When Dracula aka Horror of Dracula (1958) changed the face of the modern horror movie, Hammer was under pressure to keep hold of it’s title as The new House of Horror, as low budget horror movies and vampire imitations were being churned out with alarming rapidity across the world. Works by Mario Bava, Jesus Franco and Antonio Margheriti would help to capitalize on the dark-cloaked vampire in the Dracula image and add their own individual stamps to the fantasy genre.
Bava’s La Maschero Del Demonio/ Black Sunday (1960) would give further notoriety to the genre by receiving an outright ban by the censors and Spain would give birth to its own vampire hero in the shape of German Roble’s Count Lavud of El Vampiro (1957).
The Brides of Dracula had held many incidents that were dropped from the original Hammer film screenplay, Dracula II. John Elder, a pseudonym for Producer Anthony Hinds, worked the excess into this pleasing Draculoid thriller. A honeymoon couple is enticed by the evil Count Ravna (Noel Willman) and his Satanic followers. It falls to Clifford Evan’s grieving hero Professor Zimmer to rescue them both by setting loose thousands of bats to invade the Castle.
To give weight to this flimsiest of storylines, Hammer hired Australian Director Don Sharp. Sharp had no inkling of the horror genre and liteerally took a crash course in Dracula and vampires by viewing Hammer’s earlier efforts over the course of a weekend. He came to the conclusion that a vampire movie is best enjoyed when the audiences are not familiar with the cast. Stylish and evocative set-pieces such as the Bal Masque stand out as the heroine, Jennifer Daniel, is tricked into becoming a tasty snack for the smarmy and lecherous Count Ravna.
Zimmer himself is bitten by a vampire who tries to resurrect his dead daughter but cauterizes the wound with whisky and a burnig brazier. He had previously staked his undead daughter with a shovel at her funeral in the pre-credit sequence that ranks as one of the best openings of any vampire movie. Other highlights to watch out for are the inclusion of an incredibly zestful vampire in Isobel Black who obviously enjoys her time as one of the undead. She would turn up, very underused, as a victim in Hammer’s later movie, Twins of Evil (1971).
Rarely seen on TV these days and frustratingly difficult to track down, Kiss of the Vampire is one of Hammer’s better excursions into vampire territory and cruelly underlines the lack of imagination in their official Dracula sequels. Don Sharp would go on to direct Rasputin, the Mad Monk (1965), with Christopher Lee, and Noel Willman and Jennifer Daniel would appear together again in the brooding, The Reptile (1967).