The Film (4/5)
Daughters of Darkness is one of many lesbian vampire films from the early 70's. It is also one of the best films of that particular sub-genre. Daughters of Darkness, unlike other films of the era, takes a less cliched approach to vampire mythology, and as such has more in common with a film such as George A. Romero's Martin then Jess Franco's Vampyros Lesbos (admittedly I am a fan of both films, and approaches). Daughters of Darkness, as such, is a film that could be comfortably screened in an arthouse or a grindhouse.
The arthouse ambitions of the film are pushed to the forefront by the excellent cast, which features a starring role from Delphine Seyrig, who is better known in film circles as the lead in Alain Resnais's Last Year in Marienbad. The film does come closer to the Hammer end of the lesbian vampire spectrum, as it is a more atmospheric film than many of it's contemporaries, where it differs though is in it's treatment of it's exploitive material. There are indeed graphic (but not hardcore) sex scenes throughout the film, however, they feel more like an integral part of the film, rather than an afterthought to get an audience in the seats. Similarly, there are violent moments throughout, but they are not the main draw, and handled quite well.
The film tells the story of a newlywed couple Stefan (John Carlen), and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet), who while heading back to Stefan's estate in England stop at the Belguim waterfront for an overnight stay. What appears at first to be a quick overnight stay, quickly resolves itself to be an extended excuse preventing Stefan from returning with his recently eloped bride to his Mother in England. They end up staying in the Royal Suite of the hotel, later on, the Countess Bathory, and her companion Ilona arrive at the hotel looking to stay in the same suite, and discover that it is occupied take the one adjacent to it. Her appearance unnerves the hotel concierge, who claims she appears just as she did 40 years prior during her last stay at the hotel. The Countess claims that it was her Mother, but the concierge (and the audience) know better. Upon arrival, she spies the newlywed couple enjoying their dinner, and sets her sights on Valerie as her next victim.
Like all of my personal favorite Euro-horror films of the period, it is less about the story than the atmosphere, and characters. It is a very desolate feeling film, which utilizes it's locations quite well. I know Kubrick claimed Eraserhead was one of his favorite films in the late 70's, so it appears he paid attention to cult releases, and one has to wonder if this film was an influence on the way he handled the Overlook Hotel, in his later adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining. I say this, because Daughters of Darkness is one of those films where the location itself feels like a character in the film. The hotel here, is a grand hotel in the middle of winter, not it's busy season, and as such appears both full of life, brightness, and color, yet simultaneously a very lonely desolate place, waiting to come alive. Which actually mirrors the characters themselves, who all in their own appear to be holding back their exact motivations, waiting for their moment to be free, and come alive.
Blue Underground has presented Daughters of Darkness in it's original 1:66:1 theatrical aspect ratio, in a sweet 1080p HD transfer. Simply put, this is the best the film has ever looked. Blue Underground has done a fantastic job with the video restoration of this title. The transfer offers greatly increased detail, some very filmlike grain, flesh tones are accurate, black levels deep, and colors (esp. red) pop from the screen. The audio while effective, sadly, does not fare as well. The dialogue and music are crystal clear, and audible throughout, however the actual track sounds sort of thin and tinny to my ears. Aside from that I do not hear any background noise, or distortion, so it's really just a minor issue, that does not really take away from the film itself.
It's not often you get an entire feature film as a bonus feature, but in keeping with the tradition set by the prior Blue Underground release of Daughters of Darkness, we have the Blood Spattered Bride. A similarly themed erotic vampire film, that is just as good, if not better, than the actual feature. Sadly, it has not been restored in HD, but from what I gather this has more to do with the shape of the material's BU had to work with, rather then the lack of desire to do this one justice. If you didn't pick up the prior release, than this is another excellent reason to pick this one up.
Aside from that we have 2 Audio commentaries the first by director Harry Kumel, who goes into more technical background on the film. He is accompanied on this track by Severin Film's head honcho/Plague Town director David Gregory. The commentary itself is pretty fast paced affair and is never truly boring. This is followed by a commentary from star John Karen, and a journalist David Del Valle, also a fairly interesting listen. This is followed by a few featurettes the first Locations of Darkness with interviews director Harry Kumel and producer Pierre Drouot, as they explore the locations for the film. This is followed up by 2 interviews one with Danielle Ouimet and the other with Andrea Rau. The disc is rounded off with the films theatrical trailer and radio spots.
A masterpiece of Eurohorror presented in a fantastic Blu-ray edition. The video quality is excellent, and while the audio has some issues, overall it's near perfect in the A/V department. All the extras were ported over from the prior release, but they are still good, and a bonus feature the Blood Spattered Bride is included. Daughters of Darkness on BD comes highly recommended.