The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

Genres - Comedy, Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Horror Comedy, Costume Horror, Parody/Spoof  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, Poland, United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Despite the black humor of its ending, this mixture of spoofy horror and naughty Euro hijinks remains one of auteur Roman Polanski's least weighty directorial efforts. Full of elaborate slapstick, cheesecake semi-nudity, clever parody, and fine performances, The Fearless Vampire Killers is at least as entertaining as the Hammer horror outings it intends to, ahem, de-fang. Polanski himself proves no slouch when it comes to exaggerated, farcical acting, his Alfred a perfect compendium of gawky physical tics and bumbling-assistant clichés. Sharon Tate, meanwhile, plays it straight and saucy, investing her buxom Eastern European maiden with an enjoyably sexist mixture of glamour, sass, and stereotype. Some of the gags take too long to set up and execute, leaving no doubt as to why the film was trimmed against Polanski's will in its original release; the script takes forever to get to Count Von Krolock's castle, although once there it treats viewers to an enjoyable parade of Baroque set pieces, genre hamminess, and amusing bit parts. Iain Quarrier in particular has lots of fun as the "sensitive" young vampire Herbert, while Ferdinand Mayne displays such a perfect countenance as the number one bloodsucker that it's a shame he didn't do more straightforward horror work. (Instead, he played in several other spoofs, from 1971's Gebissen Wird Nur Nachts to 1991's My Lovely Monster.) As for Fearless Vampire Killers' place in the Polanski canon, its acute attention to horror conventions surely helped in the construction of Rosemary's Baby the following year. The only difference between parodying and reinvigorating a genre is the emphasis, and these two films, taken together, leave no doubt as to Polanski's ability to do both.