Harry Kumel,Belgium 1971, 101 mins, R16 violence, sex scenes.
Stranded in a palatial seafront resort hotel in out-of-season Ostend, newlyweds Stefan (Karlen) and Valerie (Ouimet) find themselves in thrall to the hotel's only other guests, the Countess Elisabeth Bathory (Seyrig) and her surly but sultry companion Ilone (Rau). Tension within the young couple - Valerie is pressurising Stefan to inform his disapproving mother of their marriage - is exploited by the countess when she rouses Stefan to ecstasy with an account of her ancestor's unquenchable thirst for blood.
Three young women, meanwhile, have been found murdered in nearby Bruges, their bodies drained, and the hotel concierge (Esser) can't get past the fact he remembers the countess staying at the hotel 40 years previously, and she hasn't aged a day. There are neither fangs nor longueurs in this sumptuous blend of lesbian vampire flick and European art movie.
The casting of Seyrig, trailing memories of Marienbad, is inspired, and her swooning performance bewitches the entire cast. Kumel casts his own spells with alternating blue washes and red dissolves, and skilful location work that doesn't allow you to see the join between hotel exteriors and interiors - in Ostend and Brussels respectively.
- Nicholas Royle, Time Out