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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on April 24, 2004
Stefan, a British aristocrat with sadistic tendencies, and the beautiful Valerie, a simple girl, have eloped and are on their way home to break the news to Stefan's mother. However, Stefan is hesitant to bring his wife to see his mother as he delays the trip back to England on purpose by making up stories. The newlyweds decide to stay in an extravagant hotel on the seaside while Stefan attempts to buy some time. Stefan and Valerie are the only guests at the hotel besides the flamboyant Countess Bathory and her seductive secretary since it is off-season. During the stay the Countess Bathory has taken a liking to the couple and begins to seduce them both as she begins setting her wicked plan into action.
Daughters of Darkness is a vampire tale with a malevolently chilly and sexually tense atmosphere that haunts the mind with its subtle approach as Kümel avoids the popular approach of vampires. The vampires do not sleep in coffins nor attack the necks of their victims with sharpened elongated teeth. Instead Kümel disguises the threat of evil behind courteous behavior, alluring charm, and vivid gesticulations that become passionately seductive for the characters in the film. In addition, the mise-en-scene is strongly suggestive and vibrant colors are used in order to enhance the bewitching atmosphere that is viewed by the audience. This leaves the viewer with an uneasy, but artistic cinematic experience that selective audiences will appreciate.
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on June 5, 2000
"Daughters of Darkness" (originally titled "La rouge aux lèvres") is a 1971 Belgian-French-West German production directed by Harry Kümel that stars Delphine Seyrig as the Countess Elizabeth (Erzsebet) Bathory (a real historical figure who murdered hundreds of young women in her quest for immortality). In the film, Bathory and her young female companion (Andrea Rau) cross pathes with a young couple, Valerie and Stefan (played by Danielle Ouimet and John Karlen - Willie Loomis from TV's "Dark Shadows") who are honeymooning during the off-season in Europe. At first the couple seem fairly normal, but things quickly sour, as the woman is shown to be emotionally unstable and the man is very violent and turned on by death. Their relationship is also undermined by homosexuality on both sides. There are intimations that Stefan is in thrall to an older man back in England, and Valerie - of course - soon falls under the spell of the ageless and beautiful Countess Bathory. This mesmerizing and hypnotic film makes brilliant use of sound, mood, and color to paint an understatedly savage tableau, and it has a well-deserved cult following. It's probably too slow-moving for the average horror movie fan, however. "Daughters of Darkness" is very self-consciously an "art" film. The carefully constructed images, the nonsensical dialogue, the use of vivid reds and blues, and the extremely deliberate pacing all serve to create a film that - despite a few shockingly strange death scenes - is much closer in spirit to "Last Year at Marienbad" than it is to "The Lost Boys."
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on September 26, 2003
There must be some subliminal message in this movie that I respond to. I have watched it over and over. The Countess is so beautifully evil; she made me fall under her spell. I have heard her described as a "Satanic Auntie Mame". She makes evil so seductive and fun. Even though I have a dark obessesion fop this movie, freinds I have shown it to describe it as boring and slow. (Hang on, talking about it made me get up and put it in the DVD player again). It's not for everyone, at least give it a try.
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on January 10, 2001
We've read about the "artiness" of "Daughters of Darkness," its lesbian themes, its hommage to "Marienbad" in the person of Delphine Seyrig (whose marcelled coif gives her more the look of a 1970s Jean Harlow than anyone previously associated with the genre). I'd rather focus on something else --- the film's confused handling of the Elizabeth Bathory legend.
While an entire mystique has developed around Bathory, let's remember that she was a real person, who actually believed that bathing in virgins' blood would sustain her youthful beauty. Perverse, in other words, but strictly material --- there was nothing supernatural about her.
The problem with "Daughters," though, is not that it reinterprets Bathory as a supernatural being. Bram Stoker was guilty of the same thing in his reconfigured version of Vlad Tepes. But at least Stoker was consistent --- he reinvented "Dracula" in his own terms, and did not arbitrarily mix the supernatural laws governing one sort of vampire with those of another.
By contrast, "Daughters" mixes legends. Why, for example, do we hear a sudden outburst of "cue music" when Stefan accidentally nicks his neck shaving? It's obviously a moment that director Kumel carefully prepares us for, but the strategem backfires, because the Countess is not that sort of vampire.
Why, moreover, does the Countess hold a seemingly supernatural, Svengali-like hold over her victims, rather than merely erotic control? And why does she keep "reincarnating" in body after body, when this, too, has no connection with either Bathory or conventional vampire lore?
