Though Danish actress Yutte Stensgaard's acting career isn't a success story, she still made an impression on Hammer audiences in her role as the spellbinding vampire, Mircalla, in part two of the Karnstein Trilogy, Lust for a Vampire. The film was not Hammer's finest achievement and has even been described as "one of the worst films ever made" by Ralph Bates who stars as Giles Barton. However, Stensgaard's beauty and girl next door appeal shone through despite the struggles Hammer faced in the wake of a new decade.

The blonde beauty was born Jytte Stensgaard but chose Yutte as her stage name since it was more easily pronounced. Somewhat naive to the profession, Yutte soon faced some difficult decisions about her career. "All the British films being made now have nude scenes," she told a Danish newspaper in 1968. "If not, people won't bother to see them, according to the producers. So sooner or later I'll probably have to jump on the bandwagon." After a few jobs, Hammer nabbed her and she was cast as the 1971 reincarnation of Carmilla Karnstein in Lust for a Vampire--a role previously played by Ingrid Pitt, whose shoes would be too big for her to fill according to the press after its release.
The story takes place in a small village in Austria at a finishing school for girls. Hot, half naked girls that is. A writer, Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) is traveling the countryside doing research for his book and scoffs at the warnings by villagers that the legendary Karnstein castle on the hill is teaming with vampires. When he explores the castle, he discovers the girl's school nearby and instantly falls in love with one of its students, Mircalla (Stensgaard). He concocts a pervy plan to become the new English teacher to get closer to Mircalla. When girls go missing no one suspects Mircalla as the culprit because they're all too busy running around in flimsy nighties and making out behind closed doors. Soon Giles Barton (Ralph Bates), the creepy art teacher, uncovers her true identity and ends up dead. Lestrange eventually learns that Mircalla is a vampire and professes his undying love for her. Meanwhile, the gym mistress (what an awesome title), played by Suzanna Leigh, has fallen in love with Lestrange and is torn about the school's headmistress not reporting the mysterious disappearances. As Mircalla devours her classmates and some of the village beauties, with the help of the mysterious Count and Countess Karnstein, all hell breaks loose and soon the villagers demand retribution.

The film is considered one of Hammer's sleazier moments, opting more for topless titillation than opulent glamour. Like its predecessor, The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire also met disapproval for its daring lesbian scenes. By today's standards, these scenes appear more erotic than lurid. While the film is pretty campy overall, it still maintains some stylish elements and is entertaining--especially the sex scene with the bizarro song Strange Love by singer Tracy (I wonder if Depeche Mode liked this movie). You can tell Hammer was completely out of their element amongst the bodacious boobies because all the sexy stuff is very awkward and forced. Yutte's performance is less bloodthirsty seductress and more innocent vampire puppet--enticing the boys and girls with her sex kitten appeal. Even though she faced tough criticism for her role and actiing abilities, Yutte bravely responded to the press with maturity. She quit the biz soon after Lust for a Vampire but her charm, good looks and sincerity have earned her a place in Hammer's hall of fame.

You can read more about Yutte and other Hammer hotties in Titan Books' Hammer Glamour.
categories Features, Reviews, Horror