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Les Lèvres Rouges

Daughters of Darkness
Le Rouge aux Lèvres / Blood on the Lips / Solo für einen Vampir / Blut an den Lippen

Belgium / France / West Germany 1971
produced by
Paul Collet, Henry Lange, Alain C. Guilleaume (executive) for Showking Films, Maya Films, Ciné Vog Films, Roxy Film
directed by Harry Kümel
starring Delphine Seyrig, John Karlen, Danielle Ouimet, Andrea Rau, Paul Esser, Georges Jamin, Joris Collet, Fons Rademakers
screenplay by Pierre Drouot, Harry Kümel, dialogue by Jean Ferry, music by François de Roubaix

Elizabeth Bathory

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Stefan (John Karlen) and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet) just got married in Switzerland, and now she's all excited to meet his mother in England - which is not something he's looking forward to, so he stalls, and when they arrive in Ostend, Belgium, instead of taking the next ferry across the English Channel, he persuades her to spend the night in an out-of-season luxury hotel and affords them the king's suite even. They think they're the only guests at the hotel too - until the arrival of Countess Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) and her secretary Ilona (Andrea Rau), who seem a bit too much interested in their fellow guests, but both Stefan and Valerie are secretly fascinated by them, and suddenly think it's a good idea to stay in Ostend a bit longer.

The next day, Stefan and Valerie make a day trip to Bruges, and while there stumble upon a murder scene where the body's just removed - something that Stefan's a bit too fascinated in. Later they read that a serial killer's on the loose in Bruges, draining his or her victims of all their blood. Back at the hotel, the Countess tells a story about her ancestor (?) Elizabeth, who actually bathed in virgin blood, and while Valerie is appalled by this and retreats to her room, Stefan is fascinated. Later that evening, Valerie is attacked, and while she couldn't make out the attacker, it turns out to be Ilona, who wanted to drink her blood. Yet later, Stefan gets so annoyed by Valerie that her brutally whips her. She wants to run away, but is intercepted at the station by the Countess while Ilona seduces Stefan - but then he accidently kills her when he tries to drag her under the shower, something it's suggested vampires are allergic to. Valerie and the Countess return and find Stefan over Ilona's dead body. The Countess doesn't seem too concerned about losing her secretary though and takes charge of getting rid of the body - during which she tries to get rid of Stefan as well but he's saved by Valerie. But the fates of the three of them are linked now - and only disaster can follow ...

 

Daughters of Darkness is hardly the first European female vampire movie - but it's pretty much the epitome of things one associates with Eurohorror, or at least the high end of the genre: Lush old world settings, an atmospheric and artsy approach, beautiful actresses doing their fair share of nudity, a deliberately slow pace that deliberately only hints at things rather than spelling them out, and gruesomeness where gruesomeness is due. But that's not at all saying this film is just a paint-by-the-numbers thing, as it's actually a fascinating and highly original piece of vampire cinema, one that affords itself a labyrinthine way of storytelling  that goes surprisingly well with the genre, and manages to be properly creepy in all the right places without falling back on vampire mainstays.

A deserved genre classic for sure.

 

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