Kiss of the Vampire (1963) | Hammer’s batty horror takes flight on Blu-ray

Kiss of the Vampire (1963) on Blu-ray

Shocking! – Horrifying! – Macabre!
In 1910 Bavaria, honeymooners Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne (Jennifer Daniel) head for a local inn after their motorcar breaks down. But when they accept an invitation by the mysterious Dr Ravna (Noel Willman) to stay at his nearby castle, they soon discover their host and his family are part of blood-sucking cult. Can the hard-drinking Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) save the couple before its too late?

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Giant devil Bats… summoned from the caves of Hell to destroy the lust of the Vampires!
Following the disappointing Phantom of the Opera (also out on Blu-ray from Final Cut) and These Are the Damned (one of my favourites – reviewed here), Hammer decided on a third Dracula film. Borrowing elements from Anthony Thorne’s 1947 novel So Long at the Fair (which became a 1950 crime thriller directed by Terence Fisher) and the draft screenplay of 1960’s Brides of Dracula, Anthony Hinds (writing as John Elder) conceived Kiss of the Vampire.

Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

On his first assignment for Hammer, Aussie director Don Sharp handles the proceedings with intelligence and flair and makes it all pretty chilly with the help of some skillfully bleak colour camerawork from Alan Hume (who directed the famous Endor forest chase scene in 1983’s Return of the Jedi). While there’s no Lee or Cushing returning as Count Dracula or Van Helsing, Noel Willman’s charming, but creepy Ravna and Clifford Evans’ drunken puritanical vampire hunter make pretty good substitutes. Meanwhile, both Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel make a great double act as the newlyweds (they also supply the entertaining audio commentary on the Final Cut Blu-ray release).

Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

Films & Filming gave the film its best review: ‘All credit to Don Sharp for turning what could have been a creaking, monotonously predictable story into an exceptionally well made (with some beautiful framed shots) and entertaining film’, while David Pirie, in The Vampire Cinema (1977), called it ‘a deftly constructed, occasionally Hitchcockian thriller, which is only married by an exaggerated performance from the hero Edward de Souza’. For me, it’s an underrated Hammer horror and a new personal favourite, and that climax in which the swarm of bats attack Ravna’s coven (actually latex toy bats from Woolworths) is truly iconic.

Kiss of the Vampire was originally released in the US in September 1963, followed by the UK in January 1964, where it double-billed with Paranoiac (reviewed here). For its US TV airings, it was severely cut which required new scenes to be filmed and inserted to make up for the lost minutes. Those scenes are not included in this release.

Kiss of the Vampire 1

According to fans on a couple of online Hammer forums, Universal’s old US DVD transfer master was used for Final Cut’s blu-ray version rather than a transfer from the original negative, as such the quality varies from scene to scene, with noticeable edge enhancement/sharpening and grain. The colours and overall brightness have also been ramped which makes some scenes zing while others appear washed out. But the night scenes are very effective. Final Cut also released a DVD version of the film back in 2012.

Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

• If you look carefully at the stained glass window that features in the film, among the satanic symbols and astrological signs is what looks like the logo for the London Tube.

• The film’s masked ball sequence inspired Roman Polanski to copy it for his 1967 spoof The Fearless Vampire Killers (aka Dance of the Vampires).

About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on January 17, 2015, in British Film, Cult classic, Hammer-Amicus-Tigon, Horror, Must See, Must-See and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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