Wikipedia Odyssey

Wikipedia OdysseyI found myself browsing Wikipedia today and took an intriguing journey from One Million Years BC to Carmilla (a novella by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu) via Hammer Film Productions and The Karnstein Trilogy film: The Vampire Lovers.

There does seem something vaguely dodgy about this (in a scantily clad cavewomen and lesbian vampires kind of way) but what the hell. I thought I’d record it for posterity.

One Million Years BC

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One Million Years BC is a fantasy adventure film set very loosely in the time of the caveman. It stars Raquel Welch (Loana) and John Richardson (Tumak) and was released by Hammer Film Productions in 1966.

Plot summary (spoilers):

  • Tumak, a caveman from the Rock tribe, is banished to the harsh desert after fighting with the tribe’s leader, his father, Akoba.
  • He survives many dangers and crosses the desert before collapsing on a remote beach, where he is spotted by “Loana the Fair One” and her fellow fisherwomen of the much more advanced and civilized Shell Tribe.
  • After the men of the Shell Tribe fend off a marauding giant turtle, Loana persuades them to take Tumak to their village, where she tends to him.
  • Tumak recovers and stays for a short time among the Shell Tribe. He is fierce and they are wise.
  • An Allosaurus attacks and traps a young Shell Tribe girl in a tree. The men fight the Allosaurus with spears and several of them are killed before Tumak impales the creature and kills it.
  • After attempting to steal a spear from Ahot, one of the Shell Tribe, and then fighting him over it, Tumak is cast out. Loana chooses to go with him. Before they leave Ahot gives Tumak a spear in recognition for what he did to save the girl.
  • Meanwhile, Tumak’s brother, Sakana, tries to kill their father, Akoba, in order to take control of the tribe. Akoba survives but is crippled, Sakana becomes the new leader.
  • Tumak and Loana journey back across the desert, again facing many dangers.
  • Tumak leads them back to the Rock tribe and bests Sakana but spares him at Loana’s urging.
  • Loana meets the tribe, but again there are altercations. Chief among them is the fight that ensues between Tumak’s current love interest, Loana, and his old girlfriend, “Nupondi the Wild One”.
  • One day Loana gets snatched into the air by a Pteranodon, who drops her bleeding into the sea after it is attacked by a Rhamphorhynchus. Tumak believes her dead, but she has survived the ordeal.
  • The Rock tribe, jealous of the advanced Shell Tribe, goes to war and fights until the whole land is engulfed by a volcanic eruption.
  • As the film ends, Tumak, Loana, and the surviving members of the tribes set off to find a new home.

Hammer Film Productions

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Hammer Film Productions is a British film company founded by William Hinds and Enrique Carreras in the UK in 1934 and resurrected by their respective sons, Anthony and James, after the Second World War in 1947. It is best known for a series of gothic horror films produced from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, including but not limited to:

Dr Morelle – The Case of the Missing Heiress (1949), The Quatermass Experiment (1955), The Abominable Snowman (1957), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Quatermass II (1957), Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Mummy (1959), Brides of Dracula (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Captain Clegg (1962), The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), The Kiss of the Vampire (1964), She (1965), Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966), One Million Years BC (1966), The Reptile (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), The Mummy’s Shroud (1967), Quatermass and the Pit (1967), The Viking Queen (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968), The Lost Continent (1968), Slave Girls (1968), Vengeance of She (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), The Scars of Dracula (1970), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), The Vampire Lovers (1970), When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970), Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971), Countess Dracula (1971), Creatures the World Forgot (1971), Lust For A Vampire (1971), Twins of Evil (1971), Dracula AD 1972 (1972), Vampire Circus (1972), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974), To the Devil a Daughter (1976), The Lady Vanishes (1979), Hammer House of Horror (1980), Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense (1984)

Many of these films featured the same actors in recurring roles. Notables include:

Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, Ralph Bates, Andrew Keir, Shane Briant, Miles Malleson, Francis Matthews, Andre Morell, Oliver Reed, Michael Ripper, Barbara Shelley

The Vampire Lovers

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The Vampire Lovers was a 1970 Hammer Horror film based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla novella. It is part of the Karnstein Trilogy of films, which include Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1972). All three are somewhat daring for the time as they depict explicitly lesbian themes.

The Vampire Lovers stars Peter Cushing (von Spielsdorf), Ingrid Pitt (Carmilla), Madeline Smith (Emma) and Kate O’Mara (Governess Perradon)

Plot summary (spoilers):

