Plot: What’s it about?
Stefan (John Karlen) has just arrived at a lush European resort, with his new bride Valerie (Danielle Ouimet) in tow. He has had success in life and has wealth, but he also has a dark side, one he keeps hidden. The secret he hides is a sadistic streak, but he can only hold it back for so long, before he lets himself loose. Valerie is a smart woman, so she notices things about her husband, some of which disturb her. At the same time, the resort welcomes two new guests, ones which are certain to have an impact on all those around them. Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) is now a guest at the resort, as is her youthful, gorgeous protege Ilona (Andrea Rau). As time passes, Valerie begins to take notice of some strange phone calls Stefan is making, which results in some problems for the newlyweds. Soon enough however, violence descends upon the resort and Stefan turns up dead. Valerie doesn’t cut the honeymoon short however, instead she joins up with the two women. Now a string of virgin murders has the authorities baffled, but as the blood soaked corpses mount, something must be done. A detective suspects Countess Bathory, but is unable to move in on her, due to lack of evidence. But with no other suspects, how long can she manage to stay one step ahead of the police?
This movie was first released by Anchor Bay in a decent presentation, but now we have the definitive release, thanks to Blue Underground. So even if you own the previous version, its time to trade up, as this new edition sports the director’s cut of the movie itself, a brand new anamorphic widescreen transfer, and some cool new supplements. And this new release is bound to please genre fans, since Daughters of Darkness is a notorious shocker. But it is by no means driven by pure shock value, as the movie has some excellent atmosphere, memorable visuals, and of course, the beautiful Andrea Rau. In addition, this picture is aimed at an older, more sophisticated audience, so don’t expect some mindless, exploitative slasher project here. Yes, you’ll see ample sex, violence, and gore, but this isn’t the usual horror product, the kind of stuff pushed toward teenagers and what not. The premise is solid, with roots in well known vampiric lore and some nice twists are kicked in, to keep things fresh. If you’re squeamish or easily offended, this one is a lock to knock you off the deep end, as Daughters of Darkness is bathed in depraved moments. I hold this movie in high esteem, as it never holds back its own perverse nature. So if you’re a fan of horror or exploitation cinema, this new edition is a must own release.
If I start to think about this movie, the first image to surface in my mind is one of Andrea Rau, who is a total gothic babe. A famous shot of her adorned the original release’s cover, which I was sad to see replaced for this edition. Even so, the same shot is found on the back cover here, so it all evens out. If nothing else, Rau has such a perfect visual presence for this project, as she seems at ease in all of her scenes. All too often, the starlets seem to slow up whenever some perverse content arises, but that isn’t the case here with Rau. She looks the part too, which goes a ways in maintaining atmosphere. In this kind of dark, depraved material, if an actress stands out, it tends to sink the tension. But since Rau is a perfect visual match, it works all the better, but it isn’t just looks, her presence is right on also. As I said before, she seems so natural in front of the cameras here, which lends more realism to the experience. Plus, I have to draw attention once more to the fact that she’s hot. Other films with Rau include Quartet in Bed, The Swingin’ Pussycats, The Love Mad Baroness, and Lola. The cast also includes Delphine Seyrig (Stolen Kisses, The Last Word), John Karlen (Pennies From Heaven, Tv’s Dark Shadows), and Danielle Ouimet (Satan’s Sabbath, Alice’s Odyssey).
Video: How does it look?
Daughters of Darkness is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. I am pleased to have a new anamorphic widescreen treatment of this movie, but this material is still in need of some kind of restoration work. The print is in decent condition, but there is grain in many scenes and debris is common, though never to an extreme level. These flaws keep the black levels on the soft side, which then in turns lessens the visuals. A little cleaning could erase some of that grain, but given some failed attempts in that area (i.e. Heathers), perhaps this one is better left undone. The colors look good though, with bright and bold hues throughout. I don’t mean to be overly harsh on this treatment, but like I said, the material is in worn condition. But until someone invests in a restoration effort, this is about as good as it gets.
Audio: How does it sound?
I wasn’t all that impressed with the included mono mix, but it wasn’t that bad either. This track does miss a few chances, but overall this film just doesn’t need the dynamic sound that some do. A little creepiness could have been added via some creative surround use, but track still offers a decent experience. The music sounds good enough, but lacks the immersive punch a full surround sound track could produce. The sounds effects come through well, but again lack the full punch I would have liked. No dialogue problems emerge though, as the vocals seem clear and well place. Not a great soundtrack, but not a bad one either.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The extras kick off with two audio commentary tracks, one with director Harry Kumel and one with star John Karlen. In the second track, Karlen is joined by journalist David Del Valle, who prompts the actor whenever the session slows down. This ensures a brisk experience, but Del Valle talks too much and in the end, not enough of Karlen’s comments are present. Kumel’s track is more consistent, as the filmmaker talks all about the production. He touches on countless issues, such as the cast, the critical reaction to the picture, and his own thoughts on the film. This session is terrific and Kumel is on his toes, so there’s a lot to be gleaned here. This disc also includes an interview with Andrea Rau, some poster artwork & still photos, some radio spots, and the film’s theatrical trailer, so there’s a nice assortment of goodies to be perused.