From Nosferatu to Thirst, films have tried to capture the shadowy, seductive figure of the vampire. Writer Anne Billson chronicles the creature’s evolution.
Slide Seven: Daughters of Darkness/Les lévres rouges (1971)
No list of essential vampire movies would be complete without Daughters of Darkness, Harry Kümel's deliciously kinky, ultra-stylish and not a little camp Euro-variation on the Elisabeth Bathory myth — indisputably the best Belgian-Franco-German lesbian vampire movie ever made, more coherent than Jean Rollin's erotic vampire movies, and wittier than Jess Franco's. The gloriously eclectic cast includes one Miss Province de Québec 1967, one zaftig German porn actress, one future regular on Cagney & Lacey, one famous Dutch filmmaker and, best of all, French art-house diva Delphine Seyrig as a 300-year-old Countess with designs on a honeymoon couple in an off-season Ostend hotel. Kümel wrings interesting new twists out of vampire clichés: Bathory's "secretary" is dragged into the shower, where she reacts violently to the running water, leading to her accidental death. Meanwhile, those honeymooners aren't as innocent as they appear, and in nearby Bruges, young women are being found with their throats cut. Seyrig glides through it all, fang-free but impeccably lipsticked, tightly coiffed á la Dietrich and draped in chic-est red chiffon or silver sequins. She travels in a vintage Bristol, manhandles some vicious-looking knitting and covertly disposes of her mint-green cocktail in a nearby houseplant. It's not her tipple of choice, after all.