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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DRACULA, DRACULA’S DAUGHTER and SON OF DRACULA: A TRIPLE BILL OF HALLOWEEN HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bela-lugosiDRACULA, DRACULA’S DAUGHTER and SON OF DRACULA: A TRIPLE BILL OF BLOODCURDLING UNIVERSAL HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DRACULA. (1931) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER AND THE 1924 PLAY BY HAMILTON DEANE AND JOHN L. BALDERSTON.

DIRECTED BY TOD BROWNING. PRODUCED BY TOD BROWNING AND CARL LAEMMLE JR.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, DWIGHT FRYE, EDWARD VAN SLOAN AND HELEN CHANDLER.

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER. (1936) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY LAMBERT HILLYER.

STARRING GLORIA HOLDEN, OTTO KRUGER, MARGUERITE CHURCHILL, NAN GREY, HEDDA HOPPER AND EDWARD VAN SLOAN.

SON OF DRACULA. (1943) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY ROBERT SIODMAK. SCREENPLAY BASED ON AN ORIGINAL STORY BY CURT SIODMAK.

STARRING LON CHANEY JR., EVELYN ANKERS, ROBERT PAIGE, LOUISE ALLBRITTON AND ETTA MCDANIEL (SISTER OF ‘MAMMY’ FROM ‘GONE WITH THE WIND.’)

Sometimes I thank all of our lucky stars that these three films were made. Three of the biggest and most popular films in the UNIVERSAL PICTURES horror movies canon of the 1930s and 1940s, they’re all based on characters and situations created by fellow Irishman Bram Stoker in his 1897 gothic novel DRACULA. It’s one of the most filmed books ever written.

Arthur Conan Doyle pulled off a similar coup with his SHERLOCK HOLMES stories, and I suppose J.K. Rowling to a lesser extent with her HARRY POTTER series of books. Other than these three books, surely only the Bible itself (or E.L. James’s FIFTY SHADES OF GREY novels…!) have ever been more popular or more widely read or filmed.

DRACULA (1931) is the role that made handsome Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi famous. It’s a straightforward enough interpretation of Bram Stoker’s story, in which the mysterious and charismatic Count Dracula comes to London, England from his native Transylvania to widen his reign of terror and find new necks to bite and nice new juicy bodies to drain of their blood.

Once there, aided and abetted by his estate-agent-turned-abject-slave Renfield, brilliantly played by Dwight Frye, he sets his sights immediately on the beautiful Lucy Weston and Mina Seward. The only person standing between him and city-wide domination is the intellectual giant and astute expert in the occult, Professor Van Helsing. Which of the two men will turn out to have the stronger will…?

Bela Lugosi was the first actor to portray Count Dracula as a suave, sophisticated and charming nobleman, as opposed to the claw-fingered, white-haired monstrosity of Bram Stoker’s novel. His superb performance brought him worldwide acclaim but he was only to reprise the role once more, and in a spoof movie at that, which seems strange given how utterly masterful he is as the Transylvanian vampire.

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936) is a film of stunning beauty. I actually think it’s as good as the original Bela Lugosi film, or at any rate I love it equally, haha. It’s certainly every bit as foggy, mistily atmospheric and darkly mysterious as the 1931 film, and Gloria Holden is absolutely out of this world as the fabulous Hungarian Countess Marya Zaleska, who in reality is the titular Dracula’s Daughter.

This film actually continues on where the 1931 movie left off. Dracula has just been killed with the obligatory stake through the heart by the marvellous Edward Van Sloan reprising his role as Dracula’s nemesis, Professor Van (or in this case, Von!) Helsing.

The opening scenes in the police station are just wonderfully comedic and spine-tinglingly chilling as well. Coppers in these old classic horror films always do a terrific job of lightening the mood and warming the cockles of the viewers’ hearts.

