Taking an idea of Johnny Alucard's a step forward, let's take a look at Hammer's fangtastic Karnstein Trilogy. Having just watched the just released Lust for a Vampire, I felt compelled to expand upon Johnny's format. Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy took author Sheridan Le Fanu's character Carmilla and created around her a series of films of great style, titillation and action. These films were made towards the end of Hammer's reign as horror's pre-eminent force in film, at a time where they were experimenting with competing with the ballooning sexploitation film industry. More and more skin was being sold on screen in the late '60s and '70s, and Hammer tried to stay in step by not only creating stories that centered around sexual themes, but also in revealing more of their heroines and villainesses skin; remarkably, they managed to retain the now famous, virtually patented gothic Hammer atmosphere and engaging storytelling while doing so. Let's take a look... Unfortunately, in all "favorites" lists, there has to be a loser. My least favorite (I hate saying that) of the Karnstein Trilogy is Lust for a Vampire, which places a descendant of Carmilla in a girls boarding school (WOO HOO ). While a good looking film, with good sets, a fine pace, and other good production values, it just doesn't have a very fleshed out (heh) story, and the dialogue isn't exactly memorable. The acting, by all parties, is decent, but nothing remarkable. Lust for a Vampire does however host bevy of frolicking, often scantilly clad, touchy feely females that make up for the script's shortcomings very nicely. It also introduces Yutte Stensgard as Mircalla. What can I say? Not the best actress in the world, but damn, she sure gave her all for this film (or showed it anyway )! SPOILER ALERT (I suppose); Her reserection, er, resurrection scene is by far one of my favorite shots in all of film history. It's not a long scene, and not a sequence at all really, rather just a quick shot of her rising, but it is just classic (pic follows). She also has some great touchy feely moments with the girls. It kind of breaks the moment though when the camera zooms in on her eyes for a Sergio Leone-esque close-up... and she goes all cross eyed. Hilarious. Still quite recommended, it gets beat out by the other two films more on the strengths of those two rather than the weaknesses here. Anchor Bay has just released Lust for a Vampire on dvd, and while the transfer is a touch light, I heartily endorse the release, and urge all of you to run out right now and get the damned thing if you haven't already. Just be sure to return and read the rest of my post. For my second favorite, Ingrid Pitt gives a classic tragic portrayal as Carmilla Karnstein in The Vampire Lovers, bringing up in the viewer a sense of sympathy rather than of repulsion; very much as Frankenstein's creature traditionally does. I think Ingrid's performance in The Vampire Lovers is clearly the best acting of the antagonists in the series. Lovers also has great traditional Hammer atmosphere, and a good story. Lovers does tend to be slow at times, and this is partially why I place the film second. The main reason I place Lovers second however, is because of the strengths of my favorite movie in the series... The big winner is Twins of Evil. If Ingrid Pitt's performance in Vampire Lovers was the best of the series antagonists, clearly, unequivocally, the best performance of the protagonists is by Peter Cushing in Twins of Evil. Yes, Peter is in Vampire Lovers as well, but here the man just shines as the divinely possessed, madly righteous witchfinder Gustov Weil. His performance speaks volumes about the nature of the "us vs. them" theme; boldly, unapologetically questioning the justification of the morally right. It could very well be argued that Gustov Weil is as much an antagonist in the series as are the fang wielding, Satan loving Karnsteins. And, speaking of the Karnsteins, Damien Thomas turns in a terrific performance of his own as the opportunistic, sinister Count Karnstein. He is mortal, and grows weary of this worlds meager pleasures, and so seeks new, unnatural experiences. Good thing he's a Karnstein, as his ancestry presents for him the perfect opportunity to indulge in such endeavors. Enter, the Gelhorn sisters, Frieda and Maria. Played by first time twin Playboy playmates Mary and Madeleine Collinson, the twins bring to the film a sensuality and innocent-charm-turned-diabolism element that has enamored me to them and the film since the moment I first saw them roll onscreen in their carriage. They were a couple of hot l'il tarts for sure! Some - well, okay, a lot of - criticism has been directed towards Twins of Evil for the twins lack of acting ability, and it's never left out that their voices were dubbed. But who cares?! The Collinsons rock, if for nothing else, for eye candy - but I personally think their performance takes nothing away from the film, and is quite believable. As for the rest of the production, the atmosphere is truly classic Hammer, the sets are great, the action sequences are excellently executed (the opening pre-credit sequence is one of my all time favorites of any), the story and dialogue is well done, and the pace is dead on. Finally, as in all the Karnstein movies, much lingerie, bare skin and lusty bodily gropings and bitings abound... lesbian themes included, naturally . It is an unfortunate shame that Twins of Evil is not yet on dvd, nor do I believe that it is currently available on video. If you have not yet seen Twins of Evil, I urge you to seek out an old video copy or laser disc at least for the time being... and also to get the October 1970 issue of Playboy. There you have it, or my take on it anyway. Please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on these films, or responses to mine... and certainly post pics if you so feel the need. *Vampire Lovers, currently available on MGM video, is due out on dvd in 2002. *Sheridan Le Fanu's original story, "Carmilla", can be read here.