  • The film is set in early 19th century Styria and opens with an atmospheric pre-credits sequence featuring a beautiful blonde in a diaphanous gown materialising from a misty graveyard. Encountering the Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer), a vampire hunter out to avenge the death of his sister, the girl is revealed as vampire when her breast is seared by his crucifix. Baring her fangs to attack the Baron, she is swiftly decapitated.
  • The main story then begins with a sultry dark-haired lady named Mircalla Karnstein (Pitt) being left in the care of General von Spielsdorf (Cushing) and his family at their Styrian mansion after her mother is called away suddenly. Mircalla quickly befriends the General’s daughter, Laura (Steele). Laura suffers nightmares that she is being attacked, and her health deteriorates until she expires. Mircalla vanishes from the General’s home.
  • Faking a carriage break-down, Mircalla’s mother leaves her (now using the alias Carmilla) at the residence of a Mr. Morton. Here, Carmilla befriends and seduces Morton’s daughter Emma (Smith) but her need to feed overcomes her emotional attachment and Emma too begins to fade. Emma has nightmares of a being pierced over the heart, and her breast shows tiny wounds.
  • Emma’s governess Madame Perradon (Kate O’Mara) also falls victim to Carmilla’s erotic blandishments and becomes her willing tool. Some in the household, the Butler and a Doctor, suspect what might be happening, especially in the wake of several local girls suddenly dying. But Carmilla kills each one. All the while, a mysterious Man in Black (clearly also a vampire) watches events from a distance, smiling (his presence is never explained).
  • After Carmilla kills the Butler, having convinced him that Madame Perradon is a vampire then persuaded him (for some reason) to remove the garlic protecting Emma, Carmilla goes to Emma’s bedroom. She says she must go away, but is taking Emma with her. A desperate and sick Madame begs Carmilla to take her with her. Carmilla kills her, in front of a horrified Emma. Emma is barely rescued by a young man named Carl (Jon Finch) who fashions a makeshift cross from his dagger. Carmilla flees to her nearby ancestral castle, now a ruin.
  • All this coincides with the arrival of the General, who brings with him a now-aged Baron Hartog. They find Carmilla’s grave, where she sleeps. Her eyes open, and interestingly enough she makes no move to defend herself. The General lifts a stake–and back in her bedchamer Emma screams “No!”–then drives it into Carmilla’s heart. He then cuts off her head. Carmilla’s portrait on the wall decays, showing now a fanged skeleton instead a beautiful young woman.

Carmilla

Carmilla is a gothic novella written by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu and first published the magazine The Dark Blue in 1872. It tells the story of a young woman’s susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire named Carmilla. The story pre-dates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by over twenty years and clearly influenced it.

Plot summary (spoilers):

  • A wealthy English widower, retired from the Austrian Service, moves to a stately castle in Styria with his daughter Laura.
  • When she is six years old, Laura has a vision of a beautiful visitor in her bedchamber. She later claims to have been bitten on the chest, although no wounds are found on her.
  • Twelve years later, Laura and her father are admiring the sunset in front of the castle when her father tells her of a letter he received earlier from his friend General Spielsdorf. The General was supposed to bring his niece to visit the two, but the niece suddenly died under mysterious circumstances. The General ambiguously concludes that he will discuss the circumstances in detail when they meet later.
  • Laura is saddened by the loss of a potential friend, and longs for a companion. A carriage accident outside Laura’s home unexpectedly brings a girl of Laura’s age into the family’s care. Her name is Carmilla. Both girls instantly recognize the other from the ‘dream’ they both had when they were young.
  • Carmilla appears injured after her carriage accident, but her mysterious mother informs Laura’s father that her journey is urgent and cannot be delayed. She arranges to leave her daughter with Laura and her father until she can return in three months. Before she leaves she sternly notes that her daughter will not disclose any information whatsoever about her family, past, or herself and that Carmilla is of sound mind. Laura comments that this information seems needless to say, and her father laughs it off.
  • Carmilla and Laura grow to be very close friends, but occasionally Carmilla’s mood abruptly changes. She sometimes makes unsettling romantic advances towards Laura. Carmilla refuses to tell anything about herself or her background, despite questioning from Laura. Her secrecy isn’t the only mysterious thing about her. Carmilla sleeps much of the day, and seems to sleepwalk at night. When a funeral procession passes by the two girls and Laura begins singing a hymn, Carmilla bursts out in rage and scolds Laura for singing a Christian song.
  • When a shipment of family heirloom portraits arrives at the castle, Laura finds one of her ancestor, Countess Mircalla Karnstein, dated two centuries before. The portrait resembles Carmilla exactly, down to the mole on her neck.
  • During Carmilla’s stay, Laura has nightmares of a fiendish cat-like beast entering her room at night and biting her on the chest. The beast then takes the form of a female figure and disappears through the door without opening it. Laura’s health declines and her father has a doctor examine her. He speaks privately with her father and only asks that Laura never be left unattended.
  • Her father then sets out with Laura in a carriage for the ruined village of Karnstein. They leave a message behind asking Carmilla and one of the governesses entreated to follow after once the perpetually late-sleeping Carmilla wakes up.
  • En route to Karnstein, Laura and her father encounter General Spielsdorf. He tells them his own ghastly story.
  • Spielsdorf and his niece had met a young woman named Millarca and her enigmatic mother at a costume ball. The General’s niece was immediately taken with Millarca. The “Countess” convinced the General that she was an old friend of his and asked that Millarca be allowed to stay with them for three weeks while she attended to a secret matter of great importance.
  • The General’s niece fell mysteriously ill and suffered exactly the same symptoms as Laura. After consulting with a priestly doctor who he had specially ordered, the General came to the realization that his niece was being visited by a vampire. He hid in a closet with a sword and waited until seeing a fiendish cat-like creature stalk around his niece’s bedroom and bite her on the neck. He then leapt from his hiding place and attacked the beast, which took the form of Millarca. She fled through the locked door, unharmed. The General’s niece died immediately afterward.
  • When they arrive at Karnstein the General asks a nearby woodsman where he can find the tomb of Mircalla Karnstein, so that he may remove her head and end the nightmare. The woodsman relates that the tomb was relocated long ago, by the hero who vanquished the vampires that haunted the region. He goes to find his master who knows of all the monuments of the Karnstein family.
  • While the General and Laura are left alone in the ruined chapel, Carmilla appears. The General and Carmilla both fly into a rage upon seeing each other and the General attacks her with an axe. Carmilla flees and the General explains to Laura that Carmilla is also Millarca, both anagrams for the original name of the vampire Countess Mircalla Karnstein.
  • The ordeal ends when the Countess’s body is exhumed and destroyed.
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