Cinema Sunday: Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

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Title: Kiss of the Vampire (Kiss of Evil)

Distributor: Hammer Studios/Universal Pictures

Writer: John Elder (Anthony Hinds)

Director: Don Sharp

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Clifford Evans, Noel Willman, Edward De Souza, Jennifer Daniel

Released: September 1963

MPAA: UR

It’s that time again! Time for me to spotlight another flick, and for you to enjoy! This film has a different vibe than most Hammer horror films, and that may be due to the fact that the big “stars” are not present at all. We do see three familiar faces, but not ones that were in more than a couple of Hammer films. It’s definitely worth the occasional viewing though, and that’s why I’m going to review it today! There were some unused ideas taken from other movies and added to this one, and once you hear about them, it helps make more sense of things at the end. Alright, let us get to the film!

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The movie starts out with a funeral at a small village somewhere in Europe. The villagers are shocked when a certain man shows up. The creepy looking guy, Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) walks over the grave, shovel in hand, and plunges it into the casket! We hear a shriek come from it, and then see blood spurting out of the cracks. At first, the villagers don’t seem shocked, that is until the blood comes out. The camera then slowly goes into the casket, and we see the recognizable teeth of a vampire. Cue opening credits…

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We next see a man looking through a telescope, as a motorcar chugs down the road. It runs out of petrol, and they are stranded. The man, Gerald (Edward De Souza), and his new wife, Marianne (Jennifer Daniel), realize they’re in some trouble, but Gerald has no alternative but to hike to the nearest town in hopes of finding some fuel (back then very few towns had it). As Marianne waits, she notices the castle in the hills. The man with the telescope notices her beauty, and we get a bad feeling about her chances for survival. The wind blows a tree over, and she runs away. She eventually comes face to face with Professor Zimmer, who scares the bejesus out of her. He tells her to go back to her car, but she instead runs to find Gerald.

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The two eventually wind up in town, and at a hotel. The caretakers are very odd, but are accommodating nonetheless. As they settle in, and the nigh falls, a carriage arrives at the hotel to deliver a letter. Gerald and Marianne are shocked to find out that the letter is for them, and from a local man who lives in the castle. He invites them to dinner, and the hotel owner encourages them to go, because the food will be excellent, and the “Herr doctor” is a very interesting man. The carriage arrives, and they go to the castle, and are greeted by Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman). He then introdeuces his two children to Gerald and Marianne. Both are slightly odd, but Carl (Barry Warren), is the most strange of the two. His daughter, Sabena (Jacquie Wallis), watches them, and you can see the devil in her eyes.

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There’s a girl at the residence as well, but she stays hidden. She eventually makes her way to the closest graveyard, and urges one of the inhabitants to come out. She’s interrupted by Professor Zimmer, but before he can do anything to stop her permanently, she bites him on the wrist, and both flee. After dinner, Carl plays the piano for the guests, and Marianne seems to be getting hypnotized by the music. Carl stares at her, sort of like a predator, and Gerald notices this phenomenon. Back at Professor Zimmer’s room (he has a room somewhere in the bowels of the hotel), he lights his wrist on fire to cleanse the wound, and stop the disease before it can overtake him. Back at the castle, Marianne is about to fall into a trance, but Gerald steps in and snaps her out of it. They leave, and Dr. Ravna and his children plot to take them, by force if necessary.

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As they return to the hotel for the evening, we see Professor Zimmer at the bar, drowning his sorrows in booze. As Gerald and Marianne head to their room, they hear someone crying, and investigate. They see the hotel owners wife, as she’s in one of the rooms, sobbing while looking at some memorabilia. They don’t quite understand, and retreat to their room for the night. The next morning they’re invited to breakfast with the hotel owners. After some chatter and food, they go back to the room where they saw the woman crying, They find a picture of a beautiful girl, the daughter, (assuming) of the owners. Gerald hears someone downstairs, and he confronts Professor Zimmer. He’s told to get out of the town before there’s trouble, but Gerald doesn’t understand. Carl and Sabena show up, and invite them to a party at their home. Professor Zimmer tells Carl and Sabena that they’d better be off because the thick clouds are moving away and the sun is coming out. They flee as if their lives depended on it, and again, Gerald and Marianne don’t know what to think.

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The night of the party arrives, and a house full of guests puts Gerald and Marianne at ease. Of course, they’re greeted by Carl and Sabena, and see that all the guests are wearing masks. Some beautiful, some ugly, but everyone’s identity is concealed for the time being. Gerald and Marianne get separated, and Carl, under the guise of Gerald, lures her upstairs, and locks her in a room. She quickly notices someone is resting in a bed. She sees that it’s Dr. Ravna, and he has blood seeping out from the corners of his mouth. Meanwhile, Sabena is getting Gerald drunk, and he eventually passes out. When he wakes, he’s tossed out of the house, and treated as if they didn’t even know him or ever heard of his wife!

Will Gerald ever see Marianne again? Can the mysterious Professor Zimmer help him in his fight against the hordes of vampires infesting this little village? Check out this flick to find out!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This film was supposedly going to be the third installment of the Dracula franchise, after “Brides” that continued in the same vein. It became a thing of its own, and in 1966, when Christopher Lee returned to the role of Dracula, did the franchise keep any continuity. Although this film didn’t keep in-line with the others, it did offer some solid performances by Edward De Souza, and Noel Willman. Not to be outdone, is Clifford Evans, and although he doesn’t have many speaking parts, he does add an air of creepiness to the film. He doesn’t even come close to Cushing as Van Helsing, but he does add to the quirky nature of the film. There’s a scene where Zimmer educates Gerald on evil, and vampires specifically, that is quite good.

