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Shocktober 2021 13. The Witch (2015)
Shocktober 2021 12. The Frighteners (1996)
Shocktober 2021 11. The Others (2001)
Shocktober 2021 10 The Horror at 37,000 feet
Shocktober 2021 9. Van Helsing (2004)
Shocktober 2021 7 The Frozen Dead (1966)
Shocktober 2021 6. Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Shocktober 2021 5. Race With the Devil (1975)
Shocktober 2021 4. The Return of the Vampire (1943)
Shocktober 2021 3. The Sorcerers (1967)
Shocktober 2021 2. Gargoyles (1972)
Shocktober 2021 1. The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Shocktober 2021 8. Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

“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 favoured few. Then he tries to persuade others to join his new cult.” – Professor Zimmer

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1963) | This Is My Creation: The  Blog of Michael Arruda

I’m definitely sensing a subconscious theme to this year’s Shocktober, as this is yet another of those movies that I saw on a Monday night back in the early to mid-seventies as an impressionable 13-year-old. One that led me down the merry path to creating Shocktober, years ago.

After their success with Dracula in 1958, Hammer had a bit of difficulty persuading Christopher Lee back into the role. And when they did, he flat out refused to recite the dialogue he was handed. This is why Dracula maintains a sullen silence in Dracula – Prince of Darkness (1965) his second outing.

But in the meantime, Hammer needed to keep their momentum going, and they made a couple of vampire movies without Lee, though written with him in mind. The first was Brides of Dracula (1960) which was a direct sequel to Dracula, and featured a returning Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) battling Baron Meinster (David Peel). The other film was this one, filmed in 1962 and released in 1964, which has no mention of Dracula, but the main vampire’s mannerisms are identical to those of Christopher Lee, as are the facial expressions and the dialogue delivery. All pure Lee, in all except name.

But both these films are a lot of fun to watch, and though I saw them both during my formative Monster Kid years, I’m given to understand that TV screenings of this one were quite rare in the UK. In the USA, distributors Universal edited quite a bit out for TV. So, all in all, I was lucky. The version available on DVD is “THE” version, the cinema release, and it’s the one I saw back then.

So, no Van Helsing (though there’s a vampire hunter) and no Dracula (but given the performance by Noel Willman, there practically is.) but the action starts before we’ve even seen the titles. 

A funeral is interrupted by Prof. Zimmer (Clifford Evans) at its close, who drives a spade through the midsection of the coffin, skewering the occupant through the heart with the wooden handle. The corpse screams and we see inside the casket, the body has fangs. Roll titles. (Wow – THAT made an impression on me as a kid.)

We then get into the heart of the story (if you’ll pardon the pun) We appear to be in the first decade of the 20th century. Somewhere in mid-Europe where they speak a mixture of French and German. A young newly-wed English couple Gerald and Marianne Harcourt (Edward De Souza and Jennifer Daniel) are driving along in their new-fangled automobile when it runs out of petrol. Gerald goes for help, leaving his young bride alone on a deserted road in the woods, unaware that they’re being watched from a nearby chateau.

Towed by horse to a hotel nearby, they get a room and settle in when they get a letter from Doctor Ravna at the chateau inviting them to dinner. Ravna (Chris Lee lite) played by Noel Willman is both kind and courteous, offering to send for fuel by ox cart – which will take a few days, and introduces the young couple to his children, Carl (Barry Warren) and Sabena (Jacquie Wallis). They all seem delightfully cultured, and very much take to the Harcourts. Even inviting them to a masked ball and lending them suitable clothes. (Don’t do it, kids)

At the ball, Gerald gets hammered on champagne (again with the puns, sorry) and has to sleep it off, while Ravna makes his move to abduct Marianne. Ravna is a vampire. Actually, he’s the leader of a whole cult of vampires and all the guests are…you guessed it. The following morning, The Ravna family try feebly to convince Gerald that he was there alone. Even Marianne’s clothes have gone from the hotel room. But Prof. Zimmer knows exactly what’s going on and is eager to help.

Gerald rescues Marianne and takes her to safety, but she can’t resist the spell of Ravna and tries to make her way back to the chateau, while Zimmer concocts a spell, summoning the dark arts and invoking the name of Beelzebub (odd for a man who seconds earlier advocated seeking God through the church). This spell raises a horde of bats from somewhere (I assume they’re from hell). The bats descend in their thousands (okay, tens – and they were reputedly rubber novelty ones bought from Woolworths) and attack the chateau, destroying every member of the vampire cult and presumably, releasing Marianne from their curse.

Looking at it now, the ending makes no sense. It’s well established in the Hammer movies that only the power of good can vanquish the vampire and invoking Beelzebub against his own guys seems to be implausible = even for a Hammer film. But ultimately, I didn’t question the ending when I saw it on a black and white TV set almost half a century ago and I’m not really going to start now. I’m just going to enjoy the fantasy of a real “Golden Age of Hammer” movie. But here’s a bit of trivia to close this one off. The “swarm of bats” ending was originally written for the earlier Brides of Dracula but Peter Cushing objected strongly, saying that Van Helsing would never resort to using the Dark Arts. Quite right too.

Okay, so we’ve seen some vampires – next time there’s a bit more at stake. (I swear the puns are getting worse)

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