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MGM Studios DVD presents
Vampire's Kiss (1989)

"I did murder someone last night. I turned into a vampire, it's a long story."
- Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 01, 2002

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals
Other Stars: Kasi Lemmons, Bob Lujan, Elizabeth Ashley
Director: Robert Bierman

MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, sexuality, language, gore)
Run Time: 01h:43m:27s
Release Date: August 27, 2002
UPC: 027616878182
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+B B+

DVD Review

Genre, genre, genre. Where to pigeonhole this disc, I wonder. The keepcase in various places describes it as a "dark comedy," an "erotically charged thriller" and a "lively, imaginative fantasy." In some respects, it's all of these and none of these, and truly defies categorization. If it had more of a following it could be "cult." But at its heart, it's a somewhat whacked and over-the-top look at a man going way past the edge and the effect it has on his relationships with four very different women.

Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) is a pretentious publishing executive who seems to have everything, including an adoring girlfriend, Jackie (director Kasi Lemmons). But loneliness is beginning to tell upon him, as his discussions with his psychiatrist, Dr. Glaser (Elizabeth Ashley) demonstrate. When a bat gets into his apartment, he finds it erotic, and soon is visited (or fantasizes a visit) by a sexy vampire, Rachel (Jennifer Beals). As he becomes a vampire (or thinks he does), his behavior grows increasingly eccentric, mostly at the expense of his long-suffering secretary Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso). But loving a vampire may not be as easy as it seems.

When I first watched this, I was appalled at Cage's incredibly poor performance, capped by a sub-Keanu Reeves accent that is amazing in its awfulness. However, according to the commentary, that's intentional and part of Loew's pretension, as indicated by occasional chinks in the accent. While I'm prepared to accept that, the point could have been made more clearly; the way it works it's a bit like having to explain a joke. The women are all quite effective in their playing off Cage, particularly Alonso, who is increasingly terrorized by her boss's bad behavior. Beals isn't called upon to do much more than be sexy and cruel, but she does both exceedingly well.

Probably the best part about this film is its ambiguity. Until the end it's quite unclear whether the vampirism is supposed to be real or part of a delusion; Cage's emotional disintegration fits well into both scenarios, redeeming the performance after all. This all culminates in a conversation that takes place in two different places and circumstances, playing effectively with the viewer's perceptions. First-time director Robert Bierman does a workmanlike job, allowing scenes to play without the camera becoming intrusive. The opening sequence of shots of Manhattan are gorgeous and worthy of a Woody Allen picture. The violence is at times quite brutal, though, so don't go in expecting light comedy.

Despite my initial reservations, I found myself liking this picture more and more on repeated viewings. It's worth consideration if you're up for something completely sui generis.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks very nice indeed, with decent black levels and excellent color balance. Shadow details are reasonably good as well. There are appropriate grain levels giving the picture a nice filmlike appearance. The source print has no visible damage at all.

The full-frame side is an open matte transfer, so nothing appreciable is lost from the sides most of the time. However, it does violence to many of the compositions (notably the opening). On the positive side, the framing on the widescreen side is often excessively tight, and this open version relieves this cramped feeling.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround audio sounds quite nice for the most part. There's no appreciable hiss or noise. However, certain sequences appear to have rather muffled dialogue with the music overwhelming the sound. This might be intentional, but it makes the film hard to follow without using subtitles. I expect it's a problem with the mix. The music (notably the nightclub sequences) is full-bodied with plenty of deep bass and a wide soundstage. Dialogue is almost entirely center-anchored.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by star Nicolas Cage and director Robert Bierman
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The dual-sided disc has a commentary that as noted above is truly essential to an appreciation of this film. This is one of the handful of DVDs that have made me completely reassess the picture based on the commentary, and it's pretty much all for the better. The track appears to have been recorded three or four years ago, since they refer to making the picture "eleven years ago." There are some observations that I didn't quite agree with, however. Cage asserts that he was using a silent-film style of acting, but I've seen quite a few silents and I don't see it. The only similarlity I see is a certain stiffness that seems to be derived from Max Schreck's Orlok in Nosferatu. Be that as it may, this is an interesting track from beginning to end, with few pauses and plenty of content that certainly led me to a much different conclusion about the picture. It's accompanied by a nice-looking trailer.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

This film is one of the handful as to which the commentary is essential to an appreciation; it's thus highly gratifying that MGM chose not to release it as a barebones edition. The transfer is very good to boot.


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