• Vampire's Kiss/High Spirits

    Released by: Scream Factory
    Released on: February 10, 2015
    Directors: Robert Bierman/Neil Jordan
    Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Beals, Maria Conchita Alonso, Elizabeth Ashley, Kasi Lemmons/Steve Guttenberg, Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole, Beverly D’Angelo, Jennifer Tilly, Peter Gallagher, Liam Neeson
    Years: 1989/1988
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    The Movies:

    Vampire’s Kiss: After a one-night stand during which he and his paramour are interrupted by a bat and another in which his pick-up claims to be a vampire and attacks him, literary agent Peter Loew becomes obsessed with the notion that he is one of the undead. He cuts his own neck while shaving, develops aversions to sunlight and crosses, fails to see his own reflection in mirrors, and takes to wearing a pair of cheap plastic teeth he buys at a “magick” store. As his “transformation” progresses, those around him become increasingly (and justifiably) alarmed.

    At one point, Vampire’s Kiss utilizes clips from F.W. Murnau’s classic Nosferatu—A Symphony of Terror (1922), which is fitting given that lead Nicolas Cage, who plays Peter Loew, constructs a performance that mimics the broad acting style of the silent era. Cage has always been a love-him-or-hate-him kind of actor: Those who love him will likely see his performance here as somewhat groundbreaking, while those who don’t will probably feel as though they’re watching a particularly excitable ham sandwich with extra slices of cheese. Either way, Cage’s performance makes or breaks the film. What’s undeniable is that his mannerisms are undercut by both terrible “Is that an accent?” enunciation and fairly flat direction from Robert Bierman. (Bierman had been set to direct The Fly, 1986, but had to drop out after personal tragedy struck, thus paving the way for David Cronenberg to step in.)

    All this aside, Vampire’s Kiss is actually fairly interesting, with a reasonably original premise and arresting performances from Jennifer Beals as Loew’s vampire tormentor and Broadway star Elizabeth Ashley as his psychiatrist. Joseph Minion’s script is solid and occasionally witty—Loew’s makeshift coffin is an overturned couch resting on piles of books—and there are a couple of laugh-out-loud turns, such as the moment when Loew becomes convinced that he is a vampire and runs down the street announcing it to the world. Helping the film to move, Colin Towns’s score borrows unashamedly from John Williams’s score for Dracula (1979), at times to great effect.

    It’s undeniably a watchable film. Whether it’s a likeable one depends entirely on how one reacts to Cage’s scenery chewing.

    High Spirits: Peter Plunkett is about to lose his Irish castle-turned-hotel to the American businessman from whom he’s borrowed money to keep it running. Worse, said businessman plans on moving the castle brick-by-brick to Malibu, California. When a group of Americans show up, Plunkett stages a haunting hoping to scare up some positive word-of-mouth. The attempt fails, prompting some real ghosts to intrude on the action, intent on preventing the Americans from relocating their home to the United States. Meanwhile, two of those ghosts—a husband and the wife he murdered—fall for a young American couple having marital problems.

    Most of the film’s running time is spent detailing the necrophilic romances of the spirits and their living counterparts. Those bits aren’t particularly melodramatic, scary, or funny, but when the focus switches to presumably zany ghostly hijinks, the film fares even worse. It’s difficult to believe that Neil Jordan wrote and directed something this relentlessly bad, particularly given the strength of so many of his films: The Company of Wolves (1984), Mona Lisa (1986), The Crying Game (1992), Interview with the Vampire (1994), The Butcher Boy (1997), The End of the Affair (1999), and Breakfast on Pluto (2005). In his defense, it isn’t all his fault. The studio, once it had seen his finished product, declared it too dark and re-edited it without Jordan’s involvement, making what was once a black comedy something far lighter… and less interesting. High Spirits manages to be the nadir of Jordan’s long directorial career. The acting here is also seriously awful (Darryl Hannah was nominated for a Razzie) and the script even worse. Oh, well; at least the sets are attractive.


    Scream Factory presents both Vampire’s Kiss and High Spirits with MPEG-4 AVC encodes. Both are in 1080p, and each is presented in 1.85:1. Because this is a double feature disc, Scream has wisely used a 50GB disc. Given the age of each film, one would expect more moderate transfers, but these are surprisingly strong. Though neither is particularly colorful (per the way each film was originally shot), both are quite naturalistic and have solid details. There is no crush, and there is an organic layer of grain that should please purists without upsetting everyone else. The opening credits of Vampire’s Kiss feature some minor dirt and debris, but it quickly clears once the optical effects are over.

    Both films are recorded in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, which is more than serviceable. There are no noticeable problems with either track, though High Spirits is the more robust of the two, if only because it has a far more dynamic score. Both films feature English subtitles.

    The only extras are for Vampire’s Kiss, and those are sparse. There’s a theatrical trailer running a little over two minutes and an audio commentary with director Bierman and actor Cage, which has been ported over from a previous DVD release. It’s an interesting track (Cage explains his decision to use that god-awful “accent,” and he confirms the influence of the silent era on his performance), and Bierman and Cage seem to get along well. Their laughter is contagious, in fact, making the commentary an easy one to get through.

    The Final Word:

    Vampire’s Kiss is an interesting and, depending on your threshold for broad acting, fun film, while High Spirits is wretched. Both receive strong transfers with great detail and solid sound. The only extras are a trailer and an audio commentary for one film, but given that two have been placed on a single disc, this is probably a good thing. Both look and sound very good, and fans of either film can safely purchase the BD; just consider the second film a freebie.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I LOVE Vampires Kiss. I wish it wasnt a double feature. It's true, Cage is either a love him or hate him guy in this.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Consider the second film a freebie! VAMPIRE'S KISS is so much better than HIGH SPIRITS, and after listening to the commentary, I have to admit I liked Cage a lot better than I did before.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      The commentary is great.