Friday, January 14, 2011

“He had even lost his chair at Königsberg University, where for a long time his colleagues used to refer to him as "The Nut".”

Sometimes you see a movie that has all the ingredients of a quality time and it just leaves you scratching your head at to why you didn’t like it. Which is exactly how I feel about 1967’s The Fearless Vampire Killers Or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck AKA Dance of the Vampires.

Well, we have a disgraced academician, Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his meek assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski) arriving in Transylvania in December in their quest to find genuine vampires. The village they stop in has a castle nearby and its pretty clear that there are vampires in the area. The innkeeper, Shagal (Alfie Bass), even hangs garlic all over his place to try to fend them off. Alfred falls for Shagal’s beautiful daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate) who is naturally taken away by the count one fateful night. With a vampire confirmed and Sarah’s life in danger, the two would-be heroes set out to the castle to rescue her from Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne).

Directed by Roman Polanski with cinematography by Douglas Slocombe (who had a long and storied career), the movie certainly looks impressive. The exterior locations are nicely done and the set design of the castle is fantastic. The movie looks great and there are some really great shots and great visual atmosphere.

Story and Screenplay by Gérard Brach and Roman Polanski. On paper, the plot sounds fine. In practice, things are tremendously uneven. The main characters are simply unlikable and worse for a comedy, not very funny. I understand that this is a farce and characters rarely develop past the second dimension, but honestly, Abronsius and Alfred are simply too incredibly stupid to be sympathetic. Alfred in particular is an egregious example of obliviousness and an inability to perform even simple tasks. Easily the best things in the movie are Shagal (who is actually very funny as a lecherous Jewish peasant who becomes a vampire) and Count von Krolock (who is actually very charming and threatening in that classic movie vampire way). Sarah Shagal is quite radiant, but a distant character who just kind of floats through the movie. Its not a good sign when the side characters would make much more interesting story fodder than the main ones.

The original music by Krzysztof Komeda is adequate, but not particularly memorable. There are some choral flourishes that add to the general creepiness, which is a nice touch. Overall though, its neither here nor there.

I, uh, didn’t like The Fearless Vampire Killers OR: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck. Yes there are touches of great atmosphere and visual impressiveness. Yes there are some funny performances, but as a whole…its just not funny and just not scary. On the DVD, there’s a special short from 1967 promoting the movie that I got more laughs out of than the entirety of the movie itself. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood at the time of viewing, but there is no way I am going to recommend this movie.

And if you're wondering, the cheesy sound effects from the trailer are not in the final film. Thankfully.

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