#18 The Fearless Vampire Killers (dir: Roman Polanski, 1967)
Is The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck Roman Polanski’s best film? Possibly not, but it’s my personal favourite. Polanski, here, weaves a very creepy atmosphere with a wonderful comic touch. I first saw it in my teens and can quite say I fell in love with this movie – and Sharon Tate – the doomed actress and then- wife of Polanski. She was beautiful and a good comic actress.
It was known in the US as ‘Dance of the Vampires’ but I much prefer the English title because The Fearless Vampires works ironically because the two heroes are complete buffoons. Polanski took a starring role as Alfred, helper to Professor Abronius (Jack MacGowran). They search for a deadly vampire who has attacked a village and kidnapped the innkeeper’s daughter, Sarah, played by Tate.
Douglas Slocombe’s photography is exquisite and the set design brilliant. It was also shot (the interiors anyway) in the UK at Borehamwood. Elstree and Pinewood studios. It is also worthing giving credit to Krystof Komeda’s score which lends the film plenty of that unnerving sense of spookiness.
Polanski definitely set out to make fun of horror movies, especially the Hammer kind, but in an affectionate sort of way. Despite the parody and silliness the film succeeds because it’s a good old-fashioned tale of good versus evil. Yet the vampires here are also given a certain amount of sympathy. They can’t help being undead. There’s jokes about crucifixes not working on Jewish vamps and a brilliant sequence in which Count von Krolock’s gay son, Herbert, tries it on with Alfred, who runs for his life around a courtyard without realising he’ll end up back where he started and into the arms of his pursuer. There’s also the inclusion of masked ball that has provided influence for countless films since and was totally ripped off in Stephen Sommers’ Van Helsing.
The Top Twenty Films Challenge is an inter-blog daily feature between myself and Laurent di Alberti at FilmLand Empire blog. Each of us will reveal our Top 20 favourite films. Today Laurent named Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond as his number 18. For the other Cinemart entries click here: Top Twenty Films Challenge.