Castor’s Underrated Gems: Vampire’s Kiss (1988)

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At the witching hour in NYC, the opening title sequence for the fiendishly pell-mell, daft cult classic Vampire’s Kiss is drenched in atmospheric ghoulishness. When a bat flutters around his apartment, it’s a toss-up as to who is frothing more rabidly: the winged beast or Cage as the womanizing literary agent. In the commentary, director Robert Bierman politely alludes that Cage was a bit unbridled and unhinged during filming which only enhances the surreal quality of the film.

For the record, Cage’s flights of bombastic, gangly grandeur don’t really occur until the half-hour mark. Cage nails the snide Upper West Side accent and who else could sincerely deliver the line “I was in mortal combat with a fucking bat”. It’s only germane for the film’s darkly humorous sensibilities that the tone is more sobering than broad like a sulfuric Bret Easton Ellis novel (much like Patrick Bateman, Cage is a white-collar professional in Paul Smith suits with homicidal delusions).

Public outbursts are Cage’s forte (look to his recent altercation with Vince Neil for confirmation of this) and this is practically an acting showcase for his tics and mannerisms but it doesn’t diminish how eminently sensational he is. Rather than chewing the scenery, he literally obliterates in a scene where he completely vandalizes his own apartment and eats a live cockroach. Along with Cage’s askew Method theatrics, we are regaled with a nubile Jennifer Beals in lingerie.

On the downside, Cage’s mistreatment of his secretary (Maria Conchita Alonso) is brazenly misogynistic to the point where a rape is ostensibly envisioned as a rib-tickling set piece (ex. When Cage confesses, his psychiatrist blithely remarks “It’s just a little id release. No need to worry.”).

It’s fair that I should forewarn anyone who doesn’t like their comedy tinged with bile to steer clear. If the awards were egalitarian, Cage would’ve been nominated for his temerity to take on such a nihilistic, unsympathetic character. You’d be hard-pressed to find another A-lister be so openly repugnant and yet fascinatingly gonzo for a low-budget shocker. Outside of Matthew McConaughey in Texas Chainsaw Massacre:The Next Generation of course.

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