Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Vampire Ecstasy (4 Stars)

This film was originally released in 1974 as "The Devil's Plaything". I don't know the reason for the name change, but in this case I approve. The original name didn't make sense, but the film is all about vampires and ecstasy.

Two young women, Monika and Helga, are invited to a castle in Germany as the beneficiaries of the Will of Baroness Varga. Due to confusions in the lineage it isn't clear which of them is the true heir, so they have both been invited. The housekeeper and the other female servants are priestesses awaiting the rebirth of the original Baroness Varga, who was burnt at the stake 300 years ago. She was a vampire, and the new Baroness can only become a vampire if she's able to feed on the blood of a woman who is a descendant of the people who burnt her at the stake. That's a weird slant on vampire mythology, and it seems contradictory, since she only becomes a vampire after drinking the victim's blood.

Shortly after this a couple arrive whose car has broken down in the mountains, Dr. Julia Malenko and her brother Peter. The housekeeper immediately recognises them as descendants of the Baroness's killers. Julia and Peter are involved in an incestuous relationship, but Peter falls in love with Helga, making his sister jealous. Nobody gets much sleep in the castle, because every night the priestesses are dancing naked in the cellar with strangely shaped candles while tribal drums are played.

The film is a contemporary of the later Hammer Horror films, and it shows strong influences. Despite being set in the modern day (early 1970's), the castle is a gothic building similar to Dracula's castle. The scenes are brightly lit, and the women have a strong resemblance with the girls in the 1970's Hammer Horror films. The film isn't as sleazy as the cover suggests, and the nudity doesn't go much further than what we're used to from Hammer. It's an enjoyable film, despite the obscure rewriting of vampire lore.

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