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What does it take to be a filmmaker? I mean apart from the craft of the
I think there are two different types of answers depending on who you think you are and how the world is put together. I suppose the most common answer would be that you have to have the innate sense of a master storyteller. God knows, there are scandalously few of them, especially in the theatrical world, and no amount of training or gloss can hide that.
My answer would be a bit different. The kind of films that register with me are those that are placed midway between my own visual memories and the images and threads I imagine to recall my dreams. I suppose this is what most people mean when they say that someone has a visual imagination, or is inherently cinematic. I don't want a spoken narrative illustrate with pictures. I don't want actors animating characters that can be described. I don't need the story to even "add up." I need it to connect.
For some reason, Polish and Spanish-speaking filmmakers possess this cinematic ability to connect more than others. On beyond logic, to a place that Italian, Italian-American and French filmmakers just don't know.
Why mention this? Because even though Polanski often produces a drafty product, you can always sense that his eye is magical. Yes, even in this silly, half-baked scone of a movie. Yes, he had a supremely competent cinematographer, but not one known for art. And he had an amazing location. But just see what this young man did with how he staged and framed the story.
There's not much to say about the story itself except that he understood that Vampire movies never are about the vampire (who is not really a character but an embodiment of force), but about the girl. And she should be redheaded, as he has made his naturally blond lover here.
Of minor interest is the peculiarly Polish humor about Jews. No American can do it, regardless of their Yiddish background, and few of us can appreciate it. But that's our vaudeville legacy, right down to the horny old Jewish vampire dragging the corpse of his dead blond buxom maid into a borrowed crypt for a quickie. And the daftness of the Einstein professor lookalike.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Every now and then there comes along a movie that I just don't seem to 'get' - "The Godfather" is one. Regrettably, "The Fearless Vampire Killers" has turned out to be another. Based on its reputation and what I'd read and heard about it over the years, it seemed certain to be a movie I'd be happy to have in my permanent collection. Wrong. I can't recall the last time I was as disappointed by such a highly regarded film. I never cracked a smile. I found it neither funny nor frightening. The script was witless, and the dialog unintelligible at times. Alfie Bass seemed to be rehearsing to play Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" (which I believe he either had already done or would shortly do), and Sharon Tate, though she looked lovely, was wasted. Sadly, though I think she's a better actress than she's been credited for (she's probably the best of the three leads in "Valley of the Dolls") it's hard to watch her in anything, knowing the horrible fate which wasn't far off. And Jack McGowran in a fright wig? Pul-lease! Everything simply misses the mark here, especially the attempt to add an obviously gay vampire. And I've left out Polanski's performance as Alfred - well, his cameo appearance in "Chinatown" was certainly better than this. The only sequence that nearly came off right was the "Dance of the Vampires" towards the end, and even that wasn't as fully (and ghoulishly) realized as it could have been. ("Dance of the Vampires" incidentally, was the title of the musical adaptation which flopped on Broadway with Michael Crawford). About the only thing worthy of note here was the photography, even with some obvious matte-work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the overlooked things about most of the vintage 1960s and 1970s
Hammer Studios horror films is that they were quite funny, often in an
unintentional way. Yes, Christopher Lee had a certain charm, but is it
not true that he was also far more grandly silly than scary? Looking
back on those films, they certainly do not hold up as well as even the
Universal Bela Lugosi takes on the genre, much less superior vampire
films like the silent F.W. Murnau classic Nosferatu, Carl Dreyer's
Vampyr, nor Werner Herzog's Nosferatu, Phantom Of The Night. No, the
Hammer films were always more along the line of the non-George Romero
zombie flicks- full of hammy acting, bad gags, cheap effects, few
scares, but a ton of laughs- not unlike the same era's Godzilla films.
Thus, Roman Polanski's 1967 color parody film The Fearless Vampire Killers, or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck, his followup to the highly successful psychological masterpiece Repulsion, had a tough row to hoe, because it's trying to satirize a genre that, by its nature, was borderline parody to begin with. The good thing is, that while The Fearless Vampire Killers is not a great film, by any stretch of the word, it is highly entertaining, and a good diversion from ones cares- right up there with some of the best Abbott & Costello Meet films. But, it is a bit more sophisticated, and the influence of the 1960s can be see in its choice of ironic title- far better than Polanski's dull and misleading European original, Dance Of The Vampires, and is right in league with other big budget comedies of that time, such as It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (alternate titles were in vogue), Casino Royale, and What's New, Pussycat? If only Polanski had cast Peter Sellers in this film it may have become a true classic, rather than a merely amusing curio.
Yet, when The Fearless Vampire Killers works, and if one considers it successful, it is as a comedy. There is not a dram of real horror in the film, save for the creepy soundtrack by Polanski collaborator Krzysztof Komeda, and in this regard it's about as scary a film as Mel Brooks' later Young Frankenstein. The film was written by Polanski and Gérard Brach, who also worked with Polanski on Repulsion. The acting, given its small field of play, is solid, and the best of all is the loopy professor, played by MacGowran. Although his career was mainly in high profile dramas like Tom Jones and Doctor Zhivago, his comic talent shines. Polanski is not nearly up to it as his assistant. However, Alfie Bass, as Shagal, the Jewish vampire, gets off some of the best schtick and scenes. The rest of the actors do little to distinguish themselves. Tate is attractive enough, and the father and son vampires, played by Mayne and Quarrier, are generic.
