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Nightmare Classics: “Carmilla” is one of a series of four television episodes, approximately 50 minutes each,

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written by Jonathan Furst and Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont, released on American television in 1989. Purchasing the episode can be a difficult process, but a somewhat esoteric Web site, Twisted Anger, does sell it on DVD.

 Synopsis[]

Marie, Leo’s daughter, shows contempt at a general’s canceled visit, his daughter being anxiously expected by the sheltered daughter. Interrupting Leo and Marie’s talk of the cancellation, on a moonlit walk, tumbles over a runaway carriage. The two strollers find dead bodies and an unconscious girl about Marie’s age. Back at Leo’s estate, a doctor suspects the plague has taken a part in the accident. Marie forgets all about the absent general’s daughter now that fate has given her a replacement visitor. Although it is unlikely the general’s daughter had such a vacant, stoic, and unblinking disposition.

Evil happenings begin with Carmilla’s invitation into Leo’s home, and many characters become influenced by her actions. One Miss Hodgett, a superstitious female servant, becomes the first to suspect Carmilla’s malignancy. After seeing a pile of mutilated animals and a bitten boy shortly after Carmilla’s arrival, she becomes sure of it. Marking her own grave, she places a charm on Marie’s door for her protection, and Carmilla promptly kills off the servant with a small colony of bats. The next to suspect Carmilla is an inspector of Miss Hodgett’s body. He thinks Carmilla is a vampire and convinces Leo and the doctor to plan her murder. The night before the murder is to take place, Carmilla uses his wooden stake against him by piercing it through his head.

Marie runs off with Carmilla to a mausoleum filled with vampires, and the doctor and Leo chase after them. When they arrive, the father, struggling at first, succeeds in regaining his daughter. He and the doctor kill of the vampires while Carmilla escapes. (Surprisingly, Leo finds his wife in a tomb.) Later that night, Marie fends off an attacking Carmilla in her bedroom and accidentally kills Carmilla by thrusting her onto a wooden spear.

Major Themes[]

Superstition[]

Superstition is incorporated heavily into Nightmare Classics: "Carmilla" and in new ways from the novella and some of its adapted predecessors. During the opening credits is Miss Hodgett receiving the general's letter. She has several necklaces around her neck, and she takes one off and gives it to the messenger. She says, "I heard what's in the south. I'll keep you safe." Later on, after becoming convinced Carmilla is dangerous, she uses her necklaces to protect Marie and hangs them outside her door. In The Vampire Lovers, Blood and Roses, and the novella, the superstitious are those who believe in the vampires. The subtle difference between Miss Hodgett and the other superstitious is that her knowledge of vampires, if she has any, is only implied. The inspector in the episode is more along the lines of the characters in the previous adaptations who first introduce the idea of a vampire. Like in The Vampire Lovers and Carmilla, "Carmilla" uses this character to place garlic and ward off Carmilla. Miss Hodgett, as a medicine woman, is a new addition from some previous adaptations. And while the inspector's garlic does hold Carmilla at bay, Hodgett's necklace does nothing to her when placed on her shoulder by an indignant and self-satisfied Marie. Hodgett's existence came about based on the hunchback from the novella.

The black cat is used as an omen, as it typically is, in Western culture, at least. It is associated with the devil, bad luck, and a sign of evil omens, specifically. Its inclusion in the film is appropriately just before Carmilla does something horrible, like drive a wooden stake through an old man's skull.

Father-Daughter Relations[]

The episode's writers give way to thinking that Leo may be sheltering his daughter by selfish motives. Viewers of Carmilla adaptations would recognize this concept in The Vampire Lovers, as well. In both cases, the father's loss of his wife has caused him to hold onto his daughter. What sets "Carmilla" apart is the daughter's resentment toward Leo. While not clearly aware of her father's motives, whether they be subconscious, her resentment reaches a climax when he obstructs Carmilla from following Marie upstairs (during the "garlic" scene). Marie's diatribe against her father for keeping her from her only friend is uncomfortable for viewers sensitive to troubled or dysfunctional familial dynamics. Their relations are the impetus of Marie's choice in the movie, causing her to run away with Carmilla to the mausoleum, where the climax takes place. It brings to mind the dynamic relations between Carmilla and Leo in Blood and Roses. In that film, although Carmilla is related to Leo as cousin and is a much more passive character that Marie, she challenges Leo's faithfulness to his fiancee and acts out in defiance to get his attention.

Reception[]

Nightmare Classics: “Carmilla” is left needing more reviews. Sites like Turner Classic Movies and Rotten Tomatoes are primed for reviews, but unoccupied by them (as of December 11, 2014). IMDb’s page for the episode has a total of 119 users’ contributions (and six reviews) totaling to an average of 6.4 out of 10 stars, probably the largest collection available. 

Significance of Adaptation []

Nightmare Classics: “Carmilla” was released after a line of about a dozen other film adaptations had been created. Although it is categorically a television episode, it matches the length of movies that have come before it. Considering how sexual, or, at least, sensual, other films create Carmilla’s relationship with her main victim, Nightmare Classics forgoes the theme of seduction essentially altogether. Actor Roy Dotrice (Leo) and actress Ione Skye (Marie) have had a relatively moderate career in film, while Meg Tilly (Carmilla) shifted to literature. The episode is unique in that it sets the film in was is presumably a pre-Civil-War era southern United States. The novella, Carmilla, and many of its adaptations place the story in Europe. Rather than a plantation, the father-daughter duo that lies at the forefront of the story typically lives in a castle. Given the setting, a new look at class divide focuses on races Caucasian and Afro-American. What is most interesting is to see what the writers decided to keep from, or pick up from previous adaptations of, the novella. Writer Jonathan Furst decided to introduce a cat into the episode, picking up the idea from previous adaptations, such as The Vampire Lovers. In the novella, the victim sees a cat in her nightmares, but the films introduce a domesticated pet feline, which acts as a sort of scapegoat in The Vampire Lovers. In the episode, the cat does not really do anything except happen to be around when Carmilla is, though that it is black has some superstitious significance. From the novella, the episode kept several direct events and ideas, such as the wreck, but steers away from the idea that Carmilla only feeds on females. In the episode, Carmilla's first victim is a hapless orphaned boy looking for shelter and food. While the episode introduces the idea of a general and his daughter not visiting when they said they would, it does no introduce the actual characters. It also kills off Carmilla's mother from the beginning.

The father-daughter relationship is particularly unique in this adaptation, according to Vampires.com, which takes interested in Carmilla adaptations and says Carmilla's victim "even has a spine" in this adaptation. She certainly does. Not only is she aggressive in general throughout, but she is defiant of her father on many occasions, she runs away from home, she helps stab her own mother through the heart, and she kills Carmilla single-handedly. She is at the risk of coming off as a brat, however. It seems that the father lost control of his temperamental daughter after the loss of her mother. One could even draw that this is representative of one problem with modernity's growing divorce rates and single-parenthood.

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