K: Kiss of the Vampire (1963)


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This was a movie I had seen as a child, way back when; I remember it played on NBC in a Prime Time slot, re-titled Kiss of Evil, and I recall being rather confused about the whole thing. Turns out I was seeing a version that had been massively tampered with, and I direct you to this IMDb page for the details. I eventually figured out the true title was Kiss of the Vampire, have now finally watched it again, and was relieved to find out it made a little more sense.

One of the scenes heavily cut for sensitive American viewers is the opening, a funeral in your typical Hammer turn-of-the-century cemetery. One cloaked fellow watches from a distance, and the village gossips whisper that “he’s been drinking again.” This fellow walks to the graveside as the service concludes, takes the shovel and proceeds to smash the shovel down into the coffin. Whatever is in that coffin screams, and impossibly, blood gushes out. The frightened villagers run away, crossing themselves.

Kiss Of The Vampire WelcomeAfter the credits, we are introduced to our – well, not heroes, but our main characters, Gerald and Marianne (Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel), who are traipsing about in their motorcar, on their honeymoon. Marianne is a terrible map reader, and they are lost and eventually run out of petrol. This is observed by a telescope in a nearby dilapidated château. They have the car towed to a nearby, nearly deserted hotel, where they find themselves the only other tenant besides the alcoholic Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans), whom we all recognize as Mr. Shovel Chucker from earlier.

George and Marianne are invited to dinner by the owner of the aforementioned château, Dr. Ravna; they find the interior of the mansion to be quite lovely, and Ravna and his two children very handsome and genial. Of course, given the pre-credit sequence and the title of the movie, we are pretty damned sure they’re vampires, and as the movie progresses, we find they are vampires with a penchant for very elaborate and rococo plots.

kiss12Delivery of the rather exotic petrol will take several days and the Ravnas invite George and Marianne to a lavish masked ball. Make no mistake, the entire purpose of this ball is to get George drunk, and then drug him, while Ravna puts the bite on Marianne. When George awakens, he is told there is no such person as Marianne, and that he is a miserable drunken sot and should leave forever.

Even the innkeepers are telling him he came to the hotel alone, but Professor Zimmer is having none of that, and gives George the index card version of what is going on; Ravna is the head of a cult of vampires – all the other attendees of the ball are members of that cult. The vampire Zimmer skewered with the shovel was his own daughter, and he has been laboring over his ancient texts to find a magic spell that will “turn evil against evil”.

kiss13A whole lot of Kiss of the Vampire seems like a bunch of 60s Hammer films were put in a blender. The same setup would be utilized for Dracula: Prince of Darkness three years later (also written by Anthony Hinds) and Zimmer must cauterize a vampire bite, much like Peter Cushing in Brides of Dracula. The major elements that set this one apart from the others is the treatment of the vampires as a religious cult, right down to the flowing white robes, and that spell woven by Professor Zimmer, which culminates in an attack on the château by a flock of the finest rubber bats available from the local Woolworth’s.

It’s that final attack that impressed me as a kid; it’s unusual enough to make a lasting impression in a childhood spent watching monster movies. Sadly, the movie proper doesn’t live up to the extraordinary scenes bookending it. The actors are a solid lot, but lacking the convincing gravitas of either Cushing or Lee. Once all the subterfuge is put aside, and Zimmer and George go on the offensive, the story becomes much more involving – but by that time, it’s almost over. A diverting enough movie, but definitely not one of the brighter jewels in the Hammer crown.

(The only trailer I could find on YouTube is so dark as to be worthless. Here instead, is a speed-ramped version of the closing sequence set to Chimo Bayo’s 1992 “Bombas”. The Internet. Go figure.)

Kiss of the Vampire on Amazon