However, for every slapstick gag that works- such as Alfred's escaping Herbert by running all around a balcony and back to Herbert, whom he gets away from by biting the vampire on his ear, there are one or two that fall flat, and these only pad out the film and make it too long; thus why the studio's cuts actually worked. The narrative of The Fearless Vampire Killers, such as it is, is less of a tale than a setup for gags. Yet, it is a likable little film, and shows Polanski at his lightest and most whimsical; something which is as rare as a scare from Christopher Lee.
..gotta say I love this film. I first saw it some thirty odd years ago when I was perhaps a little less discerning however having just re watched it this evening I am still totally in its thrall.Forget the continuity errors ( what film hasn't got them?)and the fact that the Hollywood machine took over Polanski's original vision ( do we really care, none of us have seen or will ever see any other version ) Take off your Jonathan Ross/Barry Norman tinted spectacles and watch, immerse yourself and then as likely forget about this wonderful piece of escapism until you bump into it again on some late night TV showing at some point in the as yet unscheduled future..
Prof. Abronsius (Jack McGowran) and his bumbling assistant Alfred
(Roman Polanski) are vampire killers. They track Count von Krolok
(Ferdy Mayne) to his castle in the Alps. They try to stop him from
turning beautiful Sarah (Sharon Tate) into a vampire.
This is one strange film--but then everything Polanski does is strange. The humor is actually quite funny (a Jewish vampire shows indifference when confronted with a cross) but also quite offensive (the gay vampire was horribly stereotypical). Also the horror is there and it is frightening (Mayne is just perfect) but it doesn't mesh comfortably with the humor at all--it's pretty off putting. Also some of the actors in this film were (obviously) dubbed into English--that's another distraction. The ending was dreadful--Polanski loves black humor but i wish he had pulled himself back this one time.
There are good things about this--it's beautifully filmed with the dance at the end a definite highlight; Polanski and McGowran are good (although McGowran overdoes it at times); Mayne is excellent; Tate is very beautiful...and scary (at the end) and Iain Quarrier manages to maintain his dignity despite the role he's given.
This was originally available in two versions--one opens with a silly cartoon sequence (which MGM added against Polanski's wishes) and cut some of the more bleak parts. I've heard the uncut one is better but much more depressing.
So--I like this film (somewhat) but I don't feel the humor and horror mix at all.
OK I just watched this movie with my girlfriend.
First of all I must say that I utterly respect Roman Polanski. I know of the dark cloud that has follwed him. All of his movies, I have enjoyed. I respect and enjoy the darkness that his films evoke.
When I bought this DVD I had never heard of it. I was so excited about finding a Polanski film I had never seen, and to top it off it was about vampires.
After starting the movie, I had to turn on the English subtitles because it was hard to understand.
Summary: Great Cinematography, Great Score, Funny Moments, I love Polanski but please stay away from comedy.
Before I get into the other stuff, I thought I would mention a
subliminal element present in one of the scenes of this movie:
Von Krolock's son (Iain Quarrier) tries to attack/seduce Abronsius' assistant. In the background, we hear the sound of water dripping slowly into a basin. As the vampire draws closer, closer, and closer, the dripping water sound becomes faster, faster, and faster. (Basically the dripping sound is representing the assistant's heartbeat quickening with fear as the threat edges nearer.) It's a very subtle and well-executed gag, and I didn't even notice it until I had seen it many times.
Yes, TFVK is a spoof, but like "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," this send-up has all the trimmings--big sets, praiseworthy cast, lavish special effects. At first, it appears to be a light comedy about a couple of dimwitted, bumbling vampire hunters, but along the way, it devolves and continues to devolve, until we realize that these guys don't just fall down in funny ways--that they are, in fact, fatally inept. They're dense enough, probably, to give someone like Homer Simpson a run for his money.
The reason its fans find the film so entertaining, I think, is that it continually sets the viewer up for payoffs that never occur. It relentlessly tries NOT to satisfy the viewer. But all of this non-payoff happens in a very production-expensive way, so the final effect is that of "It's So Wrong That It's Right." It is something like being slapped lightly in the face repeatedly for two hours, and viewers who don't get that particular joke are apt to find the film highly irritating and incomprehensible. In my travels, I have found A LOT of people who don't get that particular joke. Yes, this movie has a very dull quality, but that's for a reason: These supposed "heroes" achieve very, very little of what they set out to do.
Its approach is similar in some ways to "Big Trouble In Little China," which is certainly a much more optimistic fantasy film, but one in which the main character is a loud-mouthed idiot who does very little to contribute to the film's happy ending.
Polansky made an hilarious, delicious movie. Using all Dracula´s horror
films common cliches with his lucid and perceptive way of filming, the
director twisted them into a satirical ambient and giving us at the same
time special and perfectly composed characters, played with fun and
Not everyone exactly admires this movie, -and none of them ever explain that clearly- perhaps detractors might expected another classic and perfect horror film like Rosemary´s Baby, not a satire based on horror films. But the time always be the best critic. And Polansky won again the battle of ideas.
This movie to my mind still rates as one of the best vampire movies ever made. The plot,the storyline and substance of the movie brilliantly interweave to create a juicy blood sucker of a movie. Watch it and enjoy.
I started watching this movie with high hopes. I mean, it looked funny and it was pretty good for awhile but then....something happened. It was slowly building to a great climax and then ::wham:: I was left with the aftermath of a poorly written ending!! It didn't start out too well and it ended horribly, but in the middle there was some real joy and disturbing sons but ya know, what movie's perfect? So its worth a look, just don't let the middle fool you into feeling secure about the rest.
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