[box cover]

Daughters of Darkness: Special Edition

One of the staples of Eurotrash cinema of the 1970s was the commingling of vampirism with erotica, and somehow the relatively dull 1971 Daughters of Darkness has survived as one of the era's most notorious specimens. John Karlen (Dark Shadows) stars as Stefan, a honeymooning groom still a stranger to his wife Valerie (Danielle Ouimet), and for good reason: his fascination with sadism is not particularly becoming to most young women, and he also harbors strange secrets about his mother, whom he insists will never approve of his impulsive nuptials. Mother, however amusing, is small potatoes; as Stefan and Valerie waver over their future in a deserted Belgian luxury hotel, two more guests arrive: the 400-year-old legendary vampire Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) and her melancholy henchgirl Ilona (Andrea Rau). Finding the newlyweds "perfect" (for what, it's never clear), the Countess hatches a plan that amounts to lounging around and behaving imperiously until, finally, some incoherent nonsense takes place. Director Harry Kümel sets an adequate atmosphere of languor and decadence, but nothing much happens: Stefan gets turned on by a series of murders in nearby Brugges and works himself into a lather recounting The Countess' infamous modes of torture, shortly before whipping his new wife with a belt. But the countess and her sexy minion are almost totally impotent, with the greatest violence in the film occurring by freak accident (three times), while the rest of the narrative is punctuated by indecipherable swings of motivation, as if written by a narcoleptic screenwriter with no short-term memory. If Kümel intended his movie to rise above sleaze-level with some kind of creepy contemplation of decaying European values, it's a total failure; as sexy bloody-fanged trash, it's only of minimal interest, aside from one cool musical cue, and a couple of nice images, lacking the groovy style and depth of perversion more ably delivered by many of its contemporaries.

Blue Underground's "2-Disc Special Edition" of Daughters of Darkness is something of a misnomer. The feature (anamorphic 1.66:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) is accompanied by some fair supplemental materials on Disc One, most notably a lively commentary conversation between actor Karlen and journalist David Del Valle that manages to be more entertaining than the movie itself. On another track, Kümel discusses the movie with someone named David Gregory (probably not the NBC News White House correspondent of the same name). Kümel also revisits the primary location with co-writer/co-producer Pierre Drouot in one featurette, while both Ouimet and Rau look back at the movie in separate interview segments. Also on board are a theatrical trailer, radio spots, and a stills gallery.

Disc Two features another movie entirely, the far more entertaining 1972 vamp camp The Blood-Spattered Bride, based somewhat on the well-covered novel Camilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. The beguiling Maribel Martín stars as Susan, the virginal young bride of a smooth aristocrat (Simón Andreu) who quickly dampens his innocent wife's emergent sex drive by indulging in a few wrong moves: violently ripping her clothes, pulling her off her feet by her hair, and, apparently, forcing her to perform oral sex. In no time, the disturbed Susan is seduced instead by the lurking 200-year-old vampire Carmilla (Alexandra Bastedo), who has plagued the sadistic men of the family for centuries by compelling their abused wives to murder their deviant spouses. The Blood-Spattered Bride has all the typical problems of its ilk, most notably incoherence amplified by poor technique. For example, one would assume from the editing and continuity that Susan's wedding night rape is only a fantasy (her fully torn dress is back in one piece in the next scene), but this genre has never lent itself to exacting detail, so it's difficult to determine director Vicente Aranda's actual intent. Further, there is little accounting for Susan's resurgent giddiness over the supposedly unpleasant sex with her husband, nor his almost instantly considerate lack of sexual pursuit. Nevertheless, The Blood-Spattered Bride features some inspired moments of faux-perversion (a naked woman buried in sand with only a snorkel to keep her alive; the extreme final shot that needs a tacked-on coda to explain it), and also energetically delivers on all the genre touchstones (lurid sex, vampy lezzing, gratuitous violence) without losing track of a moderately interesting and mysterious plot with a few darkly pleasing surprises. It is presented in an occasionally blocky 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio and no extras. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

Daughters of Darkness

The Blood-Spattered Bride

Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page