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Vampire's Kiss / High Spirits Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Vampires Kiss High Spirits Poster

Vampire's Kiss

Directed by Robert Bierman
Written by Joseph Minion
1988, Region A, 104 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on February 10th, 2015


Nicolas Cage as Peter Loew
Jennifer Beals as Rachel
Maria Conchita Alonso as Alva
Elizabeth Ashley as Dr. Glaser
Kasi Lemmons as Jackie

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Peter Loew is not the nicest boss at the literary agency - just ask his secretary, Alva. He has had her on a wild goose chase searching for an archived contract for days. He's not the best boyfriend either if you ask Jackie, the girl he has recently started dating, when he can be bothered to show up. If you check with his therapist, Peter is a bit of a control freak with delusions of grandeur - but he is a 1980s New York yuppie, so nothing too alarming there. No, Peter's problem is far more disturbing than just poor social skills, as he is also a victim of sorts: he has recently been targeted by a sexy lady vampire and is wrestling to keep possession of his eternal soul.

It all started the night that giant bat flew into his apartment, or maybe it was when he brought Rachel home from a club and she bit his neck while in bed. Either way, Peter knows he's screwed and is doomed to become a murderous bloodsucker himself. The problem with this notion is that his vague understanding of vampires comes from old movies and I don't think he paid close attention while they were on. Nobody understands him and nothing brings him joy, except emotionally tormenting his poor secretary. Peter's descent into madness is swift and his behavior quickly grows more erratic. The once-eccentric yuppie is now a raving maniac wearing plastic dime-store novelty fangs while howling at the moon.

Vampire's Kiss is a highly entertaining film that should be seen if for no other reason than to witness a command performance from Nicolas Cage (Wild at Heart) as the doomed Peter Loew. Cage fearlessly begins chewing scenery from the jump and takes it up a notch in almost every sequence that follows. He really throws himself into this character, heedless of how silly he may come off. Director Robert Bierman (A Merry War) seamlessly balances the surreal with the mundane, so viewers are never quite certain if Peter Loew is really enduring this trial or simply suffering a psychotic break. The truth is a closely guarded secret and remains elusive until the grand finale. Joseph Minion (After Hours) delivers a solid script that places this tragically flawed character in the center of a nightmare and watches him squirm. Peter is a frustrated narcissist who would love to be deep, if he only knew how. His attempts to show strength by punishing others usually backfires, leaving him weaker than before.

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Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) is Rachel, the mysterious muse, and Kasi Lemmons (Candyman) is Jackie, the would-be girlfriend. Elizabeth Ashley (Paternity) is his therapist, Dr. Glaser, and Maria Conchita Alonso (Predator 2) is the tortured secretary, Alva. These four characters play significant roles in Peter's life and it is no accident that the strongest people he interacts with are all women. He is surrounded by opportunities to be a better individual and squanders them with shameful parasitic acts of mean-spirited cowardice. Cage has the most on-screen chemistry with Alonso and their relationship is the best of the film. Her character is the moral center of the picture and despite being forced to rely on a man to fix her situation, she emerges as the one redeemed in the end.

Vampire's Kiss is a quirky little movie that shows a lot of determination by following the trajectory of a tragic lead as he spirals out of control through the streets of New York City. On the surface, it is fun to watch Cage vamping it up to levels of nuttiness he would not reach again until years later when his career detoured into frequent direct-to-video avenues. Rumors circulated for years that the actor was somehow embarrassed about this performance, but even a brief listen to his audio commentary accompanying this disc will put a stake through any such nonsense.

