VAMPIRE'S KISS (1989) / HIGH SPIRITS (1988)
Release Date: February 10th 2015
Region Code: A
Duration: 103 Minutes / 99 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD MA Stereo
Video: 1080P Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Robert Bierman, Neil Jordan
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Beal, Maria Conchita Alonso, Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole, Steve Guttenberg, Beverly D’Angelo, Jennifer Tilly, Peter Gallagher, Liam Neeson
VAMPIRE'S KISS (1989)
Synopsis: Teetering on the edge of sanity, volatile literary agent Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) tries to find purpose in his life through a cutthroat work ethic and a hedonistic night life. But when an encounter with a mysterious beauty leaves Loew convinced that he is turning into a vampire, his behavior turns positively outrageous. - SCREAM FACTORY
Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) is a literary agent in the big city struggling to maintain his sanity after his girlfriend has left him, now depressed he regularly seeks the counsel of a shrink (Elizabeth Ashley), who notes Pete's increasingly erratic behavior. The struggle to keep his sanity about him becomes more difficult when he meets a mysterious woman named Rachel (Jennifer Beals) at a nightclub. Back at his apartment she reveals herself to be a vampire and sinks her fangs into his neck, the next day believing himself to be a vampire he is overcome by delusion and madness.
Even at this early stage in his career Nicolas Cage was no stranger to quirky performances, but this might be the first time we saw him go full-on crazy with a stunner of an oddball performance, one that still stands out as one of his most bizarre taking on an accent that sounds like Ted "Theodore" Logan channeled through a Brit, very weird stuff and a choice that calls attention to itself. Cage seems to be aiming for more of Dwight Fry's Renfield more so than any incarnation of a vampire, hunched over and bug-eyed, heightened by the fact that the rest of the cast are playing this very straight. Are they playing it too straight or is her just too weird, regardless the outcome is a off kilter black comedy with Cage completely unhinged.
A subplot of the film has Peter tasking his secretary Alva (María Conchita Alonso) with finding a missing document in the office archives, when she is unable to produce the document Peter torments the woman with verbal condemnation. So upsetting is the experience that she calls-in sick the next day, but Peter pays her a visit with an apology and fake sympathy, encouraging her to return to work only to flip the switch once she's back at the office. When the secretary confides in her brother of the torments she suffers at work he sets off to avenge his sister's mistreatment by the increasingly dangerous would-be vampire.
As the film comes to conclusion we find a deranged Peter running through the streets of the city raving like a lunatic, covered in blood and wearing plastic vampire fangs while carrying on a conversation with multiple figments of his imagination, possibly having murdered several people.
VAMPIRE'S KISS struggles to find a consistent tone meandering back and forth from dark comedy to a more serious character study of a man suffering from the effects of insanity. Cage gives a completely unrestrained performance which can be both engaging and sort of off putting from once scene to the next. Honestly this is a bit of train wreck of a film but once I bought into it I actually enjoyed myself but I can only imagine I am in the minority, this is a hard sell of film, so uneven and muddled.
HIGH SPIRITS (1989)
Synopsis: Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole, Steve Guttenberg, Beverly D’Angelo, Jennifer Tilly, Peter Gallagher and Liam Neeson star in this hilariously haunting comedy! When a castle-turned-hotel owned by Peter Plunkett (O’Toole) falls on hard financial times, he comes up with an idea to turn the place into a tourist attraction by billing it as Europe's most haunted castle. But just when it seems he'll have to give up the ghost, some real phantoms show up — and they're none too thrilled about being exploited. - SCREAM FACTORY
Peter Plunkett (Peter O'Toole) the owner of a dilapidated Irish castle transforms the shabby stone-walled home into a haunted bed and breakfast in a last-ditch effort to cash in on the tourism trade before his American creditors can foreclose on the property. With the help of his colorful staff they set about creating a series of hokey haunting gimmicks and invite the first round of American tourists to stay at "the most haunted castle in Europe". Right from the start the haunted hotel opens with disastrous consequence to the dismay of the tourist, but when all seems lost it turns out this castle is actually haunted by spooks and spectres.
Directed by the imaginative Irish director Neil Jordan (IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES) the film had a wonderful sense of the fantastic with an amazing castle set-piece and a fun eighties cast of characters. Peter O'Toole (ZULU DAWN) is quite fun as the often drunk, somewhat suicidal showman who leads a rag tag crew of Irish housemaids and gardeners into a poorly conceived money-making scheme, the man is a legend for a reason and has charisma to spare.
The American tourists are represented by eighties funnyman Steve Guttenberg (COCOON) and his frigid wife Beverly D'Angelo (CHRISTMAS VACATION), Martin Ferrero (THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK) as a paranormal skeptic, Peter Gallagher (AMERICAN BEAUTY) as a Priest and Jennifer Tilly (BOUND) as a raspy-voiced vixen who seriously wants to defrock that priest, pretty much the same sultry character she plays in everything.
Add to this comedic mixture the ethereal beauty of Daryl Hannah (BLADE RUNNER) as the spirit of Mary Plunkett and her murderous husband played by the Liam Neeson (DARKMAN) who both haunt the castle, caught in a spectral loop of honeymoon murder until Guttenberg breaks the cycle, igniting a supernatural love affair.
Quite a fun and farcical romp from the eighties with loads of sight gags and supernatural hi jinx that should appeal to fans of ensemble comedies CLUE and HAUNTED HONEYMOON, the entire cast play this one pitch perfect, a fun combination of haunted hokum and pratfall humor that is sure to make you laugh out loud. .
HIGH SPIRITS is the far and away winner on this double feature with it's spirited mix of the supernatural and farce, worth the price of admission alone, but VAMPIRE'S KISS is not without it's own odd appeal. A weird double feature from Scream Factory who have a pretty solid reputation of cult, b-movies and horror releases, but most horror fans have a pretty well-rounded appreciation for cinema in general, and I am sure this will find an audience, HIGH SPIRITS particularly would be a great introduction to horror for your kids.