Sunday, 9 September 2012

11/08/2012: The Fearless Vampire Killers [1974]

After watching Young Frankenstein I thought that The Fearless Vampire Killers would be a good follow up. Now, I honestly am not sure which one I enjoyed more. The Fearless Vampire Killers shows us that not only can Roman Polanski both direct and write a great horror comedy but can also star in one as well. Never has there been a more bumbling duo of vampire hunters since Professor Abronsius and his assistant Alfred.

First off, why is Alfred like the dedicated sidekick name? It is almost as bad as Jeeves, and it just seems like if you have a character named Alfred, he is automatically the sidekick, assistant or butler. Anyway, The Fearless Vampire Killers is Roman Polanski's first and greatest by far, comedy. It also might have the longest titles I've ever heard. The Fearless Vampire Killers is the American title, the original being Dance of the Vampires but it is also known as The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me. But Your Teeth Are In My Neck. Honestly I'd say that everyone of these titles works perfectly, and in fact highlights a different aspect of the movie.

The Fearless Vampire Killers is a title that very accurately describes what the movie is about. Professor Abronsius, who is apparently a well-known bat researcher  and his assistant, Alfred, journey to a remote Transylvanian village in search of vampires. Now, on average there are two types of vampire killers. The vampire slayers, bad-asses who travel the world seeking out the ungodly evil and destroying it (Blade), and the accidentally encountered vampires but to save mine or a loved ones life fought the evil (Fright Night). It is not often we meet a pair so klutzy and bumbling and yet so determined to stake themselves a vampire. I think it is largely a case of not knowing exactly what they are up against, but in their bumbling determination you could describe the two as fearless, if not due to any bravery or courage.

Apparently the vampire's henchman position doesn't come with good dental coverage.

That is of course why Pardon Me. But Your Teeth Are In My Neck is also a fitting title, highlight the comedic aspect of this horror comedy. I don't think I have ever seen a horror comedy before that implied so much slapstick humour. However, that is much of the movie's comedic charm as our two blundering heroes tumble around and trip over everything in that classic comedic way. It is almost like a Scooby-Doo mystery in the way the two uncover the terrible secrets of the village and its neighbor. Armed with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of determination it is still however mostly luck that leads our fearless pair to actually solve anything. At least until it runs out.

Dance of the Vampires on the other hand is a much more seductive and visual title. While, yes we do get to see vampires dance I find this title alludes more to the beautiful imagery of the movie. The winter wonderland might not be overly convincing, but the village inn and castle look spectacular. The old fashioned construction, bathtubs and other props and sets are all done amazingly, with nothing breaking you out of the atmosphere. Then there are the costumes which are also rather spectacular, even having to watch the characters dress themselves, or dress each other in some cases, doesn't get boring with such elaborate costumes. The overall gothic feel of the movie is perfectly done and perfectly fitting and a treat to watch on screen.

Why aren't purple suits back in style?

When I trying to debate which I liked better, Young Frankenstein or The Fearless Vampire Killers I had an interesting thought. To me, Young Frankenstein is a timeless comedy that will hold up whenever you watch it. The Fearless Vampire Killers on the other hand is a classic. You watch it and you recognize that it is old and dated, but it is also so well done that you can watch it today without any problems. Except the sound, which I will point out, because I found it very hard to understand the characters, especially in the beginning. However, as a period piece and a classic feeling this movie succeeds extremely well.

An interesting trick is the opening credits. While yes, they look cool, I was more referring to who is credited. In the opening, Roman Polanski doesn't credit himself as an actor, only director, so if you are like me and don't know any of the actors, let alone what Polanski looked like in the early 70's, then you watch the entire movie to learn at the end that Polanski himself plays Alfred. Well he did a damn fine job of it, especially considering he wrote and directed the movie as well. The Professor does great as well played by Jack MacGowran, along with a bunch of other people I've never heard of, including the lovely Sharon Tate.

We need you to just lay there and hold that pose for a few minutes.

Then there is of course the soundtrack. The eerie music is both beautiful and unnerving and compliments the movie very well. However, why is it that the likes of The Fearless Vampire Killers, Re-Animator, Young Frankenstein and even The Evil Dead are somehow perfect for translation to the Broadway stage in musical form? Having never seen any of the musicals, I really can't say. But if you prefer your horror comedies in musical form, feel free to check out Dance of the Vampires. If you know... it is still playing.

Overall, Pardon me. But you teeth are in my neck is a great classic horror comedy. Like every horror comedy, there always seems to be a completely different style of humor every time. I think the slapstick type works perfectly in this case, and fits in with the classic feel. This movie is filled with treats, from it's soundtrack, to it's ending and every element in between. If you enjoy horror comedies and haven't seen it I highly recommend you check it out.

The Fearless Vampire Killers IMDb

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