Daughters of Darkness (1971)

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A young newlywed couple on their way to England spend the night in an Ostend hotel. There they cross paths with a mysterious Countess and her secretary, and things start to quickly go south….

Daughters of Darkness is a rather ludicrous film with an equally ludicrous ending – even by 1970s standards. The film opens with a sex scene, which is followed by a painful exposition-dialogue. In general, the dialogue in this film is far from well-written. This film is a German-French-Belgian co-production, but the dialogue is entirely in English, apparently with no native speaker involved in the writing of the script, and as a result many lines do not sound entirely natural.

Due to this odd arrangement, some actors of various nationalities struggle their way through their lines, although others are doing a very decent job. Throughout, the quality of the acting is rather mixed. Delphine Seyrig is very convincing as the Countess, and Paul Esser and Georges Jamin – both veteran actors in their respective countries – are good in their supporting roles. I also suspect the male lead, John Karlen, to be a good actor – his performance shows a lot of promise – but he is hamming it up in more than one scene, and I am inclined to blame the script and the direction for that. It is the two young female cast members that let the film down. Andrea Rau’s acting is horrible, and Danielle Ouimet clearly has not the foggiest idea what this film is supposed to be, and what to make of her character or her motivation. To be fair, neither do we as an audience, because the plot, such as it is, is ludicrous and I would be hard pressed to tell you what this film is about. A certain lesbian eroticism is hinted at, as well as a feminist angle, but nothing amounts to much. And there is one scene which is a complete misdirect, as it never leads to anything.

Some of the practical effects are laughable, but apart from that, the film has some nice stylistic elements. The title music is nice; and like some other elements in this film less horror-related and more typical of a 1970s European gangster or noir film.

The film uses the very subtle eeriness of a near empty hotel off-season for building its atmosphere. Since the hotel is large and luxurious, its emptiness feels more pronounced, and takes on the character of ruin and decay, and also of slowly dying decadence. It is the perfect stage for the Countess in this film.

As you will see from my description, it is all a bit style over substance. Daughters of Darkness is a film strictly for completists only; and for people who are interested in the stylistic elements. But even in this area the film is far less iconic than Vampyros Lesbos.

My rating: 2.5 out of 10

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