EVIL Necking in Bavaria! “The Kiss of the Vampire” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)


English newlyweds, Gerald and Marianne Harcourt, travel by motorcar to their honeymoon destination when, all of the sudden, the car breaks down in a small Bavarian village. The remote village is barren of life except a few irregular villagers remaining reclusive in their residence. Unable to go any further, the Harcourts stay at the local hotel where one other guest resides. Soon, their presence is requested in invitation by Dr. Ravna, a prominent and respected gentlemen of affluence, to have dinner with him and his family, but little do the newlyweds know is that Dr. Ravna is the master of a vampiric cult that has been plaguing the small village, turning the inhabitants into acolyte vampires, and now Dr. Ravna has turned his fixation on the beautiful Marianne. Will Marianne succumb to the vampire’s alluring powers or with the help of Professor Zimmer, a drunkard vampire hunter bitter with revenge, stop Dr Ravna before it’s too late for his new wife.

Stepping once again into the mystifyingly, macabre tale of a Hammer Films’ production, “The Kiss of the Vampire” stimulates as one of the progenies of the early beginnings that is today’s Hammer Horror as we know it and adore with the 1963 gothic tale of seductive vampirism and the callous, if not equally heartful, reprisal of the brokenhearted vampire hunter from director Don Sharp, who would direct a decade later the deadly occult riders of 1973’s “Psychomania” aka “The Death Wheelers.” The picture is produced and penned by “The Curse of the Werewolf’s” Anthony Hinds with the latter being credited under Hinds’ pseudonym, John Elder. Perhaps one of the lesser known Hammer Horror films due to limited broadcasting, “The Kiss of the Vampire” becomes the next installment of a Hammer Horror classic upgraded through a 2K scan from Scream Factory for maximum restoration on a nearly five decade year old film that included a scene straight out of the book of Alfred Hitchcock, but instead of birds, a swarm of crazed bats scour a chateau tower for blood. One of the last films to be shot at the Bray Studios in Berkshire, England, “The Kiss of the Vampire” is a smooch baring fangs that pits good versus evil marred as a defect from the Devil himself.

At the center of the natural versus supernatural tug-a-war is Marianne, a young, blonde English on the heels of being quickly hitched to Gerald Harcourt seemingly on the downlow, is played by Welsh actress Jennifer Daniel, who, at the time, was a newcomer to full-length features as she developed a steady career in television from the 50’s to the 60’s. Daniel is no Tippi Hedren, but she’s close, as the English socialite having embarked toward unfamiliar surroundings, a brooding Bavarian land with a fatal affliction that’s ravaging through the residents. Marianne and Gerald, an elated husband in a role by Edward de Souza, make a fairly adorable couple complete with newfound marital bliss and ignorance of the harsh realities of the outside world; perhaps, that young and in love ignorance is the most profound theme in “The Kiss of the Vampire” that explores the naïve nature of outsiders and blinded youthful endeavors despite the clear and present dangers that loom around them. Playing Dr. Ravna, who is not Dracula mind you, is Noel Willman, who bares a stunning resemblance to plumper Peter Cushing, and Willman’s socialite role is interesting as Dr. Ravna’s a blunt around the edges and, yet, unbelievably charming, a find blend from the Irish born actor who would later collaborate again with Jennifer Daniel in another Hammer Films product, “The Reptile,” in 1966. Opposite to the abundance of Dr. Ravna’s seemingly endless wealth and power is Professor Zimmer, a brooding dipsomaniac hellbent on destroying Dr. Ravna for the death of his daughter, played by “The Curse of the Werewolf’s” Clifford Evans. Though we know immediately from the opening graveyard funeral scene Professor Zimmer’s outskirt profession, his dark top hat, cape, sunken eyes, and brash persona places him in a seemingly villainous category and that displays Clifford Evan’s range as an actor. “The Kiss of the Vampire’s” strong support cast includes Jacquie Wallis, Peter Madden, Isobel Black, Vera Cook, and “The Devil-Ship Pirates’” Barry Warren as an intense spellbinder disciple of Dr. Ravna.

Critically speaking, “The Kiss of the Vampire” tenders more of an extension of the vampire mythos that directs more of the classic creature to the enigmatic way of the cult through an elegant Don Sharp vision rich in Gothicism and sound in the era it’s portrayed, early 20th century. Focusing more on the Hinds’ story that more or less involves Dr. Ravna’s fascination with Marianne to join his co-ed harem, the way he initiates Marianne might also indicate that the good doctor his binary feelings toward both sexes, making “The Kiss of the Vampire” very much an appealing, but clandestine, homoerotic companion to it’s more straight seduction tale. Another more obvious taboo for a film from the early 1960’s, “The Kiss of the Vampire” has no shame in being bloody. Scenes involving Professor Zimmer impaling his undead daughter violently with a shovel through her coffin and the blood floods upon the coffin opening is morbidly beautiful. Even when Gerard Harcourt smears with blood the sign on the cross on his chest is an absolute eye opener of the use of blood, as a weapon, and a defender of holy sanctums that nearly frightened Universal Pictures to the point of changing the entire essence of Sharp’s original depiction. Yet, one thing is constant between Hammer’s version and Universal’s broadcasted edit, the batty ending is a quick, cut-corner finale that puts a bat screeching halt to everything the story built up to and leaves plot holes that go seriously unexplained no matter how newfangled the method was on how to dispatch a cultish vampire coven. Okay, that’s enough vampire puns for this review.

