Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Kiss of the Vampire" (1963)

“Kiss of the Vampire” opens in impressive style. A funeral procession marches through a stark graveyard. The ceremony is interrupted when a foreboding man attacks the coffin with a shovel. The body in the coffin screams and blood begins to flow out copiously. The entire congregation runs away in fear.

Then we get the age-old set up. A honeymooning couple breaks down in the middle of some European backwoods where the villagers are all overcome with grief and fear. There is a castle nearby, occupied by pleasant, sociable and important people. The honeymooners are asked to visit, but during said visit the wife disappears. The husband can convince no one that she ever even existed.

The only man willing to help is the one who attacked the funeral in the opener. His daughter faced much the same fate as the missing wife. She was enticed and led astray by the evil people in the castle. It turns out that they are a cult of vampires.

The film treats vampirism as something enticing and tempting, but dangerous and evil. There is a not so subtle allusion to drug use in the film. However, this story is really a symbol for anything that is damaging but irresistible for those who are in its power. Any sin that society tries to rationalize is fair game really.

The older father who has lost his daughter is a professor who is an expert on the evils of vampirism. He explains the problem:

“When the devil attacks a man or woman 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 favored few. Then he tries to persuade others to join his new cult.”

The story really takes its time and explores these ideas from many angles and from the many different perspectives. The temptation of evil, the protection one tries to provide one’s loved ones against it, the fear it inspires in the powerless, the rationalization of those engaging in it and the grief of those impacted by it. Not everything here is commendable or makes entire sense. The climax of the film opens a whole other can of worms

For those who enjoy an older, more studied and paced approach to horror as a morality play, this is a great experience. The cinematography and art direction are great and the music is superb. It is an especially refreshing take on the enticing side of evil in the “Twilight” era we are enduring.

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