuring Madeleine Smith and Kate O'Mara

Vampire Lovers lobby card featuring Madeleine Smith and Kate O’Mara

 

Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt on set of Vampire Lovers

Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt on set of Vampire Lovers

 

Cast shot of the Vampire Lovers

Cast shot of the Vampire Lovers

 

German Lobby Card for Vampire Lovers

German Lobby Card for Vampire Lovers

 

Kate O'Mara signed publicity still from Vampire Lovers

Kate O’Mara signed publicity still from Vampire Lovers

 

Vampire Lovers poster

Vampire Lovers poster

 

Kate O'Mara and Madeleine Smith still - Vampire Lovers

Kate O’Mara and Madeleine Smith still – Vampire Lovers

 

Ingrid Pitt Vampire Lovers publicity still

Ingrid Pitt Vampire Lovers publicity still

 

Lust for a Vampire poster (1971)

Lust for a Vampire poster (1971)

 

Publicity still for Lust for a Vampire featuring Yutte Stensgaard and Suzannah Leigh

Publicity still for Lust for a Vampire featuring Yutte Stensgaard and Suzannah Leigh

 

Jimmy Sangster directing Lust for a Vampire (1971)

Jimmy Sangster directing Lust for a Vampire (1971)

 

Novelisation of Lust for a Vampire

Novelisation of Lust for a Vampire

 

Lust for a Vampire poster (French and Dutch?)

Lust for a Vampire poster (French and Dutch?)

 

Publicity still for Lust for a Vampire

Publicity still for Lust for a Vampire

 

Behind the scenes still for Lust for a Vampire

Behind the scenes still for Lust for a Vampire.

Twins of Evil (1971) poster

Twins of Evil (1971) poster

 

Mary and Madeleine Collinson in Twins of Evil

Mary and Madeleine Collinson in Twins of Evil

 

Twins of Evil poster

Twins of Evil poster

 

Damien Thomas, Madeleine Collinson, and Luan Peters in Twins of Evil

Damien Thomas, Madeleine Collinson, and Luan Peters in Twins of Evil

 

Spanish poster for Twins of Evil

Spanish poster for Twins of Evil

 

Peter Cushing Damien Thomas Mary and Madeleine Collinson Dennis Price 'TWINS OF EVIL' 1971 Directed by John Hough

Peter Cushing Damien Thomas Mary and Madeleine Collinson Dennis Price ‘TWINS OF EVIL’ 1971 Directed by John Hough