Daughters of Darkness (DVD)
Directed by Harry Kümel
Distributed by Blue Underground
What can top your standard vampire story? A lesbian vampire story! And what could top that? A lesbian vampire story double feature! Yes, oh yes!!! Blue Underground has brought two classic “adult” psycho-sexual thrillers from the early 70's together in one beautiful set. However, one must ask the question: Do these sexy movies withstand the test of time?
This two-disc special edition release of Harry Kümel's Daughters of Darkness is more than it appears. At the ass end of the film's description, on the back of the DVD case, you will see another title mentioned … The Blood Spattered Bride. This came as quite a surprise since nowhere on the front cover or even the cardboard slipcase is it mentioned that the buyer is receiving an extra film. No objections here!
Let's start things out with the film this reviewer watched with his lovely cohort, Trish the Dish. The thought of lesbo-fueled vampire hanky panky is hot even on a boring Sunday morning. We were both set to watch some of that great old 1970's horror magic that could fall along the lines of The Wicker Man, but it was not to be.
Daughters of Darkness is the tale of two newlyweds who are off enjoying the bliss associated with being married. There is early tension in their relationship as Stephan (John Karlen) keeps skirting the reservations of informing his “mother” about his hasty union with Valerie (Danielle Ouimet). Stephan also seems to have a violent streak and occasionally mistreats Val in the physical sense. Sometimes women require a little roughing up. You understand, right?
The young lovers soon arrive at a lovely seaside town and stay at a very posh hotel. Things are beautiful, especially the newly arrived Countess Bathory (Delphine Seyrig). She oozes sexiness and has caught the eyes of both Valerie and Stephan. What could this seemingly ageless Countess want with these two?
Daughters of Darkness is essentially the retelling of Elizabeth Bathory's legend. It's just too bad that the plot slowly turns and bores the audience until the ever graceful Delphine Seyrig appears on screen. One could basically shove the story aside and watch her scenes because of her strong and pleasing presence. Sure, she doesn't get naked or actually do much in the way of carpet munching, but that isn't significant. What is prominent, on the other hand, is that the movie isn't all that sexy or shocking. Back then it may have been something for the press to eat up, but today it's just another snail paced horror film with thick, paint-like blood.
Most of the characters never become interesting enough to invest emotion in. Stephan is unlikeable from the start and Valerie is more of a beautiful statue than anything else. She never really gets to shine until the film nears its end and the audience witnesses a very mind-boggling car accident that may produce more laughs than gasps.
What about the lesbianism? It's there … sort of. There is a little sexual tension between Countess Bathory and her lover Ilona (Andrea Rau), but there is never enough of a payoff to solidify what their relationship is. Honestly, there is more sex between men and women in this picture than anything else. When one watches a lesbian vampire film, one expects to see some labia licking or something, anything apart from a cheap peck on the lips and a quick roll around in the bed. Talk about blue-balling.
The special features did help things become more interesting as the audience learns that this movie did accomplish a few “cinema firsts” via the commentary. Some of these things include a man having an orgasm on screen and opening a film with a sex scene. Shocking! Director Harry Kümel's commentary track is the most informative out of the two to be sure, but he needs a bit of coaxing from another person during the recording session. If only the movie was a little more gripping, then it would be easier to sit through the commentaries. At least he was a little more lively during the Locations of Darkness featurette where he and co-writer Pierre Drouot visit the film locales as they exist in the present day. It's no Horror's Hallowed Grounds though.
The second commentary track features John Karlen and journalist David Del Valle. This reviewer never thought he would learn more about Dark Shadows watching this picture than an actual Dark Shadows DVD. Mr. Karlen reminisces about his days on that classic vampire soap opera and remarks on how it would be delightful to be youthful again. Woo! All that was missing was a bit of hemorrhoid and backache discussion!
The interviews with Danielle Ouimet and Andrea Rau are very short but do make the most of the time. Each of them recount the shooting conditions, sexual positions and the shock value of the film. Both of these ladies still retain a bit of their former beauty, but it would be advised to watch the feature, get yer jollies and then watch the extras. Old and wrinkled lesbianism is not a pretty thing in the mind’s eye. I can no longer sleep at night.
Daughters of Darkness is a very watchable film, but the viewer has to go into it with the mindset that this is not a graphic sexual tale or even a violent horror film. Its charm is in the beauty of the cast and locations. While it may not get you or your partner into the mood to have sex, it does make intercourse a better alternative than sitting through the film. This DVD shall now accompany me on every date. We’ve given hope to the the nerd populace! Bump nasties thanks to the Daughters of Darkness.
Oh snap, almost forgot that there was another movie in this set. How can the The Blood Spattered Bride section of the review be done without boring everyone to death? Let’s make it quick …
Vicente Aranda’s The Blood Spattered Bride rings the bells of lesbian vampires again, but this time it’s sexier. The comparisons between this film and Daughters of Darkness are as plentiful as used condoms on a beach after Spring Break. Once again we see an abusive man wed a timid and mysterious woman. She is soon haunted by a ghost from the past played by Alexandra Bastedo and her amazing body. It soon comes to pass that the ghost is in fact a vampire hot for some living puddin’. Breasts are everywhere: in the sand, in the crypts and in the woods.
Just like Daughters of Darkness, The Blood Spattered Bride leaves much to be desired as far as characters are concerned. How can you side with a physically and mentally abusive husband? How does one start to care about a bitchy young wife who speaks her lines like she expects no response? How the hell do you not have girl-on-girl action AGAIN in a vampire lesbian movie?! What in the name of Bluebeard's shanty crab shack is going on?!
And the problems don’t end there, friends. Aside from the pretty bodies there’s not much else going for this movie. Men don’t fight back against knife-wielding women? The thought of your wife being a labia licker is more disgusting than her being a vampire? Scuba-diving women get buried under three feet of sand and no one questions it? Isn’t it time to just destroy the knife your wife keeps finding and attacks you with? All these questions and more are the audience's for the asking when you bite into The Blood Spattered Bride. Come for the boobs, but stay for the WTF's!
Audio commentary #1 with co-writer/director Harry Kumel
Audio commentary #2 with star John Karlen and journalist David Del Valle
Locations of Darkness - Interviews with co-writer/director Harry Kumel and co-writer/co-producer Pierre Drouot
Playing the Victim - Interview with star Danielle Ouimet
Daughter of Darkness - Interview with star Andrea Rau
Poster and still gallery
Disc 2: The Blood Spattered Bride
U.S. combo theatrical trailer
3 out of 5