What makes it work is the way the four-man Italo-Spanish team of adapters complicate the Carmilla story (which isn't acknowledged, of course) so that those familiar with Le Fanu may find themselves actually uncertain of how the story will turn out. As Wendigo pointed out to me, the standard Carmilla narrative doesn't kick in until just before the 24-minute mark, when a coach carrying the famous seductress (here called Ljuba and played by Ursula Davis) loses a wheel outside the Karnstein castle.
Who's responsible for those terrible dream/flashbacks Laura's experiencing? Ambitious Annete (top), maternal Satanist Rowena (bottom) or someone else???
With Annette apparently trying to drive Laura insane, and not necessarily needing to do a whole lot to reach her goal, and with Laura under the dubious protection of a devout devil-worshipper, Mastrocinque and his writers have set the stage for Ljuba's arrival. You may think you recognize Carmilla at this point, but what does Ljuba have to do with what we've already seen? Is she a prior instigator of events? Will she be a catylyst for future disasters? Or is she simply going to be an innocent, endangered bystander? It's Laura, after all, who dreams of biting Ljuba -- on whom she has an obvious girl-crush -- and Ljuba's neck is the only one that has marks on it.
Is Ljuba the vampire, the victim or just the love interest in this picture?
Rowena points an accusing finger from beyond the grave (above)
while the girls embark on a fateful elopement (below).
Along with the creative adaptation, Wendigo enjoyed Crypt's Bava-inspired black-and-white cinematography and art direction, and the overall craftsmanship of the relatively unknown Mastrocinque. While no one actress in Crypt's cast is the equal of Barbara Steele in Black Sunday, -- and Mastrocinque would get his chance with her in An Angel for Satan -- they're all attractive or charismatic, and there's real chemistry between Ambesi and Davis, and they all have a better story to work with, in Wendigo's opinion, than Steele did. While distributors could not resist temptation and teased in the ballyhoo that Lee was the menace, the actor gives a solid, straight performance as a troubled, relatively passive hero, and even Jose Campos was adequate in the customarily romantic dull male lead role. Wendigo says that if he sees more films like Crypt, he may change his mind about European horror once and for all.
The following video, uploaded to YouTube by qloshima27, is more of a highlight reel than a trailer, but it gives you some hints of the action.