Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Fright night

English writer and comedian (he co-wrote the recent SHERLOCK series) Mark Gatiss did a splendid programme on European horror movies last night, just in time for Holloween (he also did one on American and British horror a few years ago, interviewing survivors from the '30s Horror films and the '50s Hammer movies...). He began last night by interviewing Belgian director Harry Kumel in the hotel in Ostend, where Kumel filmed DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS in 1971, that very individual movie we liked so much then .... then on to Nosferatu's castle for a look at the silent classics like NOSFERATU and CABINET OF DR CALIGARI and German expressionism, it was on to Paris to meet Edith Scob from Franju's EYES WITHOUT A FACE (review at Horror label), and then to Italy to meet Dario Argento and the grand-son of Mario Bava, and a look at those Italian giallo films. In all fascinating stuff .... I am not a horror afficianado as such, but can appreciate a good horror film, I don't bother though with the slasher stuff or torture porn ....

Back though to DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, where Delphine Seyrig at her very slinkiest and channelling Dietrich is that vampire countess .... as Mark Gatiss says:  "It's a real work of art, I think. A strange, stylish cocktail of ingredients; 1970s chic rubs up against the silent classics. Delphine Seyrig as the mysterious lesbian countess is sensational."  Or as London listings magazine Time Out put it:  "Belgian filmmaker Kümel’s polymorphously perverse vampire movie may be a triumph of slinky, shimmering style over thematic substance, but what style. Amidst the out-of-season splendour of a 1930s seaside hotel, unhappily married newly-weds Stefan (Karlen) and Valerie (Ouimet) fall under the seductive spell of Countess Elisabeth Bathory (Seyrig) and her sullen, sultry companion Ilone (Rau). The Countess’s sequinned sartorial elegance recalls Marlene Dietrich, and the hotel concierge is convinced that she was a guest at the hotel forty years before. There are no fangs, garlic flowers or other vampire movie paraphernalia, only tales of sadistic cruelty and a highly eroticised thirst for blood. Deliciously, deliriously decadent." 

Loosely based on the real life exploits of the infamous Countess Bathory, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS is a stylish if strained attempt at an arty, classy horror film. The ingredients are in place for an exploitation romp, but director Harry Kümel is more concerned with maintaining a glossy sheen than he is in indulging in anything too distasteful. It's plain to see that Seyrig modeled her appearance and demeanor on Marlene Dietrich, but her vamping stops short of outright camp. 
It has some nice touches, like the old waiter who remembers the Countess from her visit 40 years previously, just as young and glamorous as she is now .... and then there is "mother" on the phone to our errant husband (a Jean Sorel clone) who has yet to be introduced to his bride ...  It all certainly bears looking at again. Seyrig is as delicious here as she is in Demy's PEAU D'ANE (French label) as the Lilac Fairy Grandmother .... we have several other Seyrig movies to see too before too long .... (Kumel's bizarre MALPERTUIS with Matthieu Carriere (below left) and Orson Welles (below right) and polyglot cast  in 1971 was a fascinating experience too then).  

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