Daughters Of Darkness
Director: Harry Kümel
Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Danielle Ouimet, Andrea Rau
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Today we step into the Wayback Machine to talk about a somewhat infamous film made before I was even born (man, does it make me feel good to say that). Release in 1971, Daughters Of Darkness is a European erotic horror film with a familiar story. Ok, now it’s familiar, but maybe back in ’71 it was still somewhat fresh. Just like back then it was probably a lot more shocking and titillating than it is now. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of lovely female flesh on display, but there has been a lot more wicked flicks to walk the fine line between art and “trash.” Also this film usually gets lumped in with the sub-sub-genre of lesbian vampire films, and while it has the vaps, if you are looking for hot girl on girl action, you’ll probably come away disappointed.
Now if it sounds like I’m trashing this movie, I really don’t mean to. I’m just trying to put it into the proper context. Naughty back then is a far cry from what is considered naughty by today’s standards. But just because this movie is … ah, mature, doesn’t mean it that it has forgotten how to deliver the goods. Besides, cougars are all the rage these days, right?
Well with that in mind, let’s check out these lovely ladies that definitely fall into the category of, “they don’t make ’em like that anymore.”
This film follows a newlywed couple through a tour of Europe. The pair stops as a luxurious, but oddly deserted, Belgian hotel and while there they encounter Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Yes, that Elizabeth Bathory. I told you the story was familiar. Anyway, the countess and her beautiful bloodthirsty companion decide to play with the couple, with eyes firmly fixed on the young wife and the husband more as an amusing aside. Here is where the lesbian subtext kicks in, but it mostly remains just that: subtext. In between various sex scenes the vamps (in every sense of the word) kill a few folks to sate their unquenchable thirst. One such murder catches the attention of a retired police officer who has hunted Bathory in the past and returns to peruse the prey they once eluded him.
Labeled as “erotic horror” this is a case of yes and no. While it is no doubt erotic, with plenty of steamy sex scenes that would rival the soft-core porn found on late night Cinemax, where it fails is in the horror department. To be sure, Countess Elizabeth Bathory is a vampire through and through. While she never sprouts fangs, she has no reflection and avoids direct sunlight. Yet there is never any suspense, dread, atmosphere, or even the favorite horror cliché of today, jump scares. There is some ok gore to be found here, but nothing more graphic than what you can find on primetime TV. Quite simply put, Daughters Of Darkness is just not scary.
But you know what?
Most of the vampire stories today would rather be sexy than scary too. Yes I’m looking at you Twilight and True Blood. So who knows maybe this is a movie whose time has come around once more?
The Bu-ray by Blue Undergound offers a nice new transfer of the film and some really cool extras. Right off the bat, let’s talk about the best; a bonus feature length film called The Blood Splattered Bride from 1972. Yes, you get this second classic erotic thriller for no extra charge. Now that’s what I call an extra. In addition you get two commentary tracks, one by director Harry Kümel and the other by actor John Karlen who plays the hapless husband in the film. Three are also interviews with the stars Danielle Ouimet, and Andrea Rau and one with the director and the writer/producer. Round things off are a trailer and a few radio spots.
This Blu-ray will be released March 1st and if you are a fan of classy, classic Euro sleaze then this is a must have for you. If you’re a more traditional horror fan then you may find this a bit of a bore. But as a piece of erotic horror history, Daughters Of Darkness has few peers.