How often is a female the protagonist of a horror movie? I can tell you: not often. Of course, in Carmilla, sure, and in some of the Hammer films, they are, but still. If not unique, it is certainly unusual when that the “monster” protagonist of a movie is a woman.
Gloria Holden steps into the role of Countess Zaleska. She is beautiful, mysterious, intelligent and cold. And she doesn’t want to be a vampire, anymore. But, like her side kick reminds her, it is simply in her nature.
She also has a fabulous wardrobe (Ms. Holden also worked as a model).
The Countess is a subtle vampire. Unlike her male counterparts, she cannot hope to woo or overcome her victims (both male and female) without help. So, she lures them, with the assistance of her servant. I particularly enjoyed the creepy interaction between Countess Zaleska and her manservant, Sandor. They interacted almost as peers (unlike the henchmen in other movies).
She then surprises them at a vulnerable moment. One way she causes them to be vulnerable, in the case of her models, is by having them partially undress. For this reason, and others, some reviewers determined that there were deliberate lesbian undertones to this movie.
Since this was also true in Sheridan LeFanu’s vampire story, Carmilla, I can see that.
Themes of loneliness, desire, control, willpower and male and female roles in relationships emerge, as in all vampire movies. There is a poignant scene where she expresses the desire to change that is reminiscent of the struggle of an addict or alcoholic.
One interesting tidbit is the way she lures some of her victims is by telling them she needs an artist’s model. In real life, Gloria Holden had worked as an artist’s model.
You can rent and enjoy this movie on YouTube. Let me know what you think of it!