This Don Sharp directed feature for Hammer Film Productions comes from the pen of John Elder. Elder is the pseudonym for the film’s producer Anthony Hinds. Hinds served as producer on a large number of Hammer’s catalogue and on occasion as the script writer. For those well versed in the Hammer field, there is no doubting the similarities between this enjoyable vampire romp’s script and the eventual return of Christopher Lee in the script for Dracula – Prince of Darkness. Not surprisingly, to back that comment up, John Elder is credited with the idea of Lee’s Dracula sequel.
Now don’t let that stop you from taking pleasure in this blood soaked affair or the eventual Lee film of 1966.
Opening with a very similar scene to that of 1957’s Blood of the Vampire, a funeral procession lays a recently deceased to rest lowering the coffin into the grave. A cloaked figure appears and drives a shovel through the coffin lid allowing blood to bubble forth from the crack in the wooden box. Cue the score from Hammer favorite James Bernard and a long shot of a castle in the mountains that we’ve seen in previous Hammer vampire outings.
When Edward de Souza and his wife Jennifer Daniel are travelling cross country by motor car, they conveniently run out of petrol near the castle perched high up in the hills. Convenient for Noel Willman who is watching through a telescope from the castle above. There’s little doubting that the Chris Lee like Willman is the vampire of our film. The couple will encounter a stern looking Clifford Evans in the local woods before settling at a musty forgotten bread and breakfast run by an aging couple with a secret of their own.
In little time at all, the young couple receive an invitation for dinner at the castle by it’s host, Count Ravna. Graciously accepting, de Souza and Daniel will not only meet the Count but his son and daughter. It would appear as if a family of vampires inhabit the castle walls and their numbers are growing. While a night of entertainment is ongoing, Evans is on the prowl for vampires and will have a close call himself, much like Peter Cushing did in 1960’s Brides of Dracula. Evans, like Peter will resort to fire to sterilize his wounds in a scene sure to give movie goers of the day a squeamish feel. Kind of like the one I would get years later when Sly Stallone took that flying leap off a mountain top as Rambo and poured gunpowder into his wound and setting it afire…… movie connections run rampant in my consciousness. Sorry.
In what seems to be a template for The Fearless Vampire Killers, the good Count invites his prey to a masquerade ball where the family’s evil intentions are made clear when the fair Miss Daniels is taken captive in the crypt of Willman and poor de Souza is shown the door. His complaints are to fall on deaf ears when no one will admit to ever having seen the wife he speaks of.
The young man will of course find an ally in Evans and learn the truth behind the couple who run the inn where he and his wife stayed. Moving forward, he with Evans will take up the fight of good versus evil in fun Hammer fashion.
This splendidly staged Hammer outing is one that we can look at from at least three different view points. Some may look at it as an inferior effort and nothing more than a rejected Dracula script in the hopes for Christopher Lee returning to his iconic role. We can also deem it as a script set aside after Hammer went with the one turned in for The Brides of Dracula. The excellent sequel to Horror of Dracula that again saw horror film icon Peter Cushing as Van Helsing battling vampires led by Baron Meinster. Supposedly the ending for Kiss of The Vampire was originally to be staged for Brides but budget restraints didn’t allow for it. Works for me because like Horror of Dracula, Cushing, is in fine athletic form in the riveting Brides finale.
Lastly we can enjoy this one for what it is. Another gothic tale from the Studio That Dripped Blood. Thanks to home video, this one has found an audience. I just think it gets a bit short changed due to the fact that Lee and Cushing are nowhere to be found. Give it a go if you haven’t already.
The film has been released a number of times to home video between the VHS days, DVD’s and now blu rays so it shouldn’t be hard to locate if you’re up to the frights.