Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Fearless Vampire Killers




Directed by Roman Polanski and written by Polanski and Gerard Brach, The Fearless Vampire Killers is a comedy about a bumbling professor and his apprentice who go on the search for vampires in Eastern Europe as all things lead to trouble. The film is an exploration into the horror genre by adding humor to the story as it pokes fun all of its clichés and such as Polanski plays the role of the professor’s apprentice. Also starring Jack MacGowran, Sharon Tate, and Ferdy Mayne. The Fearless Vampire Killers is a witty yet stylish comedy from Roman Polanski.

Professor Abronius (Jack MacGowran) arrives to a village nearby Transylvania with his assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski) in the search for vampires. Staying at an inn, Abronius is hoping to rid the world of vampires before it spreads as Alfred falls for the innkeeper’s daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate) where some strange things happen when Sarah is kidnapped. Alfred follows a strange hunchback named Koukal as he realizes there’s a castle as he and Abronius enter the castle to confront the local vampire lord Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne). Count von Krolock lets them in as guests as Alfred hears a strange, siren voice believing to be Sarah as he hopes to rescue as he also has to deal with the count’s son Herbert (Iain Quarrier).

Abronius decides to go after the count and his son at their castle but the scared Alfred is unsure of killing the vampires will save Sarah as things go wrong when he realizes that she is there and still alive. When the count learns what Abronius and Alfred are up to just as he deals with them just as he’s to hold a ball for Sarah to become the vampires’ next victim. Abronius and Alfred however, decide to do something to crash the ball and save Sarah from the vampires.

The film is essentially a comedy about a bumbling professor and his cowardice apprentice who go to Transylvania to find and kill vampires in during the 19th Century. Yet, they ensue all sorts of trouble along the way as they learn more about the world of the vampires and their surroundings as they do whatever it takes to save an innkeeper’s daughter from becoming a vampire. The screenplay by Roman Polanski and Gerard Brach definitely plays to the schematics of vampires and its clichés such as crosses and garlic to stop them while creating characters like Professor Abronius and Alfred who are incompetent in their mission yet are interesting enough to root for them when the film reaches the climatic ball scene.

Polanski’s direction is definitely stylish as it’s the first film of his to not just use colored photography but also to embrace the anamorphic widescreen format in order to create a wide depth of field for the scenes he shoots. Shot in locations in Austria and Italy for exterior settings not set in the castle, Polanski is able to present something that is quite artificial since it’s not meant to be a realistic idea of the vampire world. For the scenes in the castle, Polanski creates some very unique compositions to maintain that artificiality along with some intimate close-ups and medium shots to showcase this very strange world. While it’s a film that isn’t meant to be taken seriously, Polanski does manage to make enjoyable as a quirky vampire comedy that plays with its mythology.

Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe does brilliant work with the film‘s colorful photography from the nighttime exterior shots to the gorgeous colors of the film‘s daytime exterior and interior settings to play up the world of artificiality. Editor Alastair McIntyre does nice work with the editing to play up the rhythm of the film‘s humor and suspense. Production designer Wilfrid Shingleton and art director Fred Carter do amazing work with the set pieces such as the look of the inn as well as the lavishness of the castle that the count lives in.

Costume designer Sophie Devine does wonderful work with the costumes that plays up to the 19th Century period as it includes the lovely red dress that Sarah wears in the ball. Makeup work by Tom Smith and hair by Biddy Chrystal are terrific to play up the extravagant look of the vampire as it plays up to that period. Sound editor Lionel Selwyn is superb for the atmosphere that creates in the castle with the sound of Sarah‘s siren voice as it adds to the suspense. The music of Krzystof Komeda is excellent for its diverse score filled with classical-like pieces for the ball scene along with playful themes and more suspenseful-driven cuts to maintain that world of the vampire.

The film’s stellar ensemble cast includes some notable performances from Fiona Lewis as the inn’s maid Magda, Jessie Robins as Sarah’s mother, Terry Downes as the count’s hunchback servant Koukol, Alfie Bass as the innkeeper, Ronald Lacey as the hilarious village idiot who becomes a vampire, and Iain Quarrier as the count’s flamboyant son Herbert. Ferdy Mayne is terrific as Count von Krolock with his eerie presence and lavish persona as it plays to the prestige of most vampires. Sharon Tate is very good as Sarah as this woman who is intrigued by Alfred as she is later kidnapped by the vampires. Roman Polanski is superb as the cowardice Alfred as Polanski brings a unique innocence to the character as Polanski also adds a lot of nice humor the role. Finally there’s Jack MacGowran is a splendid performance as Professor Abronius as he creates a very lively and witty performance as a man who is clever but also dim-witted in his pursuits.

The Fearless Vampire Killers is a silly yet fun film from Roman Polanski. While it is definitely among his weaker works in comparison to his darker, more suspenseful-driven films. It is certainly one that is engaging for the fact that it doesn’t take itself so seriously while just wanting to be something that is a funny take on the vampire films. In the end, The Fearless Vampire Killers is an entertaining yet solid comedy from Roman Polanski.

Roman Polanski Films: Knife in the Water - Repulsion - (Cul-de-Sac) - Rosemary’s Baby - (Macbeth (1971 film)) - (What?) - Chinatown - (The Tenant) - (Tess) - (Pirates (1986 film)) - Frantic - (Bitter Moon) - (Death and the Maiden) - The Ninth Gate - The Pianist - Oliver Twist (2005 film) - The Ghost Writer - Carnage - (Venus in Fur) - (D)

© thevoid99 2012

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