Tuesday, October 23, 2012

REVIEW: The Fearless Vampire Killers

The Fearless Vampire Killers
Director: Roman Polanski
Year 1967
The Fearless Vampire Killers, AKA Pardon Me But Your Teeth Are In My Neck, is a whimsical romp that fuses the imagery that you’d expect to see in a period vampire film with that of a slapstick comedy. With a classic stylized approach and a perverted fixation on the female form, with all of its wonderful curvatures, the movie is an entertaining, laugh a minute, production that never takes itself too seriously as it dishes out one zany situation after another. Filled with an infectious energy that beams from beginning to end, The Fearless Vampire Killers is a cinematic experience that you won’t soon forget.
The film follows a noted chiroptologist named Professor Abronsius and his trusted, but clumsy, assistant Alfred. While traveling the Transylvanian countryside in search of vampires, the two take refuge at a local Inn. After settling in with the superstitious locals, Alfred becomes fixated with the innkeeper’s beautiful young daughter, Sarah Shagal. Unfortunately for him though, Count von Krolock, the mysterious owner of the castle estate high in the mountains above the village, has his eye on the stunning beauty. Feared by the locals and fitting every vampire cliché in the book, both Abronsius and Alfred agree that Count von Krolock might just be the man they’re searching for. It’s not until the Count kidnaps Sarah, that the two vampire killers realize that Krolock truly is a creature of the night. Determined to get Sarah back, Alfred and Professor Abronsius make their way to Krolock’s castle in hopes of vanquishing the vampire and saving the girl. They soon come to find that this simple task is anything but routine.

Jack MacGowran plays the role of Professor Abronsius, the bat researcher who has the hankering to slay some vampires. A cartoon character in himself, MacGowran portrays the astute, yet silly, professor with a fanciful charm, which gels quite nicely with the farcical approach of the film. Pairing up with MacGowran’s Abronsius is Roman Polanski as the head over heels and accident prone Alfred. Polanski does a wonderful job in making his character lovable, and I got a kick out of how perverted his character was. There’s not a moment that goes by where Alfred misses the opportunity to stare hypnotically at a woman’s cleavage as she bends over carelessly. I swear this running gag happened at least five separate times and Polanski makes it funny every single time because of his overacted expression and single minded nature. What’s great about these two characters, Alfred and Abronsius, is that they have great chemistry together. The pairing of these two actors is pure genius, and you can tell that they have a special bond which helps tremendously in establishing their motley group of vampire killers. Both MacGowran and Polanski do a wonderful job and they lift up the material into iconic territory.
As for the rest of the cast, Sharon Tate takes on the role of Sarah Shagal, the Innkeeper’s daughter. Never has she looked more beautiful, because she absolutely steals each scene she appears in. Her screen presence is a true testament to her acting ability and in The Fearless Vampire Killers, she seems at the top of her game. Though the approach of this film is silly and whimsical, Tate still manages to bring a sense of weight to the proceedings, which results in a performance that truly adds to the depth of this very unusual production. The remaining memorable characters are comprised of Terry Downes as Koukol the servant, Iain Quarreir as Herbert von Krolock, and Ferdy Mayne as Count von Krolock the nasty lead vampire. Each of these guys do a commendable job with their individual characters and my favorite of the bunch would have to be Downes as the grotesque man servant. The guy is just so damn ugly and his appearance in the movie borders that fine line between comedy and horror, because of his strange performance and even stranger looks. In the end you really have to appreciate his efforts and the work done by the entire breadth of the cast. Without a doubt, The Fearless Vampire Killers has a slew of actors that go above and beyond the call of duty.

One of the most impressive things about this horror hybrid is the fact that Polanski and the rest of the crew were able to balance the conflicting elements of creating a comedy/horror film by juxtaposing these wild slapstick moments against a truly gothic backdrop. Shot in a harsh winter setting across a surreal series of locations, the film never feels lacking in its visuals or fictitious in its representation. If you took the comedic aspects out of the movie and just focused on the fantastic imagery that’s on display, you would have yourself a haunting little horror film that’s abundant in atmosphere and genuinely creepy. The actual look of Krolock Castle is especially epic in scale, reflecting an unsettling sort of vibe, and seeing that a good majority of the film takes place inside and outside of its expansive walls, the filmmakers really used this interesting location to its fullest.
The same can be said for the comedic portions of the movie, which there are plenty of. The absurdity levels in this story reach some unparalleled heights as one out of control situation spills into the other, forming a mash up of wacky moments that just kind of fit within this weird universe Polanski has set up. From coffin sled riding, to cleavage overload, to a wacky vampire chase inside the castle, to Abronsius and Alfred going undercover at a vampire masquerade ball, this film is filled to the brim with unbelievably silly moments that work wonders within the confines of the production. It is especially rare to see a movie that constructs its own kind of reality and that is exactly what we get with The Fearless Vampire Killers. It’s in a world of its own, filled with off the wall characters, which if placed in any other setting would be wholly out of place, but within the fabric of time that Polanski has concocted, it just plain makes sense.

The Fearless Vampire Killers is a conceptual dream of two genres melding together in order to make something else entirely. The combination of its horror and comedy elements is something of a perfect union, and to put it bluntly the execution is priceless. Usually when a film decides to delve into multiple genre waters, it comes out as an obvious mix, but with The Fearless Vampire Killers, the end result is a whole new genre in itself. The film is established in a world of its own and the characters that inhabit it, played marvelously by Jack MacGowran, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate and the bunch, are fully realized and highly engaging set pieces in this smorgasbord of classic horror archetypes.
The comedy, though overtly over the top, fits perfectly within its bizarre world, making you believe that every out of control action is simply the norm for this twisted society of cinema characters. Even though the film doesn’t have a drip of true horror moments or ghastly, gory, sequences, it makes up for it with its tremendous atmosphere and impeccable scenery. From its snow covered landscapes, to its quaint villages, to its foreboding depictions of Krolock Castle, the film has an abundance of visual wealth that it never squanders or takes for granted. If you are in the mood for a haunted gem that will leave you giggling like a school girl, then give this one a go. The Fearless Vampire Killers is…..

Don't stop on our account.

Cleavage, wonderful Cleavage!

You silly silly man.

That's right... You scrub that floor. You scrub that floor good.

You want me to stick this where?

Ewww! I hope he washed his vampire hands.

What are these two perverts peeping at?


I'm feeling a bit dirty. May I join you?

Quit clowning around you knuckleheads.

Rock on dude!

Get ready for them to bust out the Thriller moves.

Looks like they're up to their wacky antics again.

I know what this guy is looking at.

Looks like Polanski pooped his pantaloons again.

Vampires just hate doing the limbo.


Watch out! This chick gives a mean hickey.


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