HAMMER HORROR’S KISS OF THE VAMPIRE. (1963) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

kiss of the vampire showdownKISS OF THE VAMPIRE aka KISS OF EVIL (when shown on American television). (1963) HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS. DIRECTED BY DON SHARP. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY HINDS. WRITTEN BY ANTHONY HINDS UNDER THE NAME ‘JOHN ELDER.’ STARRING EDWARD DE SOUZA, JENNIFER DANIEL, CLIFFORD EVANS, NOEL WILLMAN, BARRY WARREN, JACQUIE WALLIS, PETER MADDEN AND VERA COOK. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is another fantastic entry in the Hammer Horror canon of DRACULA-slash-vampire films. It comes five years after Christopher Lee first donned the cloak and fangs to play Bram Stoker’s timeless horror creation Count Dracula for Hammer Film Productions, and a mere two years before Sir Christopher reprised his role again in Hammer’s DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

Neither Christopher Lee as the Count nor Peter Cushing as Van Helsing the vampire-hunter appear in KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, my only gripe with an otherwise perfect vampire film. Let’s take a look at the plot, shall we, film buffs…?

A young just-married couple, Gerald and Marianne Harcourt, are honeymooning in Bavaria, definitely a gorgeous spot for honeymooning. Except for the cult of bloodsucking vampires that occupy the castle overlooking the village where the Harcourts are obliged to spend several days due to motor-car trouble. See what you get for trusting so-called modern technology? You’d never have had that trouble with a coach and horses…!

The little inn where the young couple are staying over, rather ambitiously monikered the ‘Grand Hotel,’ is a quaint and charming wee place. The landlady, Anna, nurses a terrible un-named sadness, however, and her lovely old hubby Bruno, while suffering too, is just trying to get on with things. You know the way men are, haha.

An invitation for the young English couple to dine at the aforementioned castle, the property of a Dr. Ravna, is the source of much excitement at the little inn. Gerald and Marianne, in particular Marianne, are positively captivated by the charming doctor and his attractive and accomplished grown-up children, Carl and Sabena.

A party invite comes hot on the heels of the dinner invitation for the Harcourts. It’s a sexy masked ball and the booze is flowing, especially for the not-exactly-used-to-it Gerald, who wakes from a drunken-and-drugged stupor to find his wife missing. What’s more, the Ravnas are closing ranks and claiming that they know nothing at all about any so-called wife of his…

A friend of mine has remarked in the past that Dr. Ravna looks like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing mashed together. Sometimes I see it, sometimes I don’t. I do think, however, that the rather wooden Marianne, she of the fixed expression and unmoving hairstyle, resembles no-one so much as Doris Mann, the blonde woman from the marvellous spoof horror film CARRY ON SCREAMING who gets turned into a mannequin. Even being turned into a vampire-hussy doesn’t cause her expression to change or her hair to move at all…!

I love Clifford Evans as the alcoholic Professor Zimmer, who has good reason to be hitting the booze so hard and so often. Under his sternly-bearded exterior, he shares a joint pain with Anna and Bruno, the inn-keepers. He might also be the only person who can help a shell-shocked Gerald to free his missus from the cult of the vampires.

I don’t know if I’d bother if I were Gerald. I’m sure that Marianne could be easily replaced at any good department store where mannequins adorn the window displays. Sorry, sorry. I love the film, but Blondie surely could have used some serious loosening up…!

The film is as gorgeously filmed and coloured as you might expect from any Hammer production, with stunningly beautiful costumes, scenery, settings and interiors. I don’t like KISS OF THE VAMPIRE as much as, say, BRIDES OF DRACULA or any of the Christopher Lee Dracula films, but it’s still a super-worthy addition to the Hammer canon of brilliant vampire films.

Stakes through the heart, black magic, a bloodstained chest (though not the kind you’re thinking of!) and a thoroughly unusual ending make for an extremely enjoyable watch all round. Vampirism is here depicted as a sort of social disease that mostly afflicts those enjoying a decadent lifestyle. Another reason to keep buying those Lotto tickets, so…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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HAMMER HORROR’S BRIDES OF DRACULA. (1960) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

yvonne monlaurTHE BRIDES OF DRACULA. (1960) HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY HINDS.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, MARTITA HUNT, YVONNE MONLAUR, DAVID PEEL, FREDA JACKSON, ANDRÉE MELLY, MILES MALLESON, MICHAEL RIPPER AND MARIE DEVEREAUX.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Oh wow. This is one of my personal favourites in the Hammer Horror canon of DRACULA films. It might even be my favourite of the lot of ’em if it weren’t for the fact that Christopher Lee is noticeably absent from the cast.

