October 18, 2019


Starring Jack McGowran, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, Ferdy Mayne, Alfie Bass, Terry Downes, Fiona Lewis. Directed by Roman Polanski.

Review by Mr. Paws😼

The Fearless Vampire Killers has a pretty sizable cult following and fans will be happy to know this new Blu-ray from Warner Archive features the original cut of the film, not the truncated version first-released in the U.S., which was apparently a lot worse.

That being said, I can’t count myself among Roman Polanski’s admirers. He’s made some indisputably great films, while many others are wildly overpraised. After finally viewing The Fearless Vampire Killers for the first time, I would include it among the latter.

I suppose the film deserves some kudos for being one of the earlier horror-comedies to poke fun at vampire clichés. From stakes through the heart to bloodsuckers’ aversion to garlic, all the boxes are checked. But this isn’t mere parody. The Fearless Vampire Killers also attempts to be a horror film in its own right.

The problem is that it’s neither funny nor scary. Not once. Jack McGowren and Polanski himself ham-it-up as two bumbling vampire hunters who stumble into a Transylvanian village where Count van Krolock (Ferdy Mayne) has been having his way with the locals. Alfred (Polanski) becomes enamored by Sarah (Sharon Tate), an innkeeper’s daughter. When she’s snatched away by Krolock, they venture to the count’s mountaintop castle to try and rescue her.

"Anyone can have bad breath. But you, my dear, could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon."
McGowren mugs and babbles – often incoherently – while Polanski overreacts to his surroundings and ogles his future wife. Speaking of which, Tate is simply window dressing, required to do little but look good in a bathtub (in that respect, mission accomplished). In fact, there’s no real characterization of any kind. Lethargically paced, the film is filled with long, dull, dialogue-free stretches, occasionally punctuated by lame physical gags straight out of a Benny Hill sketch.

Still, The Fearless Vampire Killers has its share of fans and I have to admit the film is beautifully shot. With an aesthetic similar to Hammer’s horror output at the time, it’s handsomely produced and atmospheric. Regardless of my personal assessment, this might be one of the best looking vampire movies ever made up to that point. All that beautiful imagery is nicely restored for this Blu-ray release, which is accompanied by a few oddball bonus features. The most interesting extra is the pre-credit animated intro that was originally tacked-onto the film for its U.S. release. It’s fascinatingly terrible and indicative of MGM’s bone-headed attempt to pass this off as a wacky farce.

From a historical perspective, The Fearless Vampire Killers is an interesting artifact, mostly because of Polanski’s involvement with both the production and Ms. Tate. But the film itself is dated, dull and devoid of laughs or scares. In short, it sucks (pun intended).

ALTERNATE OPENING TITLES – There’s a compelling train-wreck quality to this heavy-handed pre-credit sequence.
"VAMPIRES 101” - A vintage – and eye-rolling – promotional featurette.
THEATRICAL TRAILER – For the U.S. version.

(though fans of the film will love the transfer)

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