Pucker up! “The Kiss of the Vampire” is receiving a Blu-ray collector’s edition treatment from Scream Factory! The interpostive went through a 2K scan and presented in a high definition, 1080p, of two widescreen aspect ratios, 1.66:1 and 1.85:1. The picture is phenomenal with lush hues that earlier home video versions, even the Warner Blu-ray boxset, didn’t even skim the level of Scream Factory’s collector’s edition. Colors only fade during the superimposed editing between scenes that really rack the vision cortexes to try and make sense of the transitions. The original negative survived well over the years with little wear and tear that consists of some minor scratches that are barely noticeable. The English language DTE-HD Master Audio mono track is a suitable accompaniment for single channel audio. Dialogue is clear and relatively unobstructed aside from a low distortional hum throughout the entire 88 minute runtime, but it’s faint enough to be a natural tune of the film. One audio mishap happens around the opening scene with the priest’s depth during his graveside sermon. The priest’s dialogue starts out strong and prominent, but when cut to Professor Zimmer, standing far in the distance, the priest vocals are reduced by a few decimals, but the volume remains the same when cut back to the priest, never upping his dialogue when cut back to his graveside sermon. English SDH subtitles are optional. A slew of new bonus material includes a new audio commentary by film historian and author Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr and Little Shoppe of Horror’s founder, Richard Klemensen, speaks in tribute to the life of the Men Who Made Hammer with composer James Bernard and production designer Bernard Robinson. Other bonus content includes audio commentary with actors Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel that’s moderated by Peter Irving, deleted scenes from Universal’s NBC Broadcast that are bloodless filler interjections reshot with a brand new sub-story involving new characters not from the Don Sharp production, and the theatrical trailer. “The Kiss of the Vampire” might be an offbeat Hammer film, but the Scream Factory collector’s edition aims to infiltrate into horror collections nationwide with glorious looking picture and a stockpile of new bonus features to chew on.

Own The Kiss of the Vampire on a Scream Factory Collector’s Edition.

Neglect. Rape. Christmas Birth. A Perfect Storm for EVIL to be Born! “The Curse of the Werewolf” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Collector’s Edition Blu-ray)


Set amongst the simple, yet sometimes divisively barbaric, culture of Eighteenth Century Spain, a beggar stumbles into the castle of a cruel king whose throwing a lavish wedding reception with his lords. The King’s young bride takes pity on the beggar as his force to be the occasion’s jester to obtain scraps of food and wine, but when the King retires with his new wife, he orders the beggar to be imprisoned. Forgotten to the point of insanity with his only visitor a lovely mute jailkeeper’s maid, the haggard and disheveled beggar goes mad with ravenous intentions and when the maid is punished for disobeying the now elderly, but still cruel, King, she is locked away with the beggar who rapes her. When the maid is released next morning, she kills the King and escapes into the woods to live like an animal until she’s barely found alive by a nobleman named Don Alfredo. Nursed back to health by Don Alfredo’s servant, Teresa, and discovering that the maid is pregnant, Don Alfredo and Teresa tend to the maid until the eventual birth on Christmas Day, an unholy time to give birth to a child according to superstition. The maid dies shortly after giving birth and the child, named Leon, is then raised by Don Alfredo and Teresa as their own, but carries with him a terrible curse stemmed from the maltreatment of his parents and being born on Christmas Day that transforms him into a bloodthirsty werewolf when the moon is full. When a priest advised that only love will restrain the beast from emerging, young Leon must be continuously shown affection, but when a young man, Leon leaves home to live his life, but the beast within him returns to ravage the village’s population.

Let’s travel back in time to the groovy year of 1961 when the renowned Hammer Horror direct, Terence Fisher (“Horror of Dracula”), was accelerating to the height of his career into what would be the United Kingdom’s very own colossally cult production studio, Hammer Horror, that economically constructed violent storied horror concepts splayed with a brilliant crimson blood inside an orgasmic gothic melodrama circulating around most of the classic monsters like Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein, but, in this review of a new collector’s edition of Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release, Fisher wrestled with the hound from Hell, the werewolf, in “The Curse of the Werewolf” that was penned by Anthony Hinds, under the pseudonym of John Elder, as his sophomore credit behind “The Brides of Dracula.” English studio locations were transformed, not under the light of a full moon, to fabricate a mock village of Eighteenth Century Spain with the immaculate details to the sets and costumes, surely recycled from previous Hammer films, to offset the inherent English accents on a broken Spanglish vernacular. Fisher and Hinds upend common werewolf narratives, spinning a wildly tangent rendition of Guy Endore’s already highly taboo tricked out horror novel, “The Werewolf of Paris,” and drape it heavily with Gothicism.

