Vampire’s Kiss / High Spirits – Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)

Vampire's Kiss THUMBBefore the new year hit, Scream Factory said that 2015 was going to see an increase in the Double Feature titles compared to years prior.  As a fan of their Double Feature titles (And a lot of Shout! Factory’s 4-Movie Marathon series), I got pretty excited.  And they really weren’t stretching the truth, as they’ve so far announced eight Double Feature Blu-ray releases for 2015 (Including the Blacula movies and the first two Ghoulies films).  They’ll be kicking off this run on February 10 with two of them, majority Vampire-comedy centric.  Today, we’re looking at one of those that includes Nicholas Cage’s debut on Scream Factory title (Vampire’s Kiss) as well as another acting legend Peter O’Toole (High Spirits).  So sit back, and lets take a look, shall we?

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Vampire’s Kiss 

Peter Loew is on the verge of going insane.  He’s seeing a psychiatrist about his mental health, but things are still declining.   At work, he’s a literary agent with a huge drive and constantly harassing and bullying his secretary with an impossible task to achiever.  On an evening leading to a one night stand, its interrupted by a bat flying through his apartment.  After that night, he meets a woman named Rachel, who so happens to be a vampire.  Each night she drinks from his blood, having Peter believe he is becoming a vampire.

Prior to receiving this for review, I had only seen some clips and snippets from Vampire’s Kiss.  Also, my big memory of this movie was its resurgence on VHS after Nicholas Cage won his Oscar in video stores trying to cash in on this movie with cheap copies (Kinda like Once Bitten for Jim Carrey after Ace Ventura).  Having been keen to that sense of marketing, I didn’t expect this movie was going to be of much quality or have too much much to offer me.  Boy, was I completely wrong on that front.

Without Nicholas Cage, this may have been a 1.5 or 2 star rating movie.  The film has a nice little idea and twist, but for much of the story there’s a lot of staleness and repetition.  Having Cage as an added element, makes this movie and insanely fun and crazy ride like something only few others could provide.   Like always with him, and I’m a constant defender of the Oscar winner, Nic Cage goes all in and fully commits to this insane performance.  Its so wild that it add so much comedic value that the script for this movie probably never had.  His actions and line deliveries are so unpredictable, so over the top and so all-in that you just can’t take your eyes from the screen.

This film is of the darker comedic variety, including some uncomfortable moments with Maria Conchita Alonso’s character.  Jennifer Beals shows up as a sexy vampire, but aside from some titillating side-boob shots during the blood sucking scenes, she’s pretty vanilla and there’s not much there.  This film does craft a very nice twist to all the madness at the end, and caps it off with a dark finish.  Without Cage helping, though, this might have been a snoozefest leading up to a smart finale.

I had a crazy amount of fun with Vampire’s Kiss that I never imagined I was going to have.  This is now definitely one of my all-time favorite Nicholas Cage performances and movies.  There may be other members in this cast, but Vampire’s Kiss is pretty much an excellent one man show.  I don’t know if people can appreciate the brilliance that comes with his work here (Most will just point and say the tired “Nic Cage is a bad actor” scthick without any substance to their argument), but its one of his best.

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High Spirits 

Peter Plunkett, the owner of a dilapidated Irish castle which has been converted to a bed and breakfast supplying the only employment for the local villagers. Owing money to an American businessman, Plunkett has the idea to turn the castle into “The most haunted castle in Europe” for the tourist trade. He and his wacky staff of Irish characters set about creating ghost costumes and effects for their first group of American lodgers.  The American guests soon get what they paid for as the genuine ghosts of Castle Plunkett take umbrage with being cheaply exploited and stage a full scale paranormal event.

This one sort of falls in a weird place with who it wants its target audience to be.  For the most part, the look, feel and genuine idea of this movie lends itself to being an all ages, family movie night affair.  However, there are some jokes and bits mixed in that beg to differ and make one think “Okay, maybe not”.  I think they set out to make maybe a more adult film, but somewhere along the line of the performances and talent behind the camera and on the page, accidentally lent itself to being more kid-friendly goofy feeling.  But what keeps me from thinking that is that this is from Neil Jordan who has given us the likes of The Crying Game, Byzantium, Interview With The Vampire, Breakfast On Pluto and In Dreams.

