Kiss of the Vampire, The (Hammer 1964)
Without the fearful presences of Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, Hammer tried once again to make a vampire film, but without the count and even though The Kiss of the Vampire is not a gore fest, it still manages to convey some of the gothic horror that the studio became famous for.
The plot is rather simple: honeymooning couple, Gerald and Marianne (Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel) are motoring along in their filliver when they run out of petrol. While Gerald goes off in search of fuel, Marianne is left to sit in the car while the evening shadows approach. As the wind picks up and begins to moan, Marianne is reasonable spooked and leaves in search for her wayward husband. Unbeknownst to the couple, their every move is being observed by someone in a nearby castle through a telescope.
As Marianne stumbles through the forest she runs into gruff Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) who warns her to beat a hasty retreat back to the car. After finding Gerald without any fuel, a passing field hand hitches the car to his wagon and tows them to the nearby innocuous “Grand Hotel”. Of course, the place is a dump and has only one guest, the dour Professor Zimmer, and the couple are apparently ignorant of all the warning signs that this place is merely a trap.
Gerald and Marianne (Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel) are uneasy guests in The Kiss of the Vampire (Hammer 1964)
After checking in, the two are summoned by courier to the castle of Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman) to be his guests for dinner. Naturally the Doctor is polite and charming, supplying the two with plenty of dinner and conversation, and the newlyweds are introduced to their host’s two children, daughter Sabena (Jacquie Wallis) and son Carl (Barry Warren). After dinner Carl is playing the piano and subtly manages to hypnotise Marianne with his playing, but Gerald becomes aware of Marianne’s oncoming trance and steps in, interrupting the spell.
The doctor insists that the young couple attend the lavish masquerade ball that he is hosting the next night, and neither husband nor wife finds this strange. This must be the way that they party down in the mountains of Bavaria. We soon discover that Professor Zimmer likes his brandy a little too much and that he just buried his daughter in the village. Perhaps that explains his close lipped ways; the man is obviously grieving the loss of his daughter.
At the grand ball, we soon discover that these people are not only vampires, but that they are members of a satanic sect. Man, how bad can it get? While Sabena slips Gerald a mickey, Carl dances the night away with Marianne, causing her to swoon in a tizzy, right into the waiting arms of Dr. Ravna. The next morning, after Gerald sobers up, Marianne is missing, and everyone insists that Gerald came alone. Heading back to the hotel, he discovers that all of her luggage has gone missing, and once again everyone plays dumb and claim that Gerald showed up all alone. Talking to the local law enforcement doesn’t help any and Gerald is starting to realize that everyone is in on the conspiracy but him.
Dr Ravna (Noel Willman) works his magic on Marianne (Jennifer Daniel) and Gerald (Edward de Souza) in The Kiss of the Vampire (Hammer 1964)
Finally Professor Zimmer steps in and discloses the village secret; Marianne has been abducted, but it isn’t too late if they act quickly. Gerald will have to do everything in his power to get his wife out of the castle before it is too late. In an unusual twist, the Professor explains that he will have to use evil to fight evil, and he will use black magic to help defeat the evil Dr. Ravna and his followers.
The Kiss of the Vampire‘s end scene, of a flock of rubber bats flying in though a broken window and swarming on the doctor and his followers, is pretty cheap looking, and the viewer is left feeling somewhat cheated upon this weak ending. Granted again, its principal photography is only 1962 (although it wasn’t released until early 1964) and special effects were somewhat limited, but after all the superb build up with all of the preceding scenes, Hammer ultimately lets us down with some cheap effects and an ending that insults our intelligence.
Kiss of the Vampire has a relatively good script, some very lush sets, a moving score composed by James Bernard, and some excellent acting; all in all this is an interesting film that shows the studio at its best, even without all of the familiar suspects.
Original US theatrical release poster for The Kiss of the Vampire (Hammer 1964)
Article by Robert Segedy.