Tony Scott, The Hunger, 1983, stills from a color film in 35 mm, 97 minutes. Left: Miriam Blaylock and Sarah Roberts (Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon). Right: Young woman and John (Ann Magnuson and David Bowie).


LESBIAN BLOODSUCKERS have long populated vampire movies, appearing as early as 1936 in the Hollywood studio film Dracula’s Daughter and resurfacing several decades later in the pleasingly tawdry Euro productions The Vampire Lovers (1970), Daughters of Darkness (1971), and Vampyros Lesbos (1971). But Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983) gave the genre its most enduring sapphic icon: Catherine Deneuve’s Miriam Blaylock.

The Hunger was the first feature helmed by Scott, who had directed commercials for two decades. Oozing with stylish pansexual chic, the film pairs Deneuve’s vampiress, thousands of years old but forever young, with infamously gender-tweaking, AC/DC David Bowie, playing her bloodsucking but rapidly aging husband, John. After snacking on some new-wave cuties they picked up in a Bauhaus-headlining dance club, Miriam and John return to their Upper East Side marble palazzo, where sheer curtains blow, doves cry, corpses pile up—and straight women fall into Miriam’s mirrored bed.

Miriam’s latest conquest is progeria expert Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon), initially sought out by John, who’s desperate to stop withering away. Paying a house call, Sarah is greeted at the door by Mrs. Blaylock; the scientist is so dazed by the undead’s beauty that she’s almost run over by an eighteen-wheeler. When Sarah returns, Miriam, with perfectly marcelled hair pulled back in a chignon, follows the etiquette of the aristocratic, lavender-leaning, bloodthirsty seductress: She offers her guest sherry and plays her extracts from Lakmé on her piano. Though the love scene that follows looks like the slo-mo, heavily art-directed soft-core that was a staple on Cinemax for years, Deneuve’s high-femme hauteur and Sarandon’s soft-butch bi-curiosity slowly ignite into sweaty lust on-screen.

“She’s just that kind of woman. She’s . . . European,” Sarah, still feverish with dyke desire, will later describe Miriam in not-so-coded language to her suspicious boyfriend. Part of Miriam’s allure, of course, is that she is played by the world’s most famous Frenchwoman—a position Deneuve still holds almost thirty years later. (The actress was thirty-nine when Scott’s film was released.) The Hunger wasn’t Deneuve’s first foray into same-sexing—there are hints of lesbian frisson in Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967)—or her last (see André Téchiné’s 1996 Thieves and François Ozon’s 8 Women from 2002). But flawless, intoxicating lady-killer Miriam Blaylock remains Deneuve’s signature lez role—and a reminder of the debauched fun vampires used to have before the virginal teens of Twilight took over.

Melissa Anderson

The Hunger plays at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn September 15 as part of the series “Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Vampires Live Forever.” For more details, click here.