The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) a.k.a. Dance of the Vampires
The old bat researcher, professor Abronsius and his assistant, Alfred, go to a remote Transylvanian village looking for vampires. Alfred falls in love with the inn-keeper's young daughter Sarah. However, she has been spotted by the mysterious count Krolock who lives in a dark and creepy castle outside the village...
Jack MacGowran ... Professor Abronsius
Roman Polanski ... Alfred, Abronsius' Assistant
Alfie Bass ... Shagal, the Inn-Keeper
Jessie Robins ... Rebecca Shagal
Sharon Tate ... Sarah Shagal
Ferdy Mayne ... Count von Krolock
Iain Quarrier ... Herbert von Krolock
Terry Downes ... Koukol, the Servant
Fiona Lewis ... Magda, the Maid
Ronald Lacey ... Village Idiot
Sydney Bromley ... Sleigh Driver
Andreas Malandrinos ... Woodcutter
Otto Diamant ... Woodcutter
Matthew Walters ... Woodcutter
When I think about R.Polanski the first thing coming to my mind is - "the master of fear and horror", and I knew it that "Fearless vampire Killers" is rare example of comedy by this great director. Yeah, I was worried before seeing this movie, not as much about "geting it", but more so about simple thing - could this movie be entertaining for "21st Century Boy".
First thing that striked me was beautiful music by Komeda. I was in total awe. The music was scary, but at the same time so light and funny - just like for a good fair story. And then the beautiful winter scenery that was so fake - almost cartooning. Few minutes into the movie, and I could say "that's what I call movie poetry".
The story is so simple. The old bat researcher, professor Abronsius and his assistant, Alfred, go to a remote Transylvanian village looking for vampires. They stay in house where no one speaks about vampires, but the garlic is hanging everywhere. Simplistic story is so right for this movie, because acting, scenery, music, cinematography are all in top shape here. For composition I think this is one of the best movie done by Polanski, next to "Tenant" for sure.
And this movie is also a rare occasion to see Polanski in comedic role. He and Brach make unforgettable duo. I was totally entertain when in came to comedy in this movie, but the thing that surprise me the most was the action factor. There is one scene that is great example of that - when Polanski character is looking through keyhole and is so scared of what he see that his face is screaming "terror". It's sure funny, but in a way mad-scary too. And when I think about this movie - this scene sums it up for me.
Its very funny, but little outdated movie. For me one a few really cinematic fairy tales, that keeps magic all the way to the end. Its up there with Repulsion, Tenant, and Tess when in comes to greatest work of this director.
And just think about brilliant ending, so funny, so mad. It's a shame Polanski hasn't made another comedy. Don't get me started with Pirates - the most unfunny movie in history. But "Fearless Vampire Killers " is movie magic - pure and simple.
Well, what is this movie about? To begin with: although the vampire was best popularized in the modern era by English writers, it is really a myth of Eastern European Roman Catholicism. (I could explain that better - and why the English so well co-opted it - but obviously not here.) This type of Catholicism (which finally produced a Pope in John Paul II) now only thrives (and none too well) in Poland - Polanski's home country. During the Second World War, Poland was utterly decimated. First, a large portion of its wealthiest citizens, who happened to be Jewish, were exterminated. The Polish catholics themselves were split radically between anti-semitic nationalists (who also, mistakenly, thought the Nazis would save them from the Russians) and pro-Communists who, mistakenly, thought the Russians would save them from the Nazis. Obviously, this was a no-win situation for the Poles. And yet the first cinematic impression of this disaster arrived in the form of - a comedy - Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be Or Not To Be" (later remade by Mel Brooks).
Does the reader really need to know all this to appreciate this movie? actually, yes. This film is laughter at death's door. The funniest and most memorable line in the film is from the Jewish vampire, responding to a threatened crucifix: "Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire!" Funny? - Hilarious. Unfortunately, if this Vampire had any grandchildren, they all died in Auschwitz.
Why am I playing such a heavy hand here? Because this really is a great horror-comedy, far better and far more important than the studio hacks at MGM who released this film (after chopping it up) could ever have understood.
There is unfortunately no rumor that there's a director's cut in the vaults; it is well to remember that Polanski nearly disowned this film on release, and really only reclaimed it after the brutal slaying of his wife, who plays such an important role in the film.
But even as shredded as it is (pay especially close attention to the discontinuities involving the Professor), this is still marvelously written, directed, and photographed - truly frightening at moments, utterly hilarious at others, but always grounded in a particularly Polish sensibility which is now, alas, a thing of the past; - the preservation of a culture that, at its best, was among the best in Europe.
