During the 1970's, the combination of vampirism and lesbianism proved to be a prolific sort of hybrid, with b-movie directors around the globe eager to get their mitts on a screenplay, ANY screenplay, that would allow them to put their particular stamp on this wildly popular sub-genre. With 1974's Vampyres (aka: Daughters of Dracula), Spanish exploitation maestro José Ramón Larraz offers one of the more coherent (and extremely violent) entries in the Sapphic suckhead sweepstakes.
Fran (Marianne Morris) and Miriam (Anulka Dziubinska) are two gorgeous vampiresses who died violent deaths in a secluded country manor in the north of England. The women spend their undead existence posing as hitchhikers, luring opportunistic men back to the manor to feed, and then dumping them back in their cars and covering up their deeds as road accidents. Fran picks up a lonely middle-aged man named Ted (Brown), and decides to keep him around for awhile, much to Miriam's chagrin, however his presence doesn't prevent the girls from keeping up with their normal nocturnal activities. While feasting on their latest pick-up, Ted, and seeks help from a couple camping in the nearby forest, leaving Fran and Miriam to contend with a whole new set of problems. Much nudity and gratuitous sex and violence follows.
Vampyres is equal parts bloody gothic horror and soft core erotic spankfest, and, while it is often compared to Jess Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos, I find Larraz’ film to be a much more satisfying, competent, and coherent movie. The film is beautifully shot, with the autumn forests of England serving as a suitably forbidding backdrop, but has an overall grungy aesthete that I, personally, find rather appealing. I’ve heard the cinematography described as “ugly” by some critics, and I can’t, for the life of me, understand why, as I think the look perfectly suits the film’s dark, depraved tone. I’m also in the minority, it seems, when it comes to the performances of the two leads, Morris and Dziubinska, whose onscreen chemistry I found extremely erotic and effective. They’re much more than slinky sex kittens, here, and, the fact that the film also features some genuinely frightening moments (the frenzied manner in which the girls feed is quite disturbing) is the icing on the cake, really, and something I didn't expect. My only complaint about Vampyres lay with its ending, which seems a bit abrupt and leaves a few plot points completely unresolved. Whether this was intentional or a result of time or budget constraints is unclear, but it's a less than satisfying coda.
Blue Underground released Vampyres on DVD a few years back, offering the uncut and uncensored version (complete with 29 seconds of additional gore cut from the earlier Anchor Bay edition) for the first time on U.S. shores. The DVD featured a painstakingly restored widescreen transfer that, to my eyes, looked as gorgeous as its two starlets, so it’s no surprise that the Blu-ray release of the title looks as nice as it does. While this transfer won’t win over Blu-ray enthusiasts expecting eye-candy on the level of a Transformers film, Vampyres fans (and 70’s horror fans in general) will certainly see the difference, here, as the level of fine detail and overall quality of the image have improved quite a bit. Granted, the image is a touch grainy, and there’s an occasional softness in facial features and dimly lit sequences, but, for the most part, the transfer looks marvelous for what it is, with rich, velvety blacks, vibrant colors, and balanced hues.
On the audio front we have the now customary 7.1 DTS HD track that, quite honestly, is wasted on Vampyres as, sonically, there’s not a whole helluva lot going on. The new mix is nicely balanced, and there’s an occasional hint of surround activity, but both the score and the dialogue sound a bit alien in this format, and I found myself preferring the 5.1 Dolby soundtrack. Also included is the original mononphonic track.
Bonus features are all carried over from the DVD release, including a commentary by Larraz and producer, Brian Smedley-Aston that's a priceless example of two cultures colliding. Larraz, who's colorful take on the English language is genuinely endearing, speaks with a manic enthusiasm, which is a sharp contrast to Smedley-Aston's dry British wit. There's also a nice interview with the two stars who reflect on their work on the film with fond memories, even though it seems that neither has ever seen the film!! Morris offers the most insight on her part, and seems quite game to discuss the film, while Dziubinska seems a bit more cagey on the topic (although she readily admits to enjoying the experience). The extras are rounded out with a "lost" scene, a gallery of Dziubinska's modeling photos, trailers, a poster and still gallery.
Vampyres is a terrifying and titillating slice of seventies horror that has earned itself a fairly sizeable cult following over the years, and said following will be elated to see the film in HD. While its source material doesn’t allow for a substantial upgrade in terms of audio, the picture quality offered here is a significant improvement over its DVD counterpart. Vampyres is rare example of horror and erotica done right, and genre fans will definitely want to add this one to their collection.