Anyway, the beautiful but almost icily disdainful Countess desperately wants to be free of the curse of her vampire father. She wants distinguished London psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Garth to help her, but once he works out that the Countess is actually a fully-paid up, card-carrying member of the evil Un-Dead, he’s going to need quite a bit of persuading to have anything at all to do with her…

This is the film with the famously lesbian overtones, by the way. The scene between the Countess with her hypnotic powers and the impoverished young Lili is a thing of beauty indeed, the best of the whole film.

The Countess’s sinister servant Sandor must come in for some praise as well. His look is straight out of a ‘Twenties silent horror film. He looks like he should be turning levers in a mad scientist’s laboratory during a thunderstorm with a manic grin on his face, he’s so evil-looking.

SON OF DRACULA (1943) is set on a New Orleans plantation, so it’s as far from the fog-wreathed streets of Victorian London as it’s possible to get. For this reason, it’s maybe not as spookily atmospheric as its two predecessors, but it’s still a great film and Lon Chaney Jr. is coldly aloof and masterful as Count Alucard/Dracula.

He marries the beautiful Katherine Caldwell, whose mind (and plantation) he has already taken over, after he murders her elderly father. Katherine’s ex-fiancé Frank and a family friend called Dr. Brewster are deeply suspicious of the Count and his obviously underhanded motives.

Can they bring the brainwashed Katherine to her senses, with the help of the Transylvanian intellectual Professor Laszlo, or is she doomed to spend eternity by Dracula’s side as his Un-Dead bride? It’s touch and go for a while there…

These wonderful old classic horror movies never fail to cheer me up when I’m feeling fed-up. I highly recommend them as, say, a triple dose of medicine for the modern-day blues. Don’t take ’em internally, obviously(!), but watched as a triple bill of classic horror they’ll be the perfect cure for whatever ails you, I promise you. Sure beats Smedler’s Powder or Old Doc Washbourne’s Tonic any day of the week…!

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

NOSFERATU. (1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MCDNOPH FE005

NOSFERATU: PHANTOM DER NACHT, Isabelle Adjani (front), Klaus Kinski, 1979, TM & Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp

NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (NOSFERATU: PHANTOM DER NACHT/NOSFERATU: PHANTOM OF THE NIGHT.) 1979. BASED ON BRAM STOKER’S ‘DRACULA.’

DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY WERNER HERZOG. SCREENPLAY BY WERNER HERZOG.

MUSIC BY POPOL VUH. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY JŐRG SCHMIDT-REITWEIN. RATS TRAINED BY MAARTEN’T HART.

STARRING KLAUS KINSKI, ISABELLE ADJANI, ROLAND TOPOR, WALTER LADENGAST AND BRUNO GANZ.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film doesn’t have a silent psychopath in a mask stalking half-dressed women and unsuspecting men with his enormous butcher knife. It doesn’t have a Mother-fixated madman stabbing people to death in the shower while dressed in womens’ clothing, and neither does it have a well-spoken intellectual of a maniac who likes to eat people’s internal organs with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

In this sense, maybe, it’s not what some people think of when they think of horror movies. What the film does have, however, is a lead character of such subtlety, cruelty and even human-like frailty that he surely deserves his standing as one of the creepiest and most notable horror icons of all time: Nosferatu The Vampyre.

This film is possibly my favourite horror film of all time, jostling for the coveted first place alongside Anthony Schaffer’s THE WICKER MAN (1973) and Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960). These would be my Top Three Desert Island films, although there are days when I’d genuinely considering just bringing three copies of Herzog’s NOSFERATU, just to be on the safe side…!

The film was written, produced and directed by Werner Herzog, a German film-maker who made his first movie in 1961 at the age of nineteen and who now has more than sixty feature and documentary films to his name.

It is one of five movies he made with German actor Klaus Kinski, with whom he enjoyed a well-documented relationship that was both productive and wildly tempestuous, given the intensity and passionate nature of each of the protagonists.

