Starring Edward de Souza, Jennifer Daniel, Clifford Evans, Noel Willman
Directed by Don Sharp
Distributed by Scream Factory
When the name Hammer Films is mentioned it conjures up images of thick Gothic atmosphere, castles shrouded in fog, ornate set design, beautiful and deadly women, charming and villainous men, and Technicolor cinematography so rich and colorful it nearly bleeds off the screen. The golden era for Hammer’s aesthetics was the ‘60s and Kiss of the Vampire (1963) pulls together all of those classic elements for one of their better films not led by Lee or Cushing – although this was originally planned as another Dracula-starring sequel. Really, this film doesn’t need a “name” in any role because the small cast is capable of carrying this twisted little tale about a vampiric cult in the business of abducting women. Director Don Sharp was a first timer for Hammer but he adapted to their style smoothly, delivering a gorgeous picture with a rather compelling story.
Newlyweds Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne (Jennifer Daniel) Harcourt are on the road to their honeymoon when unexpected car trouble forces them off that road and into a neighboring town. The couple is eventually taken in by Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman), a wealthy gentleman with a couple of kids – Carl (Barry Warren) and Sabena (Jacquie Wallis) – who love to party. Only problem is their kind of party involves kidnapping Marianne and turning her into a fellow bloodsucker. Gerald gets gaslighted by everyone in town when each questioned person claims he was always alone; like he never had a wife. The only man who believes him is Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans), a Coffin Joe lookalike who knows firsthand what Ravna’s clan is capable of and is committed to seeing the family killed.
The film is part classic vampire tale and part paranoid thriller, since once Ravna’s brood absconds with Marianne suddenly everyone acts like she never existed. Gerald laughs it off at first but once party guests and townsfolk alike swear to his face he’s been traveling solo the poor guy starts to go a bit mad. He never cracks but it’s clear the man is completely exasperated with the whole affair when he meets Zimmer, a hard drinker with a good reason for picking up the bottle. Zimmer has a history with Ravna and is far from being under his influence like the townspeople, so when Gerald arrives with a problem suited to Zimmer’s stewing vengeance it forms a bond between the two men with one shared goal.
Zimmer also has a bad ass plan of his own to disrupt Ravna’s big ceremony and without spoiling a thing I’ll say it’s an awesome idea and pretty damned ironic. Usually these things end with a 1-v-1 fight but this film takes retribution in a different direction and the results are certainly memorable.
A new 4K scan of the inter-positive is touted as supplying the source for this 1.85:1 1080p image and it’s certainly a beauty. As mentioned, colors are richly saturated and bright; the crimson blood seen in the opening scene is incredibly vibrant. Fine detail and overall definition are strong, with only a handful of soft shots seen throughout. Detail remains consistent between day and night shots, too. Black levels are inky and deep. I was happy to drink in this picture wholly over the course of 88 minutes and there was never a moment I felt the image was lacking.
The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track is a serviceable one, easily relaying the slightly-dated sound track, which can sound a little weak at times despite no obvious flaws. No hissing, pops, or other anomalies were detected. There isn’t a flurry of activity occurring often and much of the film is driven by dialogue, though the finale makes up for that with some bigger moments. Composer James Bernard’s score relies on heavy piano and stirring strings to set a chilling mood, successfully so. Subtitles are available in English SDH.
- NEW 2K RESTORATION OF THE FILM IN TWO ASPECT RATIOS (1.85:1 and 1.66:1)
- NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman And Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr On The 1.66:1 Version
- NEW The Men Who Made Hammer: Composer James Bernard
- NEW The Men Who Made Hammer: Production Designer Bernard Robinson
- Audio Commentary With Actors Edward De Souza And Jennifer Daniels, Moderated By Peter Irving On The 1.85:1 Version
- Original Theatrical Trailer & TV Spot
- TV Version Kiss Of Evil With Optional Audio Commentary By Film Historians Troy Howarth And Nathaniel Thompson (In Standard Definition – 1.33.1)
- Additional Scenes Added To The TV Version Kiss Of Evil
- Kiss Of Evil TV Trailer
- Optional English subtitles for the main feature
While this might not be one of Hammer’s prestige titles it does contain all of the things I love about Hammer Films productions and for that reason it’s an easy recommendation to anyone who feels the same.