Why, too, does "Ilona" recoil from a shower near the end of the film? Her fear of running water has us connecting Bathorian vampirism with the Stokeresque variety, but for no legitimate reason.
On top of all this, it's left unexplained why John Karlen should at one point be incited by a thunderstorm to flagellate his mistress. What's this --- a reference to Sturm und Drang, or another mysterious link with the Countess? If the latter, then it would probably be the result of the Countess's interest in Valerie --- therefore, it would make more sense for Valerie to be attacking Stefan, not the other way around.
And why, when the Countess first meets Pierre, does he say she looks "just like" a woman who visited the hotel 40 years ago? Since he's obviously referring to the same woman, wouldn't any self-respecting vampire have changed her hairstyle since the Depression era? Pretty gauche, if you ask me.
Despite these flaws, I love "Daughters of Darkness" for its beautifully decadent mood, its characters' talent for self-destruction, its unique score, and the incredibly luscious Andrea Rau in the role of "Ilona." I've watched the film repeatedly for the last 14 years, and it's never lost its power. Which only shows that there are sometimes more important things in a film than logic.
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I'm delighted this will be available on DVD. I watched it on VHS a long, long time ago. I'd heard about it in various books on vampire films and haunted every video store I could find to locate a viewing copy. When I finally found it, I watched it with the enthrallment of the very young with the object of an obsession. Based loosely on the story of Elisabet Bathory, this "contempory" tale is of a young newly wed couple who are seduced by a mysterious woman whose interest in them is predatory.
Compared to current movie fare, this is extremely tame with it's allusions to S&M and chic debauchery, but the european elegance of the film will satisfy the die hard vampire film fan who enjoys the older movies that defined the genre in the late 60s and into the 70s. Not as openly sexual as the lush offerings of a Hammer film, it has it's own more subtle erotic charm.
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on October 22, 2002
Let's face it: "Daughters of Darkness" is, at most, a guilty pleasure. Despite the cheesy music, overly dramatic dialogue, and uneven acting, this film is totally watchable. Delphine Seyrig is suitably seductive and enigmatic as the world-weary Countess Elisabeth Batori who in her search for blood and eternal life pounces upon a young couple in the Belgian coastal town of Ostend. Andrea Rau plays the countess's slave (and lover). John Karlen of "Dark Shadows" fame plays the husband who tries to save his wife from Batori's clutches.
Notorious when it was released theatrically in 1971 for its brief explicitness, this unexpurgated version is pure escapist Eurotrash and wonderfully watchable! It should appeal to both fans of camp classics as well as vampire movie buffs.
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on September 25, 2001
Sometimes it's better to suspend belief and enjoy the images
put forward. Who cares if the story doesn't make sense?
The visual beauty of this film will make you forget all about
silly things like plots! We must remember, Vampires don't really
exist everyone! And if they did, lets hope they are as beautiful
as the Countess is in this film. Lush costumes, hair, and make-up
can definatley save many a vampire film as can erie locations
and haunting photography. Reminds one of the Mario Bava films
of the 60's but a little hipper.
I loved it and all those technical snobs can stuff it!
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on January 29, 2000
Most well-known for its gloriously eerie effects and bizarre artful atmosphere, this film is perhaps one of the best of those which portray vampires as mysterious gloomy entities rather than everyday haywire villains to be chased down by the errant Saturday-morning superhero.
The plot is tight and the casting is outstanding. The sets and the camera work is really top-notch, both for 1971 (the film's release) and today. If you enjoy things which have to do with the vampires as known in the early 1900's, you will enjoy this fiml.
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on June 30, 1999
First to mention are the exciting women in this very 70`s film.I liked the style, the clothes and the look of the film; it`s all kind of red anyhow, so you get this erotic impression. Although the film is really slow and the effects are very unspecial (e.g. the glasbowl cutting the arms of stefan etc.) this film has it`s own flow and lots of charme. My favorite girl is without a doubt Valerie, when she gets catched from the Countess`charisma. If you like Vampire films you should definetily see this one.
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on January 25, 2002
Daughters of darkness has what most recent horror flicks lack, georgeous yet creepy environments, unique somewhat complex characters, a slow buildup of tension, but it could simply use a little more action. The climax is disappointing given all the cinematic energy expended earlier in the film. The lesbian theme may have been provacative in 1970 but is very tame today. A must-see for art-house horror fans, but not on my top ten.
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