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The Fearless Vampire Killers

THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS
OR PARDON ME, BUT YOUR FANGS ARE IN MY NECK

(1966)

Not once within The Fearless Vampire Killers’ 111-minutes do the title characters, played by the late Jack MacGowran and the film’s director, Roman Polanski, kill a vampire, fearlessly or otherwise. Instead, they do a lot of bumbling around--too much bumbling, little of it amusing. Yet, Leonard Maltin, in his Movie and Video Guide, awards this waste of film a whopping three and a half stars, and his claim that this 1966 satire is a "Near brilliant mixture of humor and horror" is quoted on the cover of the MGM/UA video release. Oh well, there’s no accounting for taste. I have it. Maltin apparently doesn’t.

One of the few distinctions of this film, other than the superb art direction, cinematography, and music score (by Christopher Komeda), is its portrayal of a gay vampire who fancies the short, big nosed Polanski, which, as far as I know, is the first time a blatantly homosexual character was depicted in a horror film (although there have been plenty of latent ones, most notably Dracula’s Daughter in 1936). Also of interest is the appearance of Mrs. Polanski, Sharon Tate, whose true stardom would come, not under the direction of her notorious husband, but as the most famous of the Hollywood celebrities slaughtered by the even more notorious Charles Manson in 1969.

Overall, there’s little dialogue in The Fearless Vampire Killers, and the few snatches I detected were unintelligible. The lush, colorful look of the film is as impressive as the best Hammer productions, which would appear to have influenced this film, but, in content, it barely approaches the worst. The film has admirers other than Maltin, but I suspect the film’s look, rather than its lame jokes and ineffective horror, are the key to its popularity. A movie, even a spoof such as this, should serve as more than wallpaper.

Brian W. Fairbanks

© Copyright 1999, Brian W. Fairbanks. All Rights Reserved.

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