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Vampire's Kiss

Before Nicolas Cage was a gazooperstar raking in $20 million for movies that would never be produced, he was a weird spaz of an actor capable of mind-alteringly bizarre performances. While better known for his eccentric turns in cult-classics like the Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona and David Lynch's Wild at Heart, Cage's most dynamically bewildering performance occurs in director Robert Bierman's odd little 1989 film Vampire's Kiss. Cage stars as a whack-job literary agent whose apparently severe commitment and intimacy issues suggest to the hapless Romeo that he may be, well, a vampire. Provoked by the mysterious presence of fanged sexpot Jennifer Beals, Peter Loew (Cage) unwinds and then unravels, freaking out at the slightest sight or mention of satisfied romance, and taking out his demented frustrations on a beleaguered assistant (Maria Conchita Alonso). Vampire's Kiss is not a particularly good film, nor is it in any way significant; but as a highlight reel of Cage's full-throated and spastic creativity, it has to be seen to be believed. For those who don't wish to watch the whole movie (it's not requisite to enjoy the fruit of Cage's antics), here are this writer's favorite highlights:

  • 2:30 — The first sound of Peter Loew's strangely affected, "sophisticated" voice.

  • 21:00 — Loew adopts an odd drawl as he intones the caustic jibe "Yeah, well fuck you too, sister."

  • 23:00 — An amazing office sequence, beginning with a startling animalistic tic and ending with a violent, Elvis-like pointed finger and the over-delivered line, "Am I getting thuhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-rough to you, Alva?"

  • 32:00 — Deteriorating, Loew begins rhythmically chanting his assistant's name until it echoes throughout the office.

  • 36:00 — Loew throws a nonsensical tantrum in his apartment.

  • 38:00 — The film's showpiece: Loew delivers an insane monologue about the incomprehensible sin of misfiling during which he runs through the entire alphabet with a fresh and impassioned inflection for each individual letter. It is one of the classic scenes of all cinema.

  • 43:30 — Loew's eyes practically bug right out of his skull.

  • 49:00 — Loew eats a live cockroach. He really eats a live cockroach.

  • 55:30 — Loew spazzes out in a taxi.

  • 1:00:00 — More demented spazzing: "Oh God, where am I?"

  • 1:02:30 — He really starts to lose it.

  • 1:06:00 — He really, really starts to lose it. Starting here and for the rest of the picture.

Director Bierman, whose career has otherwise consisted almost entirely of TV movies, shows little knack for tone, atmosphere or theme in Vampire's Kiss, and the best he can do is let Cage run wild, fake fangs protruding from his mouth like a severe malocclusion, waving his arms, wildly yelling "I'm a vampire! I'm a vampire!" It works out for the best: Joseph Minion's screenplay is half-baked and goes nowhere, but Cage's unbridled enthusiasm for indulging in grotesque seizures of frippery and Bierman's lack of interference has resulted in a worthy document of the vitality of an unusual talent seldom seen since blanding out in It Could Happen to You. MGM's DVD release of Vampire's Kiss includes a wonderful commentary by Bierman and Cage, during which they affectionately discuss and laugh at their movie's many odd quirks and Cage's outlandishly invaluable comic performance — perhaps reassuring fans of the film that the duo isn't completely bonkers after all. The print looks good in a decent anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby 2.0 Surround. Original trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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