When people think of Nosferatu, their minds frequently conjure up an image of Max Shreck who played him so brilliantly in the silent production of nearly a century ago, and fair play to old Maxie, he did a cracking job but for me, Kinski is Nosferatu.

He is the bald-headed, sunken-eyed, strangely melancholy creature of the night who resides in his crumbling castle in the Carpathian mountains and feeds off the blood of any humans unfortunate enough to cross his path.

It’s well-known enough at this stage that Werner Herzog, a very clever man indeed, thought that F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film NOSFERATU was the best thing to come out of Germany since Oktoberfest, haha. This was the version of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA that Herzog had in mind when he made his own film version.

It’s as magnificent a tribute as has ever been made. Though I’ve always loved the HAMMER HORROR DRACULA movies starring the iconic and handsome Christopher Lee, I don’t really think that anyone but Murnau himself has made a better film of Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire novel. Every shot is a work of art. Some of them are so beautiful they could even be paintings.

The film begins with Jonathan Harker being told by his employer, the decidedly odd and giggly Mr. Renfield, that he must cross the Carpathian mountains to bring legal papers to the rich and reclusive Count Dracula. The Count, you see, has decided to buy a house in their area, the pretty and picturesque town of Wismar.

Jonathan’s wife, Lucy, played by the stunningly beautiful Isabelle Adjani, begs him not to go as she has had premonitions of the most profound evil but Jonathan disregards her fears and sets off blithely on his journey. I love the way he more or less says to his wife:

‘Right, I’m off now, dear, off to the land of wolves and robbers and phantoms and spirits for several weeks, possibly forever. Well, cheerio, then…!’

The thoughtless git. It certainly seems as if no man, however bang-tidy his missus is, is going to turn down the chance of a business trip that gets him out of the house for a bit…!

Anyway, the film is worth watching solely for the shots of the glorious but lonely countryside through which he passes on his way to Count Dracula’s castle and also for the superb musical score by German electronic band Popol Vuh.

Check out the opening credits as well, by the way, in which the deliciously spooky music plays while the long line of genuine mummified bodies (which will creep the living daylights out of you because they’re the real deal!) are put on display for our delectation and edification. That music is repeated throughout the film and I can assure you that it will haunt you for the rest of your days. If you have a soul at all, that is, haha.

As Jonathan nears the castle, he is warned by the locals to turn back and go home before he loses his life, among other things, but he has come too far to turn back now. Disquieted and edgy, he continues on his way.

The fantastic music reaches a crescendo as he finally enters the courtyard of Count Dracula, then it fades away as the giant castle doors creak open to reveal… Nosferatu himself, standing at the top of the steps with a smile of quiet welcome on his colourless face.

For Jonathan, events take on a surreal appearance from this point onwards. Nosferatu begins to feed on his blood from the first night of his arrival. While poor Lucy frets and works herself up into a right old state about her absent spouse back in Wismar, Jonathan is trapped in Nosferatu’s castle of mould-stained, whitewashed walls and silent, dusty rooms. He is powerless to prevent the vampire from feasting on him and gradually sapping his strength and will.

There are some moments of genuine heartstopping horror in this part of the film, which incidentally is my favourite part. Check out the moment during Jonathan’s first meal at the castle when he realises that his host is a monster. Talk about awkward. What’s the etiquette for this situation, for crying out loud…?

I dare the viewer not to jump when Nosferatu appears soundlessly in Jonathan’s bedroom in the dead of night, his claws expanding as he moves in for the kill, or when Jonathan pushes back the slab of rock in the dungeon to reveal a sleeping Nosferatu, claws folded and eyes wide open, staring at nothing. Jonathan does some pretty good backing away in this situation, check it out…!

The latter half of the film sees Nosferatu travelling to Wismar by sea with his black coffins and his charming plague of rats. The scene where the ship of death sails silently up the canals of Wismar while the unwitting inhabitants of the town slumber peacefully in their beds sends a shiver down my spine every time I see it. In no time at all the town is overrun with rats and the plague.

