Summer of the 80′s is a weekly column that will run until the end of August in which I watch a movie released during the summer movie season of the 1980′s that I’ve never seen before. Every Friday, I’ll write about an 80′s movie that came out on the same day, or near the same day, that correlates with the post here on the site. So follow me as I travel back in time to discover my lost summer at the movies.
About the movie
Vampire’s Kiss was released on June 2, 1988 by 20th Century Fox. It was directed by Robert Bierman, who has had a long career directing for television (Vampire’s Kiss is the only theatrical film he ever directed), from a script by Joseph Minion, who wrote the screenplay for the Martin Scorsese directed After Hours. The film stars Nicholas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Ashley. The film’s budget is unknown but went on to only make $725,131 at the box office. It is currently available on DVD.
Seduction. Romance. Murder. The things one does for love.
Going into Vampire’s Kiss, I was hoping for an outrageous 80s comedy accentuated by an over-the-top performance by Nicholas Cage. Everything I’d seen in regards to the movie (various clips, images and promo material) all pointed exactly to the silliness that I was expecting. After seeing the film now for the first time, I find myself surprised and almost shocked at how the movie became a film that had me mulling over it long after the end credits rolled. The ridiculousness and seemingly silly performance from Cage is there, and it provided tons of laughs for me, but there’s also a method to all the madness which blindsided me as I didn’t see it coming.
The movie doesn’t quite make any sense at first and seems to just meander through scenes without much cohesion. In fact, at one point I felt like I was watching something inspired by a David Lynch film. Nicholas Cage’s character, Peter Loew, is.. odd. He’s also a womanizer yet deep down he’s just wanting to find love. He talks in a weird accent that doesn’t really sound like anything other than pompous. He’s obsessed with making his secretary find a contract in, apparently, the world’s largest file and constantly berrates her verbally, sometimes chasing her down the hallway into the ladies room to find out why she hasn’t found the file yet. By definition, he’s a terrible person. Oh, and he’s also batshit insane.
Early in the movie, Peter meets Rachel, played by Jennifer Beals, and quickly ends up in bed with her. During their slightly awkward bed time play, Rachel reveals fangs before biting him on the neck and sucking his blood. After that scene, and from previously seeing promo shots with Nicholas Cage wearing a Dracula style cape, I expected to see Peter turn into a vampire. Nearly about an hour into the film, I felt like I was watching the slowest process of turning into a vampire I’d ever seen. Then I thought, “well maybe he’s not turning into a vampire at all, maybe he’s a Renfield-type character.” This train of thought was supported by the fact that he seemed to be in the thrall of Rachel as well as a scene in which Peter sees a cockroach crawling on his stove and grabs it and eats it. Then during the last 20 minutes or so, I quickly came to see the movie for what it really is, one man’s descent into madness. The vampire element is Peter’s delusion. My misconception of the film and the slightly misleading materials had me looking for things that weren’t ever going to happen but when I realized that the movie was about Peter’s insanity, it became rather interesting and kind of felt like a revelation. All of Cage’s crazy choices in portraying his character actually started to look like really smart, though still odd, decisions. If you enjoy “crazy Nicholas Cage” performances like I do, there are tons of moments full of bizarre physicality and oddly spoken dialogue, but I think you might start to appreciate his “mega-acting.” He’s not simply over-acting, there is a purpose to what he’s doing. It’s bizarre how it really works in this film but it does. I’d almost go so far as to say it may be one of the better performances of his career.
Vampire’s Kiss is highly entertaining, based solely on Cage’s performance alone, and while it definitely feels aimless for awhile, the film ends pretty strongly. It’s definitely not what I was expecting story-wise but was everything I wanted in a movie full of Cage’s mega-acting. I had decided to just buy the film on DVD in order to watch it for this week’s column and I’m glad I did as it will now sit proudly on my shelf. I just have to decide if I’m going to put it in the horror, comedy or drama genre sections of my collection (though it comes as a double feature with Once Bitten, so that may make it easier for me). It’s weirdly funny and surprisingly dark, but it’s definitely worth watching.
In the film, Nicolas Cage’s character eats a cockroach. Turns out that he actually ate a real cockroach for the scene which reportedly took three takes. In regards to that experience, he’s been quoted as saying, “Every muscle in my body didn’t want to do it, but I did it anyway.”
Cage’s character sports a strange accent which is supposedly a fake accent used by the character because he thinks he sounds more “elegant” and “smarter” (hence the literary agent job). The accent comes and goes throughout the movie and is more prominent when he’s trying to impress people and less in scenes with people like the psychiatrist.
Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club) was considered for the role of Peter Loew.
by Ben McBride