The Devil's Kiss Review
Here’s a breakdown of the various elements which find their place within the opening ten minutes of The Devil’s Kiss, a French-Spanish slice of Eurohorror from 1975… Partying aristocrats. Exotic dancers. A former Countess. A second-rate George Hamilton lookalike. A professor with telepathic powers and an interest in cell regeneration. A mysterious blue-tinted flashback. Talk of good, evil and immortality. Some casual nudity. Some outrageous seventies fashion. Hammond, harmonica and fuzz guitar on the soundtrack. A séance. Voyeurism. And an attempted rape. Most will come together to form a plot as we go along; the rest simply illustrate the kind of film we have in store.
This plot, as it comes into focus, is one of revenge. The former Countess’ brother committed suicide a while back and she firmly places the blame on a Duke who has arranged the aristocratic entertainment. Her skills at delivering a séance earn her and her Professor friend a stay at his stately home wherein the Duke can learn about the occult and the Professor can work on bringing the dead back to life. A recently departed corpse with no family ties comes in particularly handy for the latter and, of course, the whole enacting revenge business. The monster, incidentally, looks like a slimmed-down Tor Johnson with a slight blue-greyish tint (as we should expect from the newly deceased) and some rudimentary facial make-up. Also putting in an appearance are the Duke’s saucy maid to allow for further random nudity and sex scene inserts, plus the Professor has a dwarf as an assistant. Later on we will also learn that the Duke has a “too liberal” fashion photographer for a nephew amongst other bits of nonsense that come into play.
My emphasis on plotting and plot details is simply to mimic The Devil’s Kiss itself. This is a film that is, at best, merely proficient in most departments and as such has only its narrative to hang onto. It’s the collection of clichés, unexpected developments and occasionally outlandish ideas that prompt any appeal, likewise the more modish additions such as that opening fashion show. With that said all involved do appear to be taking proceedings seriously, and as such the acting and direction are fairly solid if uninspiring. (The Professor and former Countess are played by Oliver Matthias and Silvia Solar, respectively, who also had key roles in another recent Arrowdrome! release, The Man with the Severed Head, another film that maintained a straight face despite the silliness on display.) Likewise the photography and the dialogue, although the latter does manage one stand-out: “No-one will notice an additional grave in a cemetery.”
Yet whilst there is nothing particularly great about The Devil’s Kiss, there is also very little that could be dismissed as outright bad. As those first ten minutes demonstrate, at the very least it has plenty going on to maintain attention. We’ve seen it all before, of course, in various combinations and at varying levels of quality over the years, but personally speaking I find it very hard to be bored by a film that throws in so many clichés and trash cinema hallmarks with such abandon. This isn’t great or even good cinema, but it is entertaining - and in a film such as The Devil’s Kiss that is perhaps the most important thing.
The Devil’s Kiss is the latest induction into Arrow Video’s budget Arrowdrome! range. Encoded for all regions, it presents the film in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and with a choice of French or English soundtracks, the former with optional English subs. The overall standard of presentation is much the like the film itself, solid if uninspiring. The print demonstrates some signs of damage - the odd speck of dirt here, the occasional tramline there - and doesn’t contain the strongest levels of detail, but it would be unfair to say that either have a detrimental effect on any viewing pleasures. Colours are generally strong as are contrast levels, whilst the optional subs are white in colour and read perfectly well. (They also appear to translate the French rather than simply spell out the English dub.) Of the soundtracks neither feels like a perfect fit to various lip movements, although the French option does have the upper hand in terms of clarity and crispness. With that said neither is particularly poor, but once again neither is particularly outstanding either. Of course the low-budget of the film and indeed the low price of the disc will afford certain generosities when it comes to the presentation.
On-disc extras are limited to a Eurocine trailer reel encompassing original promos (with optional English subs) for the following: Jess Franco’s Female Vampire, Oasis of the Zombies and The Sadistic Baron von Klaüs, Pierre Chevalier’s Orloff and the Invisible Man, and Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake. With the exception of Baron von Klaüs all have been previously onto disc in the UK by a variety of companies including Arrow. There is no indication as to whether each will find themselves a place in the Arrowdrome! range, though I’m sure some will be welcomed. (Oasis of the Zombies is awful and shouldn’t be inflicted on anyone.) Rounding off the package we also find a booklet containing a newly commissioned piece by Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA.