Sunday, October 26, 2008

#103: The Fearless Vampire Killers


The Fearless Vampire Killers
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Gérard Brach and Roman Polanski
Released February 1967 (U.K.)

Another Horror touchstone which I must touch on is director Roman Polanski, who directed Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby one of the most chilling and disturbing (especially to pregnant mothers) films of the genre.

Just one year before he made that classic, Polanski directed a Horror movie that was much different: The Fearless Vampire Killers (or, known in every country but the U.S. as Dance of the Vampires) is a sort of satirical vampire spoof, the kind of fright flick made for people who'd rather not take this fare so seriously. Clearly, Polanski was taking his biggest shots at the Hammer Studios films I've mentioned before.

The movie stars Jack MacGowran as Professor Abronsious, a wacky and esteemed ex-professor who has donated his life to searching Europe for signs of the existence of vampires. Polanski plays his somewhat dim and quiet assistant, Alfred, while Polanski's wife -- and future victim of Charles Manson's clan -- Sharon Tate, plays the daughter of a strange innkeeper in the small town where the professor and his assistant finally find possible signs of bloodsuckers.

After the abduction of the innkeeper's daughter, Abronsious and Alfred track down the castle of Count von Krolock, played by Ferdy Mayne as a much more convincing vampire than the man who played Dracula in the Hammer kung-fu Dracula movie I reviewed a while back.

The tone, which feels like a combination of fairy tale with hints of Mel Brooks and The Beatles' Help!, is fairly slapstick-y. If you're the kind of person who loves classic old Blake Edwards movies like The Party or some of his Pink Panther stuff, you'll enjoy this, but if you're the kind of person who believes that Horror flicks are capable of generating their own intentional or unintentional laughs, you'll probably be unamused.

I difnitely enjoyed the change of pace that The Fearless Vampire Killers allowed me, a welcome break from the dark evils of movies like Cannibal Holocaust or I Spit on Your Grave. There's a great scene near the end with a ballroom full of vampires that really shows off Polanski's skill at staging a complex scene with dialogue and dancing. I was most impressed with the attention to detail in the movie's art direction and set design, along with the off kilter and effective music score provided by Polanski collaborator Krzysztof Komeda.

For more on The Fearless Vampire Killers:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Buy the DVD.

The trailer for The Fearless Vampire Killers:

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