The rest of the film is standard Hammer fair, in that you get incredible costumes, makeup, and sets. You might well recognize the home of Dr. Ravna, as the same as the one Noel Willman uses as his residence in “The Reptile,” another great off-beat Hammer film. The music score isn’t terribly great, but in the end, it doesn’t detract either. The final scene of this film is very wild, and was allegedly supposed to be the ending of “Brides of Dracula” but peter Cushing talked the crew out of using it, citing that it doesn’t go along with the beliefs of Van Helsing. I suppose he was right, and things worked out for the best, even though looking back, the ending of “Brides” is a little absurd as well.

If you find yourself able to get a view of this one, don’t hesitate. Not only for the reasons I already mentioned, but also for the beautiful ladies (like Isobel Black! – image below) that adorn the film!

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Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Reptile (1966)

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Title: The Reptile

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: John Gilling

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Ray Barrett, Michael Ripper

Released: April 6th, 1966

MPAA: Unrated

Hammer Studios is certainly most well-known for their interpretations of the Dracula, Frankenstein, and Werewolf franchises, but it would behoove you to also look deeper into their library for classics like this one! This film is one that I didn’t discover until a few years ago, but it quickly has become one of my favorites. Oh, it’s not the best of Hammer films, but it does have a couple of performances that really help it to rise above mediocrity. Lets get down to the plot!

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The movie begins with a man, Charles Spalding,  wandering around the countryside. He then retreats to his home only to find a note on the table. He then sets out to the residence across the moors. He knocks but no one answers, so he wanders inside. He walks down a hallway, and as he turns around, a man, Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) shouts to him, warning him to get away. All of a sudden, something leaps out of the shadows and attacks him savagely. He falls down the stairs, and begins to have a seizure of some kind. As the man who warned him looks on in horror, another man steps out of the shadows, and disposes of the body on the moors.

The next scene shows us Harry and Valerie Spalding (Ray Barrett & Jennifer Daniel), as they are talking to a lawyer about his dead brothers (the man who was attacked in the fist scene) holdings. He informs them that his brother died without much wealth, but he did have a house in a rural town. They then take a train ride, and then walk to the village. At the local pub, Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper) is tending bar, but when Harry walks in, the patrons leave immediately. Tom Tells Harry where the house is located, and then they head out to the residence. As they open the front door, they see that the house has been ransacked. Harry returns to the pub later that day, and questions the patrons about the house. Again, they all leave, and Harry talks to Tom about what’s going on in this small village. As Harry makes his way home, he’s attacked by Mad Peter (John Laurie). Harry quickly realizes that Mad Peter is more of a foolish man, than a dangerous one. After some confusion, Harry invites Peter over for dinner, and to get some answers from him about his brother’s death.

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As they finish dinner, Harry asks Peter but his brother. Peter explains that he really isn’t “mad”, just that he doesn’t live by the same rules that govern most men. As they talk more, Peter explains that this village is evil, and that terrible things happen here. He tells him that someone killed his brother, and not some mysterious hear failure, as he was led to believe. Peter then hears some music nearby, freaks out,t hen leaves in a hurry. During the night, Harry is awakened by some noises downstairs. When he investigates, he finds Peter at his doorstep, on death’s door. He mentions the name Franklyn, and Harry rushes across the moors to get the good doctor. Dr. Franklyn doesn’t seem to care about Peter, but Harry urges him to come and see him. Dr. Franklyn then tells Harry he’s a doctor of theology, not medicine, but agrees to come anyway. By the time they get there, Pater is already dead though (image above), and Dr. Franklyn tells them that he’ll handle the arrangements.

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Valerie is visited the next day by Anna Franklyn, who seems a bit spooky, but nice all the same. Their little conversation is interrupted though, and Dr. Franklyn is furious at Anna for leaving the house. She did manage to invite the Spalding’s to dinner though, and later, we see that dinner date. Anna is not present, and Dr. Franklyn explains that she’s being punished for her earlier transgression. She joins them after dinner, and plays some music for them. The tune is almost hypnotic, and Anna seems to be getting into it, that is until her father erupts in anger, and smashes her instrument. Harry and Valerie leave in a rush, and head home.

Tom and Harry then formulate a plan to not only discover who or what is behind these killings, but also how to stop The Reptile!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Alright, I’ll be the first to admit that the lead roles in this film aren’t the strongest in Hammer’s catalog. They’re not bad mind you, just not up to the Cushing and Lee standard. There are still two bright spots. First, Jacqueline Pearce is fantastic, and not only does she make a convincing “troubled daughter” but she’s also a beautiful woman! She really lights up a room when she appears on-screen. The other great role is played by Hammer stalwart, Michael Ripper. He really gets to shine in this one, and has a huge role compared to his usual minor parts. He has a strong presence from start to finish. John Laurie (Mad Peter) was indeed a very good addition to this movie as well. His eccentric personality was absolutely superb!

The music score was pretty good, starting off with the opening scene/credits. A thunderous clashing of cymbals, and loud roaring wind section, lead us into this creepy classic. The sets, as with the overwhelming majority of Hammer films, were absolutely amazing. The house, the bubbling pit of oozing death in the basement, and the foggy moors, all set an incredible mood for this film. Definitely check this one out, it’s more than worth your time!