DNA Banner 03
horror dna logo header right
Kiss Of The Vampire Main

The Kiss of the Vampire Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Kiss Of The Vampire Large

Directed by Don Sharp
Written by Anthony Hinds (as John Elder)
1963, 88 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 14th, 2020

Starring:
Clifford Evans as Professor Zimmer
Edward De Souza as Gerald Harcourt
Noel Willman as Dr. Ravna
Jennifer Daniel as Marianne Harcourt
Barry Warren as Carl Ravna
Isobel Black as Tania
Jacquie Wallis as Sabena Ravna

The Kiss Of The Vampire 01 The Kiss Of The Vampire 02

Review:

Newlyweds Gerald and Marianne Harcourt are on their way to celebrate their honeymoon when they find themselves stranded in a Bavarian forest having run out of gas. They seek shelter in a nearby village and are surprised when they receive a dinner invitation at the request of the esteemed Dr. Ravna at his chateau. The evening is quite pleasant and the next day Ravna’s adult children Carl and Sabena extend an invitation to an upcoming masquerade ball. Gerald crosses paths with the eccentric Professor Zimmer, who warns him to be careful around Ravna. At the party, Carl dances with Marianne while Sabena plies Gerald with liquor until he passes out. When he awakens, his new bride has vanished and everyone claims she was never there and that he in fact came alone.

Gerald seeks the help of Prof. Zimmer, who reassures him of his sanity and reveals that Dr. Ravna is the head of a vampire cult with desires to make Marianne a new disciple. Although greatly outnumbered, they must work together to rescue her and put a stop to this growing threat. Zimmer knows the vampires’ weaknesses and has a few unconventional tricks up his sleeve, but his methods prove extreme and dangerous. Can Gerald successfully reclaim his bride and escape these evil forces or will everyone be doomed by Zimmer’s actions?

With The Kiss of the Vampire, Hammer Films expands their run of vampire movies without the Dracula character. Instead, we are introduced to the revered Ravna family who live in a castle outside a small village. Dr. Ravna is the leader of a cult populated by creatures of the night and he is always looking for new members. These beings can walk openly on overcast days, eat normal food and sleep in comfy beds. His rival is the hard drinking, no-nonsense Professor Zimmer, a man whose troubled history with the cult has left him bitter and hell-bent on revenge. These two characters are well-realized and command your attention to the point that you may not notice how little time they actually spend together onscreen.

Director Don Sharp (Curse of the Fly) successfully captures the look and spirit of the popular Gothic horrors of the era despite this being his first venture into the genre. The script by Hammer vet Anthony Hinds (Scars of Dracula), penned under his frequent alias “John Elder”, pushes the envelope of what the British board of censors found acceptable in 1962. Vampires remain seductive creatures, but their female victims are more complicit and the curse is linked pointedly to venereal disease. Those bitten can avoid being turned by burning the infected area in a timely manner. Our unconventional hero figure is usually drunk and surly and is not above resorting to performing a black mass “to fight evil with evil”.

The Kiss Of The Vampire 03 The Kiss Of The Vampire 04

The plot borrows elements of the Dracula legend and dresses them up fairly respectably. There is no shortage of clichés, starting with our stranded motorists, happy newlyweds seeking shelter in an inn with suspicious locals. A castle looms over the village and the charming host is secretly a monster. One nice addition briefly introduced is the attempt to gaslight our protagonist into believing his wife never existed. Borrowing generously from Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and The Twilight Zone, the idea makes for an interesting twist but is sadly underexplored. The centerpiece of the picture is a beautifully photographed masquerade ball, a sequence that was later parodied in Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers.

Clifford Evans (Curse of the Werewolf) stars as Professor Zimmer, who serves as the Van Helsing figure, ready to do what it takes to defeat the vampires. Edward De Souza (Phantom of the Opera) and Jennifer Daniel (The Reptile) play hapless honeymooners Gerald and Marianne Harcourt. They are the innocents abroad, besieged by evil forces that mean them harm. Noel Willman (Doctor Zhivago) does an excellent job as the heavy, Dr. Ravna. He’s no Christopher Lee, but he makes for a menacing vampire.

The Kiss of the Vampire is one of the better Gothic horror movies of the 1960s with its rich atmosphere and creative expansion on the familiar lore. Despite Sharp’s conservative display of blood and skin that was growing more prominent in Hammer films at the time, audiences are treated to a powerful opening scene at a funeral and an over-the-top finale that is pretty ambitious. The film benefits from some gorgeous cinematography by Alan Hume (The Legacy) and production design by Bernard Robinson (Frankenstein Created Woman).

For its American television broadcast, any and all traces of blood and risqué material were removed and additional footage featuring new cast members was incorporated to pad the running time. Released under the title Kiss of Evil, the results are confusing and dull and this version should be avoided except as a curiosity. In its original form, this is a rather entertaining picture well worth picking up for your collection.

The Kiss Of The Vampire 05 The Kiss Of The Vampire 06

Video and Audio:

Presented in both the 1.66:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios, the film’s interpositive has received a 2K scan and restoration yielding vastly superior picture quality to the 2016 Universal Blu-ray release. The image is sharper and full of bright colors that pop as well as deep black levels.

The original mono recording comes courtesy of an uncompressed DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that is clean and free from hiss, pops and other distortion. Dialogue levels are always understandable and music cues are robust without being intrusive.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

The Kiss Of The Vampire 07 The Kiss Of The Vampire 08

Special Features:

There are two audio commentaries accompanying the main feature; the first is a newly-recorded analysis from film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr (on the 1.66:1 version). Highlights include revealing trivia about the origins of some of the more memorable sequences as well as readings from the original screenplay. There’s biographical information on members of the cast and crew are many production stories that are balanced with contextual insight into the history of Hammer films.

Appearing on the 1.85:1 presentation is a vintage commentary with actors Edward De Souza and Jennifer Daniels, moderated by Peter Irving. The veteran performers share their memories of the shoot and what it was like working for Hammer. They also offer their thoughts on director Don Sharp and their co-stars. Recollections are sharp, but marred by extended gaps of silence.

The truncated TV edit Kiss of Evil (93 minutes) is included for completists and appears in standard definition, full frame (1.33:1) video. An audio commentary by film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson provides background on the extensive changes made to the original film and the ersatz material used to pad the running time for television. They also contribute insightful production information regarding the cast and crew.

If you don’t want to suffer through the whole movie, the additional scenes for Kiss of Evil are presented separately (17 minutes). The content is pretty lame, but it’s worth checking out to see actress Virginia Gregg, who genre fans may recognize as the voice of Norman Bates’ mother in the first three Psycho movies.

Film historian/publisher Richard Klemensen offers two video appreciations for the ongoing series The Men Who Made Hammer. The first studies the work of composer James Bernard (17 minutes), with whom Klemensen enjoyed a personal friendship, and several photographs are included along with production stills and film clips. Some of Bernard’s compositions play softly in the background throughout.

The second appreciation finds Klemensen focused on the career of production designer Bernard Robinson (20 minutes). The piece begins with some brief background information covering his time before joining Hammer, but quickly moves on to his lengthy tenure with the famous studio. Both segments are packed with information, delivered at a brisk pace that held my attention.

The original theatrical trailer for Kiss of the Vampire is joined by a radio spot.

A TV trailer for Kiss of Evil is also included.

The Kiss Of The Vampire 09 The Kiss Of The Vampire 10

Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Fourstars
Features: Threeandahalfstars
Overall: 4 Star Rating

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
Recent Articles

­

Join Us!

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...