Luckily for his fans, the devastatingly handsome and sexually magnetic six-foot-five actor agreed to reprise his role as the Prince of Darkness in the 1965 DRACULA film which was called, coincidentally enough, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Wasn’t that a big coincidence?

As you can probably see, I’m something of a fan of the late great Sir Chris. I’ve always felt a little bit connected to him through a series of other little coincidences. As a matter of fact, I joined Facebook on his birthday without knowing at the time that it was his birthday.

If that doesn’t seem like a big deal, well then, get your laughing gear around this little fact. On the day he died (not the day on which his passing was revealed to the public), I emailed my novel in three parts (then only two!) to Mr. Lee’s agent with a note asking said agent nicely to pass it on to him personally.

Entitled at the time ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA, now updated to FANGS AND FOREPLAY… THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF DRACULA, the lead character is modelled wholly on Christopher Lee’s Dracula in the Hammer Horror films of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Only with- ahem- added sexiness and tons and tons of sex and spanking.

Naturally, he would have read it, loved it and proposed that I write the film script for it. And of course, despite his advanced years, he would have wanted to play the leading role himself. If only things had worked out differently for us…!

Anyway, you’ll have gathered that, while I adore this film, I don’t dig the Baron Meinster (David Peel) as the head neck-biter here. Whoever heard of a blonde-haired Dracula figure? It’s an abomination! Other than that one little gripe, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA is sheer perfection from start to finish.

The stunningly beautiful and, sadly, recently deceased Yvonne Monlaur plays Marianne Danielle, a young Frenchwoman travelling alone through Hammer’s gorgeously-imagined Transylvania. She’s on her way to take up a position as a teacher of French and Deportment at a posh swanky girls’ finishing-school.

She does no teaching worth a damn in the whole film, though. Circumstances see her breaking her journey overnight at the castle-in-the-mountains home of the Baroness Meinster, a magnificent old dame with more chutzpah than a whole bevy of finishing-school beauties put together.

She’s marvellously played by Martita Hunt, an actress who once went up in flames in the dusty old surrounds of Charles Dickens’ Satis House as the lovelorn Miss Havisham. That 1946 adaptation of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, also starring John Mills as Pip, was the first time I ever saw Martita Hunt act and I never forgot how wonderful she was. I absolutely adore her in BRIDES OF DRACULA.

The Baroness’s feisty exterior masks a terrible sadness and an even worse secret. Nosy little Marianne can’t, of course, resist poking her exquisite little French nose into the tortured old noblewoman’s business.

When she finds out what the Baroness and her loyal servant Greta have been hiding, she most unwisely sets their ‘secret’ free. Free to wreak the most unimaginable horrors on the people of Transylvania, that is. And neither Marianne nor her pupils at the school will escape unscathed…

Peter Cushing is fantastic as always as the impeccably-suited and beautifully-spoken Dr. Van Helsing, the authority on the ‘cult of the Un-Dead’ who are threatening to consume the little village in an orgy of bloodlust and godlessness. He handles himself with aplomb and undoubted gutsiness against the horrors of vampirism and those who practise it.

Freda Jackson does a terrific job of portraying the crazy-as-a-loon Greta, the faithful old servant of Baroness Meinster’s whose mind is destroyed by the turn of events. Kudos also to Andrée Melly and Marie Devereaux, who make stunning Brides for the evil disciple of Dracula’s.

Miles Malleson (1888-1969) is brilliant also as the fee-hungry Dr. Tobler who likes the odd tipple. Like, every five minutes, haha. He plays a dotty entymologist Bishop in the 1959 Hammer version of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (also starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing) who also likes a tipple. Very much so. A small sherry here, a small sherry there, they all add up. I wonder how much booze his on-screen characters consumed over the years…!

Miles Malleson was actually born the year that the scallywag known as Jack The Ripper cut a bloody swathe through the- ahem- working girls of Whitechapel, London. Isn’t that incredible, that he was born that long ago? It kind of boggles the mind to think that far back.

