Censoring Carmilla: Lesbian Vampires in Hammer Horror

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971), and Twins of Evil (1971) – known as the ‘Karnstein trilogy’ – comprise a core British contribution to the early 1970s golden age of lesbian vampire movies. Coinciding with the age limit for the X certificate being raised from 16 to 18 in 1970, these films (inspired by Le Fanu’s Carmilla) introduced lesbianism and increased nudity and sexual content to Hammer’s vampire films, taking advantage of censorial permissiveness to revitalise the studio’s horror slate before its decline mid-decade. While accounts of British censorship and horror cinema tend to highlight the censors’ efforts to block or dilute horror’s horrific nature, an examination of the BBFC’s response to this trilogy reveals that here it was the lesbian content at stake. Through the Karnstein trilogy, Hammer negotiated exploiting and constraining such content with the BBFC, which influenced cinema’s lesbian vampire subgenre for decades to come.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdult Themes
Subtitle of host publicationBritish Cinema and the X Certificate in the Long 1960s
EditorsAnne Etienne, Benjamin Halligan, Christopher Weedman
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781501375262, 9781501375286
ISBN (Print)9781501375279
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameGlobal Exploitation Cinemas


  • censorship
  • BBFC
  • The Vampire Lovers
  • Lust for a Vampire
  • Twins of Evil
  • Karnstein trilogy
  • Hammer
  • horror
  • lesbian vampire
  • Carmilla


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