Unlike this film’s Double Feature partner, its a snoozer, but doesn’t really excel anywhere to have at least one good thing to keep interest.  Its fun seeing some of the talent here, but that sort of awe wears off after a couple scenes go by.  Speaking of, Daryl Hannah was rightfully nominated for a Razzie for her performance as a ghost in this movie.  Just enjoy her trying to convincingly pull of the Irish accent.  Yeah, not a pretty sight.  Oh and Liam Neeson pops up here as the other ghost.  I did enjoy getting some non-Vacation movie time with Beverly D’Angelo, and she’s rather good in this one.  Steven Guttenberg was on top of the world at this time and just coming off the big hit Three Men & A Baby.  But, that was his peak and this is a steep drop to start his decline.  1990 was on a few years away and he’d go from mega star to disappearing act not too long after this.

I’m not sure what more I can say about this movie.  There’s some real charm to be had in the first act, its just not enough to fuel this movie from continuing on.  Its got some tired physical humor and jokes that really aren’t too funny.  It just feels like a generic also-ran kind of film.  High Spirits isn’t able to sort of pick one thing it wants to be, and the viewer doesn’t have the time or patience to sit and wait for it to decide.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Both films feature a similar looking transfer that is above average.  Vampire’s Kiss starts out a little worn during the opening credits, but one they are gone the film looks nice and pristine (for what it is).  Detail in both films on things such as clothing fabric and surfaces texture is pretty nominal.

Black Levels:  Black levels are solid, featuring some good shading.  No crushing issues or detail being hidden in either film.

Color Reproduction:  There aren’t a whole lot of colors on display in Vampire’s Kiss.  But, the reds stick out and club scenes look really nice in this transfer.  High Spirits features a little more color, with grays and greens being pretty stand out.  The colors on both films are really solid and bold without being overly flashy.

Flesh Tones:  Skin on both is natural and consistent.  Detail is solid on High Spirits, but very impressive on Vampire’s Kiss.  You can seriously make out some scarring and such from medium shots on Nic Cage’s neck.

Noise/Artifacts:  Vampire’s Kiss features some spots and dirt in the opening moments and a little bit throughout.  High Spirits is pretty clean.  Both have a nice light layer of grain.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Both tracks provide some suitable and surprisingly efficient tracks.  High Spirits features some wonderfully playful volume ranges and pitches.  The films’ effects sound good and wholesome mixed in with a perfect balance of their musical scores and vocal deliveries.  These tracks both give a nice, loose and unrestrained presentation.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is consistent sounds, loud and clear for both tracks.  Cage’s voice is a bit light in Vampire’s Kiss, but that is more by the nature and tone of his delivery, not the track itself.

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Vampire’s Kiss / High Spirits both share a single BD-50 disc.  The cover insert features additional promotional photos on the reverse side.  Only Vampire’s Kiss has supplemental features.

Audio Commentary

  •  Vampire’s Kiss with Actor Nicholas Cage and Director Robert Bierman – Ported over from the a previous DVD release of the film.

Vampire’s Kiss: Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:09)

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This one is pretty light on the bonus features, but the presentations are nicely above average.  Both films look and sound pretty great for ones you wouldn’t expect to be such a way.  I’m definitely not a High Spirits guy, but I would definitely recommend this set for Vampire’s Kiss alone.  For fans, this is a very nice upgrade on the previous edition, and the film may never look or sound better than here on this release.  I guess I’m personally recommending this Double Feature on the strength of one movie alone.  And, this Double Feature is currently two bucks cheaper than getting this movie on a stand-alone DVD.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Vampire’s Kiss / High Spirits – Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Jim Lumley

    Vampire’s Kiss is one of my favorite films. A great performance from Mr. Cage (with a bonus piece of eating/acting that is real and you will never forget.) This film is very quotable for you and your more unusual friends. Highly Recommended! -Jim P.S. Thanks for the heads up on the new double feature release, which I will be getting as a welcome addition to my blu-ray collection!