Daughters of Darkness

Daughters of Darkness

“You are so young and beautiful. You must have a secret.”

“A very strict diet; lots of sleep.”

Sage advice from Elizabeth Bathory, the centuries old vampire at the heart of Daughters of Darkness, though she fails to explain the downside that you must sleep during the day and the strict diet consists solely of human blood. No matter, if there is a chance to look as magnificent as Delphine Seyrig does in this picture then perhaps these are sacrifices worth making.

The plot here is the standard horror trope: a young newly married couple miss their ferry and are stranded in a deserted out of season hotel. During the day they are the sole guests but that evening a glamourous and mesmeric Hungarian Countess arrives and changes their lives forever. Needless to say the story is as predicable as you might imagine so what matters here is the journey, which turns out to be immensely entertaining, not to mention supremely stylish.

Seyrig does her best Marlene Dietrich impression, abetted by a series of ever more striking outfits while her companion, the alluring Andrea Rau, channels 1920s dykon Louise Brooks so it’s no surprise the sapphic overtones overwhelm. However director Harry Kümel sidesteps the temptation of overt sex & nudity, instead delivering a classy study of manipulation and power politics.

Daughters of Darkness

We soon discover the young husband is something of a sociopath, treating his wife contemptuously in spite of these early days of honeymoon. Perhaps sensing a kindred sadist soul in the Countess he becomes infatuated, especially evidenced in a powerful scene in which he recites the diabolical crimes of vampirism, reaching near ecstasy with each recounted horror. She, however has designs only on his wife and soon has them both under her spell.

It remains one of the mysteries of European cinema that Harry Kümel is not in the top echelon of working directors because he barely puts a foot wrong here. The pacing is spot on, the mood oozes sexuality without ever being exploitative and the numerous fade outs to blood red are enthralling. He went on to work with Orson Welles in Malpertuis, which on the strength of this near masterpiece must be worth a look.

Daughters of Darkness – directed by Harry Kümel (1971)

In Short
Weird but strangely fascinating. If you are expecting a bloody horror you’ll be disappointed but if it’s camp Euroschlock which oozes effortless style you’re after you’ll be in clover.
Trailer here