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Throughout his career, Nicholas Cage has consistently pushed the boundaries of what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ acting. Few would argue that Cage isn’t a talented performer – he’s an Oscar winner who’s headlined at least half a dozen bona fide classics, from the delightful romantic comedy of Moonstruck to Spike Jonze’s cerebral meta-comedy Adaptation. But, particularly in the past decade or so, Cage has also become notorious for over-acting to a degree that goes beyond thespian hamminess into a meme-friendly style that’s u mistakable his own. It even has a name – Cage Rage.
When combined with his seeming willingness to say yes to virtually any script that passes his way, regardless of quality, many critics have accused Cage of descending into self parody. He wouldn’t be the only actor to take the same quirks and tics that made his younger self so intriguing and turn them into a fairly tiresome crutch – just look at the latter career of Johnny Depp.
Released in 1989 at the height of Cage’s ascent to the Hollywood A-list, Vampire’s Kiss definitively proves that Cage has always been an actor who – to put it mildly – tends to swing from the rafters. The film is as divisive now as it was then, if you know it at all, it’s most likely for the meme-able image of Cage, eyebrows raised to his hairline, wearing an expression of utter insanity that seems to sum up his acting style. It isn’t an isolated moment. The entire movie is perhaps the purest expression of the unfettered Cage experience on film.
Your mileage for this level of scenery chewing may vary, but if you can take Vampire’s Kiss on face value, you may find that there’s actually a lot more too it than a few ironic ‘so bad it’s good’ chuckles. In the movie, Cage plays a man who descends into full-blown insanity after being attacked by a bat and becoming convinced that he’s transforming into a vampire. You could never describe it as a subtle look at mental illness, but Cage’s total commitment and numerous bold acting choices – from the indefinable accent he adopts to his unrestrained arm flailing, table-jumping physicality – have the unlikely effect of creating a compelling and fairly consistent character.
Tales from the set suggest that Cage himself totally bulldozed director Robert Bierman, who counts convincing the actor not to get into a room with a live Vampire bat and tricking him into eating not one but two live cockroaches among his few victories. But it’s difficult to imagine Vampire’s Kiss being even half as fascinating with a more conventional performer at the helm. The result feels more like arthouse than trash.
In this week’s podcast, we discuss delusions of Vampirism, hostile work environments, deeply incompetent psychiatrists and much more in our deep dive review of the movie, before hitting you with some drinking games and sequel pitches. Could one of these be the vehicle to rescue Nicholas Cage’s reputation in Hollywood? Take a listen and let us know…
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Next week, we conclude our Vampire season with a special guest and a trip to the icy climes of 80s Sweden. Until then, happy listening and remember – filing is as easy as A! B! C! etc.