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High Spirits

Written and directed by Neil Jordan
1988, Region A, 99 minutes, Rated PG-13
Blu-ray released on February 10th, 2015


Peter O'Toole as Peter Plunkett
Steve Guttenberg as Jack
Beverly D'Angelo as Sharon
Daryl Hannah as Mary Plunkett
Liam Neeson as Martin
Jennifer Tilly as Miranda
Peter Gallagher as Brother Tony
Martin Ferrero as Malcolm

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Peter Plunkett is in a pickle, as his family manor is threatened with bank foreclosure. He hatches a plan to fake a haunted attraction and scare tourists into making his Irish castle a successful vacation destination. Peter wrangles friends and family to fill the roles of ghosts and banshees, but when the first wave of tourists arrive, the performance is lacking and now there are refund-hungry guests to add to his list of problems. What nobody initially realizes, however, is that Plunkett Manor really is haunted and when the ghosts start interacting with the living, the hijinks begin in earnest.

High Spirits is a broad comedy that aggressively strives for laughs through persistent screaming and high volume levels. Not such a good thing, as I frequently had to check subtitles to follow some dialogue. While it never reached the point that I felt I was being beaten up by the film, the experience is a bit exhausting. Written and directed by Neil Jordan (Interview with the Vampire), the Plunkett exploits range from slapstick to farce and then suddenly switch gears to a more fanciful love story once the actual ghosts arrive on the scene. Jordan has complained for years of studio interference and claims his original cut of the picture is substantially different from the release print and remains shelved in a vault somewhere.

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The special effects are impressive (for 1988) and the pacing is often madcap, but the real surprise of this picture is the cast, an ensemble of future stars and almost stars, led by the iconic Peter O'Toole (The Rainbow Thief). The late 80s were not always kind to the legendary thespian, but he manages to emerge unscathed from this production and displays quite a knack for physical comedy. Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy) stars as Jack, the American tourist with female troubles. His nagging-bitch wife, Sharon, is a bit one-note, but Beverly D'Angelo (National Lampoon's Vacation) fills the role with comedic skill. Her polar opposite is the delightful Daryl Hannah (Blade Runner) as the spectral Mary Plunkett, a haunted figure pursued by her murderous husband Martin, a surprisingly funny Liam Neeson (Darkman). Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky) displays a strong sense of timing as Miranda and she has great onscreen chemistry with Peter Gallagher (The Underneath), who matches her comic skills as Brother Tony. Character actor Martin Ferrero (Jurassic Park) is fun as the skeptical Malcolm, a man who wants his family to have a nice vacation.

High Spirits is not so much a bad movie as it is an uneven one that challenges you to like it. There are too many characters making noise that undermine the main plot line of ghosts in search of redemption. Too frequently the laughs involve screaming or pratfalls, but there are a few clever bits buried among the wacky moments. Whether the picture was heavily tinkered with before release or not, there is a definite smack of desperation to keep things pushing forward at all costs in order to prevent audiences growing restless. Pairing this title with Vampire's Kiss is an odd choice by Scream Factory, but the recent double feature of Love at First Bite/ Once Bitten leads me to speculate what future comedy pairings to expect, possibly My Boyfriend's Back with My Best Friend is a Vampire or even Haunted Honeymoon and Saturday the 14th. Not all of these films are going to be home runs, but the double bill presentation allows these titles to see new life on Blu-ray and I am glad this distributor is mixing up the variety to include a few laughs to match their scares.

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Video and Audio:

Score another hit for Scream Factory as both of these comedies receive a solid transfer presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Both titles shine in their HD debut with bright colors and plenty of small-object detail. Neither film has received a total remaster, but they don't really need one either as the source material appears in fine condition.

The default DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is surprisingly strong on both movies. Dialogue remains clear and free of distortion, but music levels on High Spirits are frequently intrusive.

English subtitles are provided for those in need.

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Special Features:

The Robert Bierman/ Nicolas Cage audio commentary returns from the Vampire's Kiss DVD release and is quite entertaining. The two are clearly having fun watching this film and the info they share is more than just the usual anecdotes as evidenced by Cage's intro. Definitely worth a listen!

The original theatrical trailer for Vampire's Kiss is the only video based supplement on this disc.

High Spirits has no special features.

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3 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert'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.
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