The elderly bat researcher, professor Abronsius and his assistant, Alfred, go to a remote Transylvanian village looking for vampires. Alfred falls in love with the inn-keeper's young daughter Sarah. However, she has been spotted by the mysterious count Krolock who lives in a dark and creepy castle outside the village... Written by
The original format of the film was to be spherical widescreen. However, at the early stages of production the format was changed to wider, anamorphic Panavision. This results in some of the spherical shots having to be reframed and cropped in order to be as wide as Panavision. See more »
When the Professor and Alfred attempt to enter the underground crypt of Count Von Krolock, footsteps in the snow appear and disappear. See more »
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.
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what Poland once was, with a smile (revealing fangs)
Well, what is this movie about? To begin with: although the vampire was best popularized in the modern era by English writers, it is really a myth of Eastern European Roman Catholicism. (I could explain that better - and why the English so well co-opted it - but obviously not here.) This type of Catholicism (which finally produced a Pope in John Paul II) now only thrives (and none too well) in Poland - Polanski's home country. During the Second World War, Poland was utterly decimated. First, a large portion of its wealthiest citizens, who happened to be Jewish, were exterminated. The Polish catholics themselves were split radically between anti-semitic nationalists (who also, mistakenly, thought the Nazis would save them from the Russians) and pro-Communists who, mistakenly, thought the Russians would save them from the Nazis. Obviously, this was a no-win situation for the Poles. And yet the first cinematic impression of this disaster arrived in the form of - a comedy - Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be Or Not To Be" (later remade by Mel Brooks).
Does the reader really need to know all this to appreciate this movie? actually, yes. This film is laughter at death's door. The funniest and most memorable line in the film is from the Jewish vampire, responding to a threatened crucifix: "Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire!" Funny? - Hilarious. Unfortunately, if this Vampire had any grandchildren, they all died in Auschwitz.
Why am I playing such a heavy hand here? Because this really is a great horror-comedy, far better and far more important than the studio hacks at MGM who released this film (after chopping it up) could ever have understood.
There is unfortunately no rumor that there's a director's cut in the vaults; it is well to remember that Polanski nearly disowned this film on release, and really only reclaimed it after the brutal slaying of his wife, who plays such an important role in the film.
But even as shredded as it is (pay especially close attention to the discontinuities involving the Professor), this is still marvelously written, directed, and photographed - truly frightening at moments, utterly hilarious at others, but always grounded in a particularly Polish sensibility which is now, alas, a thing of the past; - the preservation of a culture that, at its best, was among the best in Europe.
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