A funeral in an isolated Bavarian village during the nineteen-tens, and a foreboding figure, Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans), is watching the ceremony from afar. But soon his curiosity gets the better of him and he advances, stepping up to the graveside where he takes the spade used to dig the plot in both hands and plunges it into the coffin. An unearthly scream erupts from beneath the lid and the mourners flee in panic. That same day, the village will receive two visitors, a couple from England just passing through - or so they think when their car runs out of petrol and they have to seek refuge for the night...
A kiss from a vampire wouldn't do you much damage, would it? It might be cold and clammy, but it's the bites you have to worry about, although in this film a kiss seems appropriate as this is one of Hammer's classiest horrors of the sixties. Written by producer Anthony Hinds under his John Elder pseudonym, it's also one of the studio's most formulaic efforts and with the first half dedicated to setting up the relationship between the characters the brooding atmosphere that director Don Sharp achieves is crucial to keep you watching even though you know fine well who the bloodsuckers are and have a good idea what they're up to.
The young English couple are on their honeymoon, and while most would head for the Costa Del Sol they have opted for the arse end of Central Europe, which is a big mistake, but handy for us as that's from whence the story arises. The newlyweds, Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne (Jennifer Daniel) check into the local hotel, which isn't exactly heaving with customers; in fact the only other tenant is the hard-drinking Professor Zimmer who is not there for sightseeing. So imagine the couple's surprise and delight when they are invited to dinner by Dr Ravna (Noel Willman), the owner of the sinister castle nearby.
When they arrive, they are introduced to Ravna and his two children, Carl (Barry Warren), a deft pianist, and Sabena (Jacquie Wallis) and the stage is set for a civilised dinner and postprandial drinks, although Ravna makes an odd reference to attractive things often being made out of not so nice materials. The decadence behind the upper class folks' lives is gradually made apparent - perhaps a little too gradually - as the evening draws on, but we know something is up when a young woman (Isobel Black) sneaks out of the castle and rushes off to the graveyard to remove that spade from the coffin, only to tussle with Zimmer and leave him with a nasty bite which he has to cauterise.
If you've seen Roman Polanski's Dance of the Vampires and wonder what the vampire ball sequence is taken from, then you'll find this film familiar as it pretty much features the same sequence. Gerald and Marianne are held up for another night and invited to a masked ball by Ravna, and given costumes to wear. What they don't realise is that they are being drawn into a realm of evil, or at least Marianne is, they don't seem that bothered by Gerald which is a mistake as they'd have saved themselves trouble if they'd converted them both. The vampires are like a religious cult here, and the Satanist style gathering they hold is not lost on Zimmer, who frames an incantation to foil them. The Kiss of the Vampire is fairly by the numbers, but like an oft-retold folk tale is compelling despite its predictability with its lightly-sketched themes of the dangers of an over-permissive society. Music by James Bernard.