Saturday, October 31, 2009


Despite the title, this is not a vampire film, but instead a re-telling of the legend of the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who tortured and killed dozens (some say hundreds) of young women, supposedly because she could bathe in the blood of virgins and stay unnaturally young. Here, Ingrid Pitt is an aging countess who has just been left a widow. The Count's will has left the estate to Pitt and their daughter (Lesley Anne Down), left the horses and stables to a hunky lieutenant (Sandor Eles, pictured), the library and its contents to a historian (Maurice Denham), and some old army uniforms to the castle steward (Nigel Green), who also happens to be Pitt's lover. No one is terribly happy with these arrangements, but an interesting melodrama about class and gender conflict is short-circuited when Pitt discovers, totally by accident, that the blood of virgins makes her look 30 years younger. She has Down kidnapped, poses as her own daughter, and strikes up an affair with Eles, which pisses off Green, even though he agrees to help her procure virgin sacrifices. The problem is that the effect wears off suddenly, with no warning, and her old self looks more and more ravaged each time. Denham gets suspicious, Green gets jealous, and Down eventually gets out of her captivity just as Eles is about to marry Pitt, leading to an ending which is a little too abrupt, but satisfying in a gothic fairy tale way. Pitt is good, and I found her old-age makeup to be quite convincing (though not all critics see it that way). The acting all around is a notch above par for a Hammer B-film, though the lovely Down doesn't get to do much except struggle with her captors, escape, and get caught so she can go through it all over again. The blood and gore is minimal, and the most shocking scene is early one, when Pitt's carriage runs over and kills a peasant begging for work. [DVD]

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