Daughters of Darkness (1971)
By: David Michael Brown on August 19, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.66:1 (Non-anamorphic). English 2.0. 100 minutes
The Movie
Director: Harry Kumel
Starring:John Karen, Delphine Seyrig, Danielle Ouimet
Screenplay: Drouot, Jean Ferry, Harry Kumel in association with Jo Amiel
Country: Belgium
A strangely hypnotic diversion into the lesbian vampire genre, Daughters of Darkness lacks the ribald thrills of Hammer Films The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire; also based on Sheridan Le Fanu's Camila, but adds a typically bizarre European perspective that makes for an enthralling if occasionally dull watch.

The film tells the story of the Countess Bathory who legend says bathed in the blood of 300 virgins to keep her youthful beauty. Accompanied by her Louise Brooks look-a-like companion she travels the countryside of Belgium seducing couples into her vampiric fold. In a picturesque hotel she meets Stefan and Valerie, a couple whose marriage is already on the rocks. This coupling of couples leads to deceit, death and despair that leaves none of the cast untouched. Hypnotically lethargic in its story telling Daughters of Darkness is an art film masquerading as a vampire horror film.

It recalls Jose Lazarr's Vampyres in its style but lacks the ferocious intensity that the Spanish director brought to his rural English tale. Director Kumel is more interested in the intertwined relationships than the blood. The film's abrupt ending recalls Jack Cardiff's Girl on a Motorcycle as automotive carnage ends the life of a major character. The preceding bathroom scene marks another of the films bloody moments but is the result of clumsiness rather than blood thirsty vampires. Kumel's direction tends to focus on the innate eroticism of vampires rather than the horrific aspects so some terroraustralis readers may feel a bit short changed in the blood and gore stakes.
Nothing spectacular to report, the picture is grainy in places and a bit murky but it bizarrely suits the films tone.
The soundtrack is adequate, the films many quiet passages don't really test the format so it's doubtful a surround mix would have added too much to the experience.
Extra Features
The disc features an informative, if a bit dry, audio commentary by star John Karlen accompanied by journalist David Del Valle.

You also get a few radio spots, the theatrical trailer and a poster and stills gallery.
The Verdict
If you're a fan of the steamier side of vampires then Daughters of Darkness is for you. It has definitely dated, you see more sex and violence on the television, but it has a quite unique and surreal atmosphere that leaves many of the haunting images lurking in the mind long after many a modern day vampire film has vanished from memory.
Movie Score
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