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:

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