This is the kind of film that lives long in your dreams. Polanski's imagery may be simple, but for some reason it constantly conjeurs up past recollections. Images of Santa Clauss. Crackling fireplaces. Aromas. Wispy winds. Fairy tale faces and landscapes. Wild haired professors and their elfish sidekicks.
The film is basically a little adventure, structured as a classic, albeit a bit subversive, fairytale. But in addition to the simple fairytale approach, Polanski weaves in a really clever strand about sexuality and it's repression.
ACT ONE, THE INN: Professor Ambrosius (one of our heroes) falls into the hands of cartoonish townspeople (European-Slavic Jews), who are mysteriously living locked up in an inn. Garlic is strewn everywhere. The Inn-Keeper and his townspeople deny that vampires exist, and quickly dismiss any talk of castles. They seem ashamed that such monsters even exist, even as they protect themselves from being victims of the vampires. They seem even more ashamed at their inability to fight off the monsters, much like the European and Slavic Jews who were unable to fight the Holocaust.
Alfred, the Professor's elfish sidekick, falls in love with a big breasted villager called Sarah. Her sexual energy promptly ignites the introverted little man. Some of the older woman in the village try to repress Sarah's sexuality, which creates a link between the fear of monsters and the fear of sexuality. The link is left unexplored, because people know that there is really nothing to fear, there's no true danger, but they like being scared anyway. The vampires are in far-off castles, sex is not talked about, and Alfred slams the door shut as Sarah sensually bathes.
Enter Count von Krolock, a crazy vampire dude who attacks Sarah and bites her. He takes her away and carries her to his castle. The Professor and his sidekick give chase.
ACT TWO, THE CASTLE: Our heroes find the Gothic castle, its feudal exterior slightly in ruin, snow enveloping the nooks, battlements, steps, and crannies, creating an enchanting fairytale visage.
They eventually find His Excellency (the Count) and begin a conversation on the philosophy of vampirism. The Count compliments the Professor's well-written vampire book, and asks the Professor to sign a copy for him. Meanwhile, The Count's flamboyantly homosexual son likes Alfred.
Later, Alfred finds Sarah bathing (she's not fully transformed), and she refuses to leave the castle. Afterall, there's wide open spaces, open sexuality, and baths.
ACT THREE, THE DANCE: The final act is devoted to a chase sequence and a gorgeous dance. Classical baroque music floods the room as the ghastly vampires, adorned in vividly-coloured frocks, move in a classically choreographed fashion; the entire scene resembles Poe's Masque Of Red Death. Sarah, wearing a dazzlingly bright crimson red dress, is the Mask of Death, and she's the center of attention. She looks strikingly beautiful and purely innocent. Alfred and the Professor come to the rescue.
They flee the Dance, jump into a sleigh, and take off into the snow, under a midnight-blue sky. Alfred ponders Sarah's delicate, tiny hand, and whimsically dreams about sleeping. Sarah's fangs plunge into his neck. End film.
Some people criticise this film for not being funny. But is it a comedy? No it's not. Like all of Polanski's films, it's a mixutre of moods. Part fairy tale, part dark comedy, part horror, part mystery, part sexual allegroy.
7/10 Everyone should check out Polanski's filmography. Every single one of his films is special.
* Producer Martin Ransohoff discovered Sharon Tate on the set of "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1962), and insisted that director Roman Polanski use her instead of Jill St. John as Polanski had planned.
* Sharon Tate replaced Jill St John, who withdrew shortly before shooting.
* Amongst the ancestral portraits in the castle is a depiction of an ugly old woman inspired by a sketch of Leonardo da Vinci and since the 18th century frequently connected with Margarete Maultasch, countess of Tyrol (1318-1369).
* The original format of the film was to be spherical widescreen. However, at the early stages of production the format was changed to wider, anamorphic Panavision. This results in some of the spherical shots having to be reframed and cropped in order to be as wide as Panavision.
* The film's original release in the United States was so severely re-edited against Polanski's wishes that he disowned it entirely.
* The portrait on the wall in Alfred's bedroom in Count von Krolok's castle is of Richard III, king of England from 1483 to 1485.
* The murals in Count Krolock's hall show motifs of Peter Brueghel the elder's "Triumph of Death" (c. 1562).
* For the ballroom scene (when the music stops and only three people are visible in a huge mirror despite of a few dozen vampires in the room) Polanski had the room completely copied behind a fake mirror with three doubles acting as the human protagonists.
* Originally Polanski wanted to shoot his film on location in and around a castle in Switzerland which he saw during a vacation, but as this was impossible, other locations in the Alps were found, along with studio shoots in England. While on location, Polanski employed dozens of local artisans to make the large numbers of coffins needed in the film. Unfortunately tourists were rather unnerved by the sight of these, and hotels had to erect signs to assure their guests that the area hadn't been struck by plague.