‘Shocking! – Horrifying! – Macabre!’
The Kiss of the Vampire also known as Kiss of the Vampire and Kiss of Evil, is a 1962 (released 1963) British vampire film made by Hammer Film Productions. The film was directed by Don Sharp (Psychomania; Rasputin – The Mad Monk; Witchcraft; Curse of the Fly)and was written by producer Anthony Hinds using his writing pseudonym John Elder.
Originally intended to be the third movie in Hammer’s Dracula series (which began with Dracula in 1958 and was followed by The Brides of Dracula in 1960); this film was another attempt by Hammer to make a Dracula sequel without Christopher Lee.
The final script, by Anthony Hinds makes no reference to Dracula, and expands further on the directions taken in Brides by portraying vampirism as a social disease afflicting those who choose a decadent lifestyle. The film went into production on 7 September 1962 at Bray Studios and was belatedly released in the UK on 11 September 1963 on a double-bill with Paranoiac.
Bavaria, 1910. Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne Harcourt (Jennifer Daniel), are a honeymooning couple who become caught up in a vampire cult led by Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman) and his two children Carl (Barry Warren) and Sabena (Jacquie Wallis).
The cult abducts Marianne, and contrive to make it appear that Harcourt was traveling alone and that his wife never existed. Harcourt gets help from hard-drinking savant Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans), who lost his daughter to the cult and who finally destroys the vampires through an arcane ritual that releases a swarm of bats from Hell…
“Sharp’s ability to use his settings, including a beautifully photographed Bavarian wood, the sinister castle and a deserted inn, demonstrates his talent for mise-en-scène, the hallmark of his subsequent films, including Rasputin – The Mad Monk and The Face of Fu Manchu (both 1965).” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“Kiss of the Vampire ends in the most lackluster way possible, a low for the studio. Our gruff vampire hunter conjures up a pack of bats to come flying to the rescue and it looks as cheap as special effects come. They bob through shattering stained glass windows and swoop down to feast on the flesh of the undead cult members, their white robes turning red with each new bite.” Anti-Film School
“In no other movie that I can think of from this era is it so glaringly obvious that the real threat posed by the vampires lies in their capacity as sexual emancipators of women, and it’s hard to think of anything more obnoxiously retrograde than horror at the prospect of women having a say in the expression of their own sexual identities.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Kiss of the Vampire has a relatively tight script, one of the many penned by son-of-Hammer honcho Anthony Hinds, a typically effective score by James Bernard, quality performances, and both bathes in tradition and extends it. Those are all good reasons to seek this film out, but the best is that restrained but prolonged tension and ghostly ambience that Hammer did so well.” Brandt Sponseller, Classic Horror
“As performed by the rather less fastidious Professor Zimmer, the ritual is thrilling stuff, whipping up a preternatural wind and sending an inky cloud of bats smashing through the windows of Ravna’s mountain stronghold. The bats, most of them purchased from branches of Woolworths in nearby Slough and Maidenhead, are not very convincing by modern standards but the scene is still a weirdly powerful one, devoid of background music and with surprisingly kinky details like the expiring Tania trying to prise a hungry bat from her cleavage.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema
“The focus isn’t so much the hardly interesting married couple, but rather the two opposing figures of good and evil fighting on either side of the film – Noel Willman who plays the vampire with glacial stolidity but alas lacks any real charismatic presence, and Clifford Evans who plays the vampire hunter with a brooding harshness. Kiss also comes filled with several other intriguing performances packed around the sides, most notably from Barry Warren as Ravna’s very weird son and Barbara Steele-lookalike Isobel Black as the innkeeper’s vampirized daughter who one wishes had been given more screen time.” The Black Box Club
” …Isobel Black’s venomous energy as a particularly zestful vampire recruit is splendid (though at times so much more energised than anything else it almost unbalances the film). The physical elements of vampirism are handled with a sharp wit and the use of landscape, notably the lush woodland setting around Black Park is particularly striking.” David Pirie, The New Heritage of Horror, I.B. Tauris, 2009
Cast and characters:
- Clifford Evans … Professor Zimmer
- Noel Willman … Dr. Ravna
- Edward de Souza … Gerald Harcourt
- Jennifer Daniel … Marianne Harcourt
- Barry Warren … Carl Ravna
- Brian Oulton … First disciple
- Noel Howlett … Father Xavier
- Jacquie Wallis … Sabena Ravna
- Peter Madden … Bruno
- Isobel Black … Tania
- Vera Cook … Anna
- John Harvey … Police sergeant
Black Park, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Bray Studios, Down Place, Oakley Green, Berkshire, England, UK
88 minutes | Eastmancolor | 1.66: 1
Re-titled Kiss of Evil for American TV, Universal trimmed so much of the original film for its initial television screening that more footage had to be shot to fill the missing time. Additional characters that didn’t appear at all in the original release were added, creating a whole new subplot. Every scene that showed blood was edited out, e.g. the pre-credits scene in which blood gushes from the coffin of Zimmer’s daughter after he plunges a shovel into it. Also, in the televised version it is never revealed what Marianne sees behind the curtain, a sight which makes her scream. A couple of the cuts result in scenes that no longer makes sense: while the theatrical release had Harcourt smearing the blood on his chest into a cross-shaped pattern (keeping the vampires away as he escapes), the televised version omits the blood-smearing, leaving the vampires’ inaction unexplained.
The additional footage shot for the televised version revolves around a family who argue about the influence of the vampiric Ravna clan, but never interact with anybody else in the movie. The teenage daughter throws over her boyfriend in favor of Carl Ravna (unseen in these scenes) who has given her a music box which plays the same hypnotic tune that he plays on the piano elsewhere in the movie. The middle-aged parents are played by Carl Esmond and Virginia Gregg (who gained fame by voicing Mother in three of the Psycho films), while their teenage daughter is played by Sheila Welles.
Image credits: The Black Box Club