Annette Vadim as Carmilla
Annette Vadim as Carmilla in Et Mourir de Plaisir. (Paramount/Media Target)

A Tale of Two Carmillas- Part 1: Et Mourir de Plaisir (Blood and Roses, 1960)

An analysis of two film adaptions of the gothic vampire novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu.

Predating Dracula, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) has continued to provide inspiration for many vampire films and has spawned various adaptions.

It is a short story set in 19th century Styria about a young woman called Laura who becomes close friends with her mysterious houseguest Carmilla. Around this time Laura begins to have strange nightmares and her health starts to decline. Carmilla is later revealed to be the vampire Countess Millarca Karnstein by General Spielsdorf, whose niece Bertha was suffering the same symptoms. The vampire is subsequently staked by vampire expert Baron Vordenburg- yet it is implied that Laura never recovers from her encounter.

Recently, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla has been given an interesting new reimagining in the Youtube series Carmilla (2014), which sees the action transported to a modern day university.

This two part series will analyse two very different earlier adaptions of the source material- Et Mourir de Plaisir (And to die of pleasure, 1960) and Hammer Horror’s The Vampire Lovers (1970). First, we will look at Et Mourir de Plaisir– directed by Roger Vadim (Barbarella) and starring his then wife, Annette Vadim as Carmilla.

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What You Can’t See Can Hurt You!

Introducing four of the best British psychological horror films from the early 60s- The Innocents, The Haunting, 80,000 Suspects and Repulsion.

……from Professor Spool’s archive

At Halloween most television and cinema schedules will be dominated by the usual ‘scary suspects’ – Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves, Freddie, Jason and maybe even a Mummy. Such horror creations are so readily visible on the screen whether they are steeped in folklore like vampires or based on real life Jack the Ripper type serial killers.

In concentrating on these overt, bloody and often very gruesome depictions, schedulers frequently overlook the primal basis of all horror – fear itself.  The very fear that lurks deep in our psyche and that can manifest itself in so many different ways.  One such manifestation is that which is unseen – you may be able to sense danger, your sub-conscious may play tricks on you, the sounds you hear  may add to the dread and foreboding that occupy your thoughts.  What you can’t see can hurt you – it can produce irrational behaviour, questions our very sanity and understanding of what is real or a figment of our fevered imagination.      

Let me now recommend four fine celluloid examples that are immersed in the very atmospheric fear I have just described.  This quartet of black and white ‘mind-chillers’ were all made in Britain in the early sixties.

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Department S titles

Department S (1969, UK)

Why do all the passengers from an airline go missing mid-flight? How does a food critic wind up in the middle of a desert after a night at the opera? Why has the ground floor of a stately home, found to contain a mentally handicapped young man and the dead body of a woman, been constructed inside an old warehouse? These are just some of the unsolved mysteries- ranging from the believable to the outright bizarre that British 1960s TV series Department S throws at you in its gripping opening title sequences.

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Akihiro Miwa as The Black Lizard
Glamorous female impersonator and famous Japanese singer Akihiro Miwa stars as Femme Fatale thief Black Lizard.
(Shochiku Eiga/Cinevista)

Black Lizard (1968, Japan)

An effortlessly stylish, twisty and entertaining gothic suspense. This kitsch avant-garde masterpiece from Japanese auteur Kinji Fukasaku, starring female impersonator Akihiro Miwa, has to be seen to be believed!

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