Playing the shapeshifter werewolf is Oliver Reed who at the time was relatively unknown, playing a few bit parts such Plaid Shirt (“Wild for Kicks”) or my personal favorite, Man With Bucket on Head (“No Love for Johnnie.”) Yet, Reed exuded animalistic qualities, such as his dark features and somber eyes, that made him ideal for the role by appearances alone. The thespian in him didn’t quite fit what I believe Fisher was trying to flush out for his beast as Reed held back with a stoic reserve rather than a man desperate for salvation or death, but no one could deny that Reed wore the werewolf makeup like no other, a fine tuned testament of makeup artist Roy Ashton’s creativity that intensified an already beastly framed actor. “The Kiss of the Vampire’s” Clifford Evans took the role of being the wealthy socialite and surrogate father, Don Alfredo, who took the responsibility of raising a cursed child as his own with much suppression love as he could muster to stave the beast from returning. The legendary actor who starred in countless crime-dramas step outside his niche and into horror, even if at the time horror was considered a schlocky exercise of distaste content for a cheap thrill. As Don Alfredo, Evans wages his worth solely on the prospect of being a gentled hearted father-figure doing the right thing even if it’s detrimental to himself and the veteran actor triumphs taking an aloof man with little responsibility to his village, let alone his home, and turning him into taking the matter of his adopted son’s affliction into his own hands when he fails to cobble another solution together. “The Curse of the Werewolf” holds many other fine support performances from “Circus of Horror’s” Yvonne Romain as the mute jailkeeper’s maid, Catherine Feller, Richard Wordsworth, Warren Mitchell, Anne Blake, and John Gabriel.

“The Curse of the Werewolf” is driven not by the snarling teeth action or the transformative body horror one expects of Lycanthropy features. Instead, Hammer’s film rides a story high without being arbitrary with nonsensical waning on the centerpiece of the story, the curse, coursing the path that led to Leon’s fate that was no fault of his own. Leon’s throat-ripping moonlight rendezvous was bred from cruelty and circumstance of severe class division that reaps the life from those in the same blue collar social class as Leon, leaving the higher, wealthy class virtually unscathed by the curse’s wrath in a cruel ironic twist of events. With the story leading the charge, special effects and makeup take a backseat without only some immature fangs and shadowy lurking to sate the need for creature presence. When Roy Ashton’s vision of the half-man half-beast does make a full presentation of Oliver Reed in the full hairy beast getup, complete with a furrowed brow, elongated lower canines, and large wolf ears that were connected with bristly, greyish brown hair down the side of his lower jaw, the werewolf is worth the wait for some of the best practical werewolf makeup from the mid-20th century and surely was the inspiration for future werewolf films, such as “Wolf” with Jack Nicholson. The novelty of “The Curse of the Werewolf” still remains ripe despite being nearly half a century young, giving the beast a meaningful, if not also pitiful, existence to empathize being damned on two fronts: a wretched, cursed soul and being the target of a village mob.

Can love soothe a killer heart? Find out in Scream Factory’s collector edition Blu-ray of “The Curse of the Werewolf” with a new 4K scan from the original 35mm negative and presented in a 1080p high-definition widescreen format of a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Rendering with clean textures and superb details, the image has remarkable vibrancy and hue balance in it’s tinctured technicolor. The transfer is virtually blemish-free, suggesting that the original negative aged well, with agreeable natural grain to complement the film stock. Scream Factory has produced the best looking version of this classic Hammer release. The English language DTS-HD single channel Master Audio renders, again, scot-free of aged distortion with the high-definition eminent boost to providing even clearer dialogue and untarnished ambient clattering during more turbulent scenes of laughter or beastly disarray. English subtitles are optional. A collector’s edition wouldn’t be complete with a slew of bonus materials and, boy, does “The Curse of the Werewolf” have brand spanking new material for the special features that include a new Roy Ashton tribute piece by his friend and “Little Shoppe of Horrors'” writer Richard Klemensen and new audio commentary with film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr. Plus, interviews with actors Catherine Feller, Yvonne Romain, Mike Hill, art director Don Mingaye, art department member Margaret Robinson, and filmmaker Jimmy Sangster in “The Making of The Curse of the Werewolf” featurette, a look at Lycanthropy that discusses whether man’s inner wolf can be a transformative source of mental will, a still gallery, and the theatrical trailer. The package is illustrated with Oliver Reed’s snarling werewolf persona by Mark Maddox, who designed Scream Factory’s “The Thing” release, and comes in a nifty cardboard slip cover. All in all, Scream Factory brought new life into the re-originating and re-orientating “The Curse of the Werewolf” that is, perhaps inarguably, the best Hammer upgrade to date.

Own “The Curse of the Werewolf” today!