The Kiss of the Vampire (1962, AKA Kiss of Evil)
DIRECTOR: Don Sharp
WRITER: John Elder (Anthony Hinds)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alan Hume
MUSIC: James Bernard
CAST: Clifford Evans, Noel Willman, Edward de Souza, Jennifer Daniel, Barry Warren, Peter Madden, Vera Cook, Isobel Black, Noel Howlett, Brian Oulton.
SYNOPSIS: British honeymooning couple Gerald and Marianne Harcourt (De Souza and Danielle) find themselves stranded in a secluded Bavarian village when their car runs out of fuel. They find refuge at a curiously deserted hotel, and are invited to dinner by the Ravna family, a noble family inhabiting a nearby chateau, presided over by Dr Ravna (Noel Willman). They soon strike up a friendship with the Ravnas, and are invited to attend a masked ball the following night - despite a warning from the eccentric (and drunk) Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans).
All does not go well, and Marianne finds herself the victim of Dr Ravna and his vampire cult. When Mr Harcourt wakes up the next morning, the villagers are curiously defiant, denying all knowledge of his missing wife. With the help of Professor Zimmer, Harcourt makes it his mission to rescue Marianne and destroy the Ravna cult.
COMMENTS: The Kiss of the Vampire is an impressive film. Don Sharp proves himself a masterful craftsman, able to put together a riveting story in a stylish, pacey manner (as well as other films for Hammer, he later went on to direct the memorable 1978 remake of The 39 Steps, starring Robert Powell). The Kiss of the Vampire is not entirely original, but it is stunningly well-made.
The film combines the usual Hammer gothic horror elements with a distinctly Hitchcockian sensibility. The plot itself is a variation of the missing-person scenario that fuelled Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Psycho (1960) among others. Even the opening titles (left) are strongly reminiscent of the opening of Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958).
The suggested similarities between the film's ending and that of Hitchcock's The Birds are coincidental: While they were both released in 1964, in fact The Kiss of the Vampire was filmed in 1962, before The Birds was conceived.
The masked ball could be straight out of a Hitchcock thriller, with its suspenseful timing and crafty editing and camerawork. The cameraman was Alan Hume, a veteran British cinematographer better known for the Carry On series of film comedies.
Composer James Bernard provided a lush, rhapsodic main theme. It is heard as a piano solo - for which Bernard collaborated with pianist and arranger Douglas Gamley - in the tense and tightly choreographed sequence during which Marianne apparently falls under the hypnotic influence of the Ravna clan.
Sharp's main thematic emphasis is on the idea of vampirism as a disease, with strongly moral overtones. Professor Zimmer describes it in fabulously decadent terms:
When the Devil attacks a human being with this foul disease of the vampire, the unfortunate human being can do one of two things. Either he can seek God through the Church and pray for absolution or he can persuade himself that his filthy perversion is some kind of new and wonderful experience to be shared by the favoured few. And then he tries to persuade others to join his new cult.
Jacquie Wallis, Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Edward de Souza, Barry Warren:
Edward de Souza, Jacquie Wallis:
Barry Warren, Edward de Souza, Stan Simmons:
Les Bowie matte painting and animation:
Dr Ravna's demise:
End titles, featuring Bernard Robinson's sets: