What would you do if you were walking along a deserted beach and came across a beautiful woman buried in the sand wearing nothing but a diving mask? If like me you’d be on the alert for the inevitable Spanish horror film crew that had to be lurking somewhere you’re reading the right column. There’s quite a bit of memorable imagery in Vicente Aranda’s 1972 Spanish lesbian vampire picture, but none that’s quite as bizarre or surreal as this. One presumes that the diving mask was probably requested, quite reasonably, by actress Alexandra Bastedo to stop all the sand from getting in her face, and to allow her to breath while the shot was set up. In fact director Aranda seems to have been most accommodating to both his lead actresses as one also presumes that he had no problems sorting out a nude double for Maribel Martin, even if it does look like they had to use more than one. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
While US horror cinema has only used Sheridan LeFanu’s story Carmilla for the briefest of inspiration (eg in Stephanie Rothman’s 1971 THE VELVET VAMPIRE) Europe has done its best to do Mr LeFanu proud, with interpretations from France (Roger Vadim’s 1960 BLOOD & ROSES / ET MOURIR DE PLAISIR), Italy (LA CRIPTO E L’INCUBO from 1964), and of course the UK (Hammer’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, which surprisingly enough is the most faithful of all, even if the two sequels, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and TWINS OF EVIL aren’t). Spain’s version went under the original title of LA NOVIA ENSANGRENTADA but it’s best known by the title heading this article.
Simon Andreu and Maribel Martin get married but all is not well. As soon as they get to their honeymoon hotel Maribel’s starting to suffer from hallucinations in which she is raped, causing her to want to leave. They travel back to Simon’s ancestral home, which has a tumbledown church next door (the kind of beautiful location movies like this seem to be able to come up with effortlessly) and paintings of all his female ancestors in the cellar, one of which is holding a bloody dagger, has had the face cut out of it and bears the name ‘Mircalla Karstein’. In this film the legend goes that she killed her husband because he wanted her to perform ‘unspeakable acts’ on their wedding night. What these acts were we never get to find out but they were certainly bad enough for Mircalla to become cursed as a vampire (probably) and to get sealed up in the crypt next door. While we’re finding all this out Maribel’s suffering from more hallucinations, but now she’s where Mircalla presumably wants her they’re taking the far more pleasant form of a ghostly Alexandra Bastedo, draped in lilac and wandering the ruins during the hours of darkness. It’s not long before Simon has discovered Ms Bastedo naked on, or rather in, the beach (see above) and has brought her back home for tea, as one does in EuroHorror films based on Carmilla. Of course it’s not a good idea, not least because one of Maribel’s night-time hallucinations has already involved both her and Mircalla stabbing Simon to death in a particularly unpleasant scene that has graced video box covers up and down the land. Calling herself Carmilla her seduction of Maribel continues, leading to the death of the local doctor and a huntsman, who gets more than just his face blown off after releasing Carmilla from an animal trap in a yet another arresting (sorry) image. The finale involves possibly the one direct visual reference to LeFanu’s story, when Simon riddles Mircalla’s coffin with bullets, causing it to fill with blood. But Simon has a further fate in store for the two bloodied female corpses within, summed up rather more subtly than one might expect by this point by a newspaper headline that leads to the fadeout.
Like many European horror films of the time, THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE is a mixture of atmospheric longeurs, fine visual imagery, and the necessary exploitation elements that enabled this to be booked at many a drive-in cinema (with a movie called I DISMEMBER MAMA, which I have yet to see but I can’t say I’m in any hurry). Fans of films of this period, and of this style, will find a lot to reward their viewing patience in a film where probably the least subtle thing about it is the title. Oh, and all the blood that gets spattered over…well, perhaps it is a good title after all.