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Womanising New York literary agent Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) spends his time in upmarket pick-up bars when he's not harassing lowly paid employee Alva (Maria Conchita Gonzales) about a missing document. After being bitten on the neck by the mysterious Rachel (Jennifer Beals), Peter becomes convinced he's turning into a vampire. Adopting sunglasses and plastic fangs, he begins stalking bars for victims and launches a psychological terror campaign on the hapless Alva.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Something of a cult item when released, Vampire's Kiss has turned up on DVD in Australia minus the Nicolas Cage commentary and the 1.85:1 transfer contained on the American release. For these reasons it's hard to imagine fans will want to buy the local copy but casual observers may decide it's worth the rental fee. Made before Cage hit the Leaving Las Vegas big-time, Vampire's Kiss is a strange little item that hasn't aged well but still has a number of worthwhile elements.

You'll either be amused or irritated by Cage's unrestrained performance as the kind of self-centred yuppie that occupied the novels of Brett Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney at the time. With a pompous, English aristocrat-flavoured accent, Cage's Peter Loew is one of those dreadful snobs whose sense of self-importance is exceeded only by the spiritual emptiness of his New York designer apartment lifestyle. Boring himself at regular sessions with his shrink (Elizabeth Ashley), Loew finally finds something to talk about when bitten on the neck by sultry conquest Rachel (Jennifer Beals) and imagines he's in the throes of transforming into a bloodsucker.

In effect, he's turning less into Dracula than into Renfield, the Count's lunatic assistant from Bram Stoker's novel. Loew's hunched, shuffling gait, wide-eyed leering and sudden fondness for cockroaches make the satirical point that beneath the slick yuppie exterior lies a pathetic sadness and emptiness similar to that of Patrick Bateman's killer in American Psycho.

The idea is an interesting one and is well served by the late 80s/greed is good New York milieu in which the action takes place but the intended humour in Robert Minion's screenplay struggles to compete with the sheer nastiness of Loew's character transformation. His appalling treatment of secretary Alva (a fine performance by Maria Conchita Alonso) makes its misogynistic point but is relentless to the point of alienation and Cage's excessive acting style will test the patience of all but the most dedicated fans of this performer.

Visually it's a treat, with Stefan Czapsky's moody photography moulding the familiar New York skyline into the menacing gothic jungle of Loew's distorted imagination. Sadly, this full-frame transfer doesn't give us all of Czapsky's striking images. Other disappointments in this budget-priced release include an audio mix with music pumped way too high on the front channels (I had to ride the levels between music and dialogue scenes) and a Photo Gallery "bonus feature" that amounts to a handful of freeze frames from the film itself and no behind the scenes or publicity stills. It's very hard to recommend purchase of a disc that is available on the internet in much superior form. For Cage's lunatic performance and the occasional sharp sting in the screenplay it qualifies as a rental curiosity - at best.

Published July 24, 2003

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(US) - 1988

CAST: Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals, Elizabeth Ashley, Kasi Lemmons

DIRECTOR: Robert Bierman

SCRIPT: Robert Minion

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical Trailer, Photo Gallery Subtitles: None

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Kaleidoscope Film/MGM Home Entertainment


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