Check out the scene where one of the rats (I believe eleven thousand were used in all) appears to be making a grab for personal glory by standing up as tall as he can make himself and appearing to sing his heart out, X FACTOR-style. So darling, but I still wouldn’t want to have to accommodate the little beggars while they’re on location, would you…?

Any-hoo, crazy old Mr. Renfield, who is revealed to be Count Dracula’s loyal servant, is beside himself with happiness at the arrival in the town of the ‘Master.’ These are trying times indeed for Lucy Harker, however. Jonathan has found his way home but he no longer recognises her and sits in his chair all day giggling and chattering nonsense, his mind and body destroyed by Dracula.

The love-starved and lonely Nosferatu comes to Lucy in her bedroom and begs her to be his concubine and companion down through the centuries to come, but Lucy holds fast to her love for Jonathan and sends the Count away empty-handed.

It’s a good offer, given that she’s more or less down one husband now. I think she should have taken it, personally. It’s tough being a single woman in the time of the plague…!

Now we come to the climax of this gorgeously-shot film. I’d better warn you, there will be spoilers, but I’m guessing that most horror movie fans know the DRACULA story inside-out and upside-down by now anyway.

The town of Wismar has been devastated by Nosferatu and his delightful plague of rats. The scene where some of the townspeople gather for a grotesque parody of a ‘last supper’ in the town square while the rats climb all over them is a chilling one. The music here is truly awe-inspiring. I get chills every time I listen to the hauntingly beautiful song that’s playing.

Lucy tries to tell the town physician, Dr. Van Helsing, that Nosferatu is the reason for all the death and destruction but the good doctor is a man of science and refuses to believe in the existence of such supernatural creatures as vampires. In this sense, the film is kind of the opposite of every other DRACULA movie, in which Van Helsing is actually the vampire-hunter, not the sceptic.

When Lucy’s closest friend, Mina, is murdered by the Count, Lucy does the only thing left to her to do. She offers herself to Nosferatu, in the hope that she can keep him occupied throughout the night and make him ‘forget the cry of the cock’ in the morning, thereby causing him to be killed by the first rays of the morning sun. He was clearly listening too hard to the cry of his own cock, heh-heh-heh.

The scene where Nosferatu comes to Lucy in her bedroom and finally feeds on her delicious blood is erotic in the extreme. It always brings back my ‘horny,’ last spotted around the time of the break-up of my last relationship.

Lucy is dressed all in white, her bedclothes are white and delicate flowers in shades of pastel sit on the night-stand. The Vampyre gently pulls back her clothing to look at her body (who says vampires only dig blood?), then he rests his claw on one full rounded breast as he lowers his head to her neck and begins to suck.

They remain locked together in a beautiful and moving sexual congress all night, and when the first rays of the sun begin to filter into Lucy’s bedroom the following morning, she pulls Nosferatu back down to her once more.

The besotted Vampyre thus ‘forgets the cry of the cock’ and dies. Awfully tough luck, old boy. Lucy listens to his death agonies with a smile on her face and then, knowing that she has saved the town of Wismar from the horror of Count Dracula, she closes her eyes and dies…

There’s a great little twist at the end which I won’t tell you about here. You’ll just have to go and watch the film for yourself, which I hope you will anyway. (Yeah, I know I’ve told you guys nearly everything else but we’ve gotta draw the line somewhere…!)

Personally speaking, as I may have hinted earlier, if I had to choose only one film to watch for the rest of my life, it would be this one. I want to be buried with it.

In the absence of Nosferatu himself coming to me in person in my flower-strewn bedroom and bending his head to my newly-washed neck, then I want to be buried clutching my copy of the film, the coffin lid closing on the sight of my fingers tightly laced around Nozzie’s deathly-white face on the front of the DVD box. And when you watch this film, I can pretty much promise you that you will too.

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