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA pre-dates all the nudity and sexiness of the Hammer DRACULA films from the ’70s, but it’s still more than sexy enough to satisy the naughty viewers who tune in to Hammer as much for the glamour as for the storylines.

The settings and costumes are, as always, fabulously-coloured and lavish, and it would be a Fussy Freddie indeed who doesn’t imagine himself back in nineteenth-century Transylvania when he watches the film. The film surely has that unmistakable Hammer Horror ‘feel’ and vibe to it.

And Yvonne Monlaur is surely one of the greatest beauties of the modern era. Those eyes and full, succulent blow-job lips…! Snigger. I mean that in the nicest possible way. She’s a knockout. And so is the film. Miss it, as they say, at your peril. And they’d be right. Un-dead right…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

HAMMER’S ‘THE WOMAN IN BLACK.’ (2012) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

woman-in-blackTHE WOMAN IN BLACK. (2012) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY SUSAN HILL. DIRECTED BY JAMES WATKINS. STARRING DANIEL RADCLIFFE, CIARAN HINDS, JANET MCTEER, LIZ WHITE, MARY STOCKLEY AND SHAUN DOOLEY. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Susan Hill sure got lucky when she came up with the idea for this book, heh-heh-heh. Wish I’d thought of it first. What a fantastic story, for a kick-off, a surefire draw for the horror community.

This super-scary and atmospheric movie is a HAMMER film, HAMMER FILM STUDIOS being the company that brought us those wonderful Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing films from the ‘Fifties, ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies. DRACULA (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965), to name just a couple. This modern-day venture into horror is definitely worthy of inclusion in the superb HAMMER canon. I personally think it’s a bloody brilliant film, excuse my French.

Daniel Radcliffe, who was the luckiest boy in the world for the whole of the ‘Noughties because he got to play Harry Potter in the films of J.K. Rowling’s stupendously popular books, is the star of the film. He’s grown-up now and quite handsome, but you can still see the Harry Potter in him, haha. You’ll never lose it, Harry…!

Anyway, he plays a young widowed lawyer called Arthur Kipp in this chilling supernatural horror film, set in Edwardian times. That means the times after the Victorian era. I think…! He gets sent to an out-of-the-way village called Crythin Gifford on a legal job.

He’s got to go to a place there called Eel Marsh House to take care of the legal documents of the deceased owner, one Mrs. Alice Drablow. He hates the thought of leaving his four-year-old son Joseph with the nanny, but needs must and all that…

The natives of Crythin Gifford are super-unfriendly. The very mention of Eel Marsh House seems to get everyone’s hackles up. Arthur’s only ally in the place is a rich local landowner called Samuel Daily, marvellously played by one of my favourite actors, Ciaran Hinds.

Eel Marsh House has to be seen to be believed. It’s one of the best haunted houses I’ve ever seen in any film ever, and that’s the truth. It’s a truly magnificent old ramshackle house on the edge of a marsh, hence its name, and it’s only accessible at certain times of the day because of the tides. The grounds are delightfully overgrown and spooky and even contain an old graveyard, and as for the house itself…!

The interior of the house is straight out of the Victorian era, with dusty old drapes and old curios under even dustier glass that look like they were borrowed from the Natural History Museum of the eighteen-hundreds.

There are ornaments and bric-a-brac and old photographs everywhere and all kinds of fantastic Victoriana and old clutter. There’s no electric light, no remaining servants and no neighbours for miles around.

But that’s where all Mrs. Drablow’s legal documents are being stored, so that’s where poor Harry, I mean, Arthur, has to hole up for the duration. But he won’t be alone in the house. No, he’ll have company all right, the grim old residence’s one remaining tenant…

Next to the house itself, which for me is the star of the whole shootin’ match, I love Ciaran Hinds’ character, the rich but decent Samuel Daily, and I loved when Samuel lent Arthur his adorable little dog Spider (what kind of name is that for a cute puppy?) so he wouldn’t lack for company in the house.

Company’s one thing Arthur won’t be lacking, though. Eel Marsh House has a tragic history and its tentacles of terror (I like that, tentacles of terror!) reach as far as the village of Crythin Gifford, a village surprisingly low on children. Why is that, I wonder? Harry will need to draw on every ounce of his wizarding powers to survive a stay in the toxic and deadly dangerous Eel Marsh House…!

