Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Sexiest Vampire Movie Ever: Daughters of Darkness

Originally posted at SpoutBlog:

The Sexiest Vampire Movie Ever: “Daughters of Darkness”

Most vampire movies suck like most porn, the pleasures of the flesh drained of all life. Fortunately there’s “Daughters of Darkness,” starring the intoxicating Delphine Seyrig as the blonde, femme fatale Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Harry Kümel’s very-70s flick is a sexy roundelay akin to Radley Metzger’s 1973 soft-core “Score,” only in this case the hungry horny couple are the blood lusty Countess and her secretary/lover/protégé Ilona Harczy played by Andrea Rau (with lips to rival Angelina Jolie’s – someone get Brangelina a vampire movie already!), looking like a knockoff Lulu with her flapper haircut. The objects of their carnal obsession, newlyweds Stefan (John Karlen, resembling a cross between Michael J. Fox and Andrew McCarthy but, alas, born a decade too early for a John Hughes film) and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet — think Elke Sommer with a French accent) may be unwitting, but Stefan especially is far from innocent. Which gives the standard vampire set up of “Daughters of Darkness” a compelling mystery twist.

And also like Metzger’s “Score,” Kümel’s film is a sumptuous melodrama with a thumping sexual vibe through and through. The tone is set right from the start: an appropriately blue-hued sex scene, jump cuts from Valerie’s ecstatically grasping hand back to naked entwined torsos, Stefan virtually devouring his young bride, burrowing his head into the heaving flesh of her chest, going for the jugular without drawing blood. The entire atmosphere of the film is steamy, as visceral as the Florida summer of “Body Heat.” From the rising and falling suspense string score to the lush, sensuous colors and velvet fabrics of the European resort, as cavernous and creepy as the Overlook Hotel; from the fluid camerawork, the grand high angle and long shots, the noir shadows, the close ups on Seyrig’s flawless face, a playful pixie vixen, nails and lips forever painted blood red.

And boy does Seyrig work those feline fingernails. Even as Stefan dodges introducing Valerie to his disapproving and mysteriously elusive mother, the Oedipal layers run deep. Countess Bathory, placing herself behind Stefan seated in a plush armchair in the front parlor, practically seduces the young man with her hands, fingers dancing along his sweater-clad chest, intimately rubbing his arms, as she and the rich playboy wax rhapsodically about the historical torture and ritual murder of virgins for blood, eyes closed in ecstasy (and both ignoring Valerie as she begs, “Stop! No! Stop!” – attempting in vain to break the hypnosis). The few actual sex scenes pale in comparison to this hot-blooded, erotic encounter.

Yet even golden ingénue Valerie is a bit of a pervert at heart. “You actually enjoyed seeing that dead girl’s body,” she accuses Stefan, explaining why she suddenly fears him as they ride the bus back from Bruges where they just happened to witness the coroners removing the corpse of the latest throat slashing victim. “Just like you enjoy telling me,” Stefan snaps back. “We’re getting to know each other,” he adds before brushing away her hand – that is now reaching for his crotch!

“Daughters of Darkness” seems to say that even the most innocent among us are less than saints, thus ripe for evil’s picking. “I’m just an outmoded character,” the Countess sighs as her silver sequin, mirror ball dress catches the light, defiantly shooting rays at the camera. Though the sly smile on her lips suggests otherwise, that inside every virgin lurks an insatiable slut – and, of course, that vamps never go out of style.

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