Directed by: Don Sharp
Written by: Anthony Hinds
Starring: Edward de Souza, Jennifer Daniel, Noel Willman, Clifford Evans & Peter Madden
Reviewed by: Brett H.
“… She has, as you might put it, ‘grown up’. Tasted the more sophisticated, more exotic fruits of life.”
“Oh, my God!”
“God is hardly involved, Mr. Harcourt.”
“Oh, my God!”
“God is hardly involved, Mr. Harcourt.”
Since the beginning of film, there’s been the vampire; the immortal legend that will never die. Sure, the abominations of God’s image have been staked, exposed to sunlight and burned over the years, but the species still breathes... somewhere. From the ghastly visage of Count Orlock and the sexy, accentual rhythm of Count Dracula all the way up to Count Yorga, the MTV-inspired David from The Lost Boys and beyond, the vampire comes in many shapes, sizes and personas. Different portrayals. Same damned suckmonkeys. Britain’s Hammer Films exploded onto the scene with the perennial classic, Horror of Dracula and followed suit with many a tale of horror, including a lesser known film from 1963 entitled The Kiss of the Vampire. If the film had centered around traditional Hammer staples such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, the film may have gone on to greener pastures. But time has proven that this very different, very average take on the ghoulish folklore will not be left unturned by modern day arm-chair Van Helsings.
Gerald and Marianne Harcourt (Edward De Souza, Jennifer Daniel) are a newlywed couple that have it all. Or, at the very least, a motorcar; a pretty big deal for the times. But, as per the times once again, Marianne is a good wife, but the dame can't seem to navigate roads on the trusty map worth two hoots. The two run out of petrol and remain stranded on the road and head out in search of a hotel to rest in until they can acquire some fuel. They stumble upon a nice inn and decided to put their feet up. Before they can even get settled, they’re sent a notice from the owner of the large castle on the hill, inviting them over for a good time. Not worrying about just how this rich doctor knew they were staying at the hotel (or, how they existed at all), the lovebirds accept the invitation.
Something is fishy, all right, and drunk old Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) knows this all too well. In the opening moments of the film he disrupts a funeral and smashes a shovel through a closed coffin. His hunches prove correct as the corpse lets out a blood-curdling scream. The problem is corpses aren’t supposed to scream and dark houses on the tops of hills never have owners that love sugar and spice and everything nice. After another visit to the strange doctor’s house, Marianne goes missing and Gerald is thrown out of the castle, being accused of jackassery after a few too many. Not knowing where else to turn, even kind ol’ inn owner, Bruno (Peter Madden) seems against him. He goes to the only one who can help him, Professor Zimmer. Suspicions once again prove all too true, the doc is a vampire, as are his entire family. With more than a little brandy on the breath, Zimmer and Gerald go to battle for the rights to Marianne’s soul…
The Kiss of the Vampire isn’t your average vampire flicks. Well, it is merely average in quality, but the fang-flashers in question aren’t necessarily the type that go out and hunt for virgins just to live another day. Dr. Ravna and a few others in his cult reveal their fangs, but for the most part they are just minions in white robes. As far as vampire sects go, Ravna’s are pretty damn dull. As far as vampire leaders go, Ravna is damn dull and lacks charisma. They don’t transform into bats and it seems as though their bites are done more to infect rather than to take life to sustain theirs. Where the film performs below par on this behalf, it makes for it in the form of the heroes. The idea of a vampire sect slayer who is fond of the drink is a hoot and there are enough secrets and good, likable characters to sink your teeth into.
Typical for Hammer, the sets in the film are all great to look at, although the acting is a bit in and out at times. The film starts off great with a mysterious bearded man, later proving to be Zimmer, crashing a funeral (with ladies in attendance narcing to the audience that he has already thrown more than a few back) and bludgeoning the heart of a vampire through her coffin. That’s pretty badass for a flick from 1963 and I will give it its due. The film slows down a bit from there before picking up the pace towards an all too short climax sans the typical staking fans of the subgenre are accustomed to. There are even quite a few scenes that are chuckle worthy, something that suits the film quite well. The score is what you’d expect from a sixties horror film, and the direction is more than adequate, taking full advantage of the castle setting. It’s just too bad there wasn’t more graveyard and other assorted spooky footage to go along with slamming shutters and the nice establishing shot of the old dark castle. Not to mention the moody opening.
Luckily for fans of this film and Hammer in general, Universal has made The Kiss of the Vampire easily accessible and for a great price. It is included in the Hammer Horror Series two-disc set with seven other movies, among them the true classic, Brides of Dracula, along with Curse of the Werewolf, Evil of Frankenstein and Phantom of the Opera and more! The movie itself is in it's original aspect ratio and lacks any special features, but the mono track is clear and the video looks great for a film of such age with only a few blemishes popping up here and there and the occasional drop-off in print quality. You may even have this one on your shelf and not know it. If that is the case, take it down and give it a spin. It’s not as atmospheric as other films from the time, but it certainly is a fun time waster. Hammer has done better and they’ve done worse, but British horror fans will most likely want to check this out. Where else are you going to find a drunk, Latin-spewing vampire hunter? Rent it!
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