There are some really good jump-scares in the film that’ll give you the willies big-time. The old nursery at the top of the house is filled with the freakiest-looking old Victorian-type toys the film-makers could find, or so it seems. It’s got all the old staples in it like the haunted rocking-chair and the old enchanted music-box and it’ll creep the bejeesus out of you if you find Victorian nurseries creepy, which a lot of horror fans do.

There’s also a lovely old crypt in the film, though sadly we don’t get to have a good old snoop around inside it which I would have loved. I simply adore nosing around inside other people’s crypts…!

This is a beautifully-shot, well-acted horror film with magnificent scenery and settings and a really scary ghost. Watch it if you can, but leave all the lights on. She’s coming to get you…

PS, I’m not forgetting that there was an excellent made-for-television version of this story filmed in 1989, as I know a few of you horror fans are going to remind me! As a bonus feature, as it were, I’m including here a review I wrote of that 1989 version but please, please be warned, it contains extreme spoilers as I penned it when I was only a fledgeling of a wee baby bird of a chicklet of a reviewer and I thought that that’s what you were meant to do…!

THE WOMAN IN BLACK. 1989. DIRECTED BY HERBERT WISE. STARRING ADRIAN RAWLINS, BERNARD HEPTON, DAVID DAKER AND PAULINE MORAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Based on the hugely successful novel by Susan Hill, this is the story of young solicitor Arthur Kidd, a family man with two young children. Kidd is sent by his employer to the small town of Crythin Gifford on the east coast of England to attend the funeral of elderly and reclusive widow Mrs. Alice Drablow and afterwards tie up any loose ends pertaining to her estate.

At the funeral, Kidd is uncomfortably aware of the presence first at the back of the church and then outside in the graveyard of a grim-faced woman dressed entirely in black. Kidd travels then to Mrs. Drablow’s home, a cheerless old pile called Eel Marsh House which is connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway periodically obscured by mist.

While rooting about amongst old Mrs. Drablow’s effects, he finds two death certificates and a photograph of someone who looks suspiciously like a younger version of the woman in the black attire. He also listens to some disturbing recordings made by the late Mrs. Drablow that seem to indicate that the house has a troubled past, a past chiefly involving a woman of whom Mrs. Drablow has been wary, to say the least, if not outright afraid.

A few things happen in quick succession, none of them good. Well, it’s a bleedin’ ghost story, innit…? Kidd is plagued by the sound of a pony and trap he cannot see, a horse in difficulties and a child screaming for its mother. In a room in the house decked out as a nursery he hears the laughter of a child and the sound of a child’s voice saying: “Hello…?”

Kidd learns that old Mrs. Drablow and her now-deceased hubby adopted the child of Mrs. Drablow’s sister, a woman who later felt forced into kidnapping her own son and tried to flee with him. She and the child died horribly when their horse and trap sank in the fog-wreathed marsh, and it is the sound of their death-throes that Kidd hears repeatedly now.

Sam Toovey, a local land-owner in whom Kidd has confided his experiences, warns Kidd not to return to the house. He also points out to the increasingly unnerved young solicitor that any appearance of the woman dressed entirely in black usually means that the death of a child is imminent.

Clearly the so-called titular Woman In Black, not content with merely haunting the bejeesus out of the inhabitants of Crythin Gifford, is also wreaking revenge on any poor parents lucky enough to possess that which has been taken from her so cruelly.

Anyway, long story short, Kidd wisely decides to leave Crythin Gifford but before he does, he has one more terrifying encounter with Jennet Goss- that’s her name- that has him fleeing back to London as if Old Nick himself were on his tail. Distance is no object for The Woman In Black, however.

In a starkly chilling scene in keeping with the overall feel of the film, she appears in the middle of a lake on which Kidd and his little family are boating. A tree falls on their boat, killing all four of them. Mean old Woman In Black, offing a perfectly nice family like that. Tsk tsk. What’s the world coming to?

This made-for-television film may not be as flashily atmospheric as the more modern HAMMER version, but it’s an effective little chiller just the same. So effective, in fact, that I fully expected to see the silhouette of The Woman In Black everywhere I looked for the rest of the night.

It’s one of the starkest, grimmest and most realistic-looking horror films I’ve seen lately. The acting is flawless and the scenery and settings are bleakly beautiful. Watch this film if you possibly can, but do be careful. She don’t give no warning, she don’t…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor