The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967, Roman Polanski)

Fortunately Polanski has more kinda-horror movies so I can continue the spree of his films which I started last Shocktober. Made between Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, this one’s not quite up to their level. The lighting and composition are extremely lovely, but this aims to be a horror-comedy, and the editing’s too slow for comedy or action. It helps that when shots go on way too long Polanski will sometimes speed up the film, but he refuses to cut away for so long that sometimes I wonder if he doesn’t know what editing’s for. This approach would work well for the slow-burn dread of Rosemary’s, and I’ll bet viewers who watched this goofball movie at the time were ill-prepared for what would come next.

Polanski and Sharon Tate:

Our lead comedy duo is Professor Abronsius (the excellent Jack MacGowran of The Exorcist and Age of Consent) and his dim assistant Alfred (Polanski). They’re hunting vampires, hanging out at an inn where Alf lusts after hot innkeeper’s daughter Sharon Tate (of Eye of the Devil) and the locals downplay vampire activity, even denying there’s a castle nearby, which is of course home to dramatically well-dressed Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne of Pirates and Frightmare) and his handsome son Herbert (Iain Quarrier of Cul-de-sac), who are planning an attack on the town. The bumbling interlopers rescue the kidnapped Sharon and escape, but too late, as she has been turned and attacks Polanski in the back seat while the professor drives off. Great closing narration: “That night, fleeing from Transylvania, Professor Abronsius never guessed he was carrying away with him the very evil he had wished to destroy. Thanks to him, this evil would at last be able to spread across the world.”

Our heroes:

Count and son:

Also featuring innkeeper Alfie Bass (a ghost in The Bespoke Overcoat), his wife Jessie Robins (known to play characters named Fat Woman, Large Woman and Bertha), maid Fiona Lewis, who I just saw in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, and as the count’s hunchback, boxing champ Terry Downes.

Trying to blend in: