Thursday, June 21, 2012

Daughters of Darkness

DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (1971)

Directed by Harry Kumel
Starring: Delphine Seyrig, John Carlan, Danielle Ouimet and Andrea Rau

This is a fantastic vampire film. I daresay one of the best ever made, and yet it only has a small cast and minimal set locations. Additionally you see no fangs, and they do not sleep in coffins.

Delphine Seyrig is one of the most beautiful vampires, albeit lesbian vampires to ever grace the screen, and she channels a seductive yet undead Marlene Dietrich to perfection that blows all other renditions of Countess Bathory, dare I say all other  lesbian vampires before or after out of the water.

On posting this review, I had seen this film numerous times, due to owning it on dvd, but this was the first time I watched it with the audio commentary on, presented by actor John Carlan, who played the sexual sadist Stefan (and also played Willie Loomis in Dark Shadows), and journalist David Del Valle.  

The "happy" newlywed couple
The film begins on a train (which in the commentary Carlan says is the Orient Express) with newlywed couple Stefan and Valerie. We soon find out that the courtship was not very long, and it seems that Stefan has some dark secrets of his own, and seems to become growlingly hesitant to introduce his new bride to his "mother".

The train journey ends and the couple arrive at a beautiful hotel in Ostend, Belgium that is practically deserted because it is off season. They get the Royal Suite and virtually have the run of the place, that is until the sun sets and Countess Elizabeth Bathory arrives with her consort Illona in her vintage Bristol.

Countess Bathory
Illona has grown bored with Elizabeth's company along with eternal life and threatens to leave (once more) until they both spy the newlyweds eating alone in the restaurant. Bathory discovers that they are occupying her favourite room, the Royal Suite. 

The ageing concierge, who swears he remembers Bathory from when he was a bellhop decades past (which he realises is true when she says his name without him giving it first) promises the Countess that they are leaving on the morrow and the room will be hers. Bathory states that the adjoining suite to theirs will be good enough.


The seductive Illona.
Bathory's "secretary".
Well the couple don't leave, and Bathory's vampiric intrusion in their lives brings out a sadistic sadism in Stefan, along with his fascination of death that leads the couple into a downward spiral of doom. 

Bathory, on becoming enamoured with Valerie, tasks Illona to seduce Stefan after he beats Valerie senseless with the belt of his trousers and she attempts to flee on the train.


But it's not Stefan who stops her, but Bathory. After a successful seduction from Illona, Stefan showers in his bathroom, his thoughts no longer on his runaway bride (journalist Del Ville had a theory that Stefan would have killed Valerie soon enough) he drags Illona into the shower, not realising that running water is a weakness to vampires (nor is she a vampire), which along with Bathory, Illona is also. She struggles with Stefan, and falling over in the bathroom impales herself on his shaving razor, effectively staking herself in the heart.

Stefan's sadism starts to emerge
 Valerie arrives first and is not too impressed with this scene of events. Bathory seems more composed (and perhaps relieved) and helps them dispose of the body. 


I should mention that a detective has been shadowing both Bathory and Stefan this whole time (mostly Bathory), whom over time I believe he has tracked and realised is the source of the killing in the area over the last few decades. 


Bathory sinking her fangs into Valerie
He first makes himself known to Stefan, who is captivated by a murder in Bruuge, and much to Valerie's shock seems sexually aroused by the murder victim's body as she is wheeled out to the ambulance. 


As this happens the detective gives a rather graphic tale to Stefan of her murder, which is another catalyst to his sexual sadism within this film. 


I can safely say that all of the characters in this film are immoral to some degree, whether sadists or masachists, and the Countess with her centuries of experience in cruelty and manipulation is able to control every single one of them.

An iconic shot of the film
After the beachside burial of Illona's corpse, Bathory wastes no time sinking her fangs into Valerie all the way (and disposing of the detective by running him over with her car), by having her sleep in her room for the night, which isn't hard due to Stefan's adultery and role in Illona's murder. That night Bathory has sex and vamprizes Valerie, making her a consort to replace the wearied and lamented Illona.

Initially Bathory hopes that her hold over Valerie will transfer to Stefan, so he tags along as part of the entourage, but he has had enough, which seals his doom. After a failed suffocation with a glass fruit bowl, it snaps in two during the struggle to sever his veins at the wrists where the two vampires immediately begin to feast. They wrap his body up and dump it over the balcony near the Bristol, and miles down the road casually dump the corpse in a swamp.

Death of the Blood Countess
The sunrise is nigh, and Bathory pleads for Valerie to step on the gas. She talks of all the wonders and bloodthirsty delights they will experience together when the sun strikes them both causing Valerie to lose control of the wheel and hit a tree. 

Not wearing a seatbelt, Bathory flies through the windscreen and is summarily staked through the heart Vlad The Impaler style. She subsequently is immolated when the car catches fire. The centuries old reign of the Blood Countess is at a abrupt and tragic end.

Months later we see Valerie at another European hotel, having adopted Bathory's hypnotic honey voice and bat-like cloak. She seduces a newly wed couple in a similar fashion to what was done to her, and she walks hand in hand into the distance, with the sadistic intention of gorging on their blood.

What I would have done:

I believe that Bathory did everything perfect up until the very end. Stefan did her a favour with disposing of Illona, who had become tiresome and a liability, save for her seductive powers to occupy Stefan while she seduced a new consort. 

There was no need for them to flee the hotel after the murder of Stefan until sundown as she had disposed of the detective, and had Pierre the concierge in her thrall. If anyone for some reason asked for the whereabouts of Stefan, Valerie only needed to say he returned to Brugge to continue his sightseeing. When the sun set they could have dumped his body just the same and disappeared into the encroaching darkness. 

My score is 9.5/10.


2 comments:

  1. Though I didn't score the film as highly, a film that I thoroughly enjoy. Good article :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Taliesin

      For some reason I felt like watching this with The Blood Spattered Bride to review as well but I ran out of time to do so. I think they'd fit well together as a pairing don't you think?

      Tonight I think I'm going to watch the rest of Fearless Vampire Killers that I started last night, and then finish the night of with Grave of the Vampire if I have the time....

      Delete

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