The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck is a 1967 film directed (and written, together with Gérard Brach) by Roman Polanski. It’s a parody of the horror genre, and as such it can probably be considered the first of a series of movies which would come out afterwards and include Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein (1974), Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004), and most recently, Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods (2014).
Let me stress the definition “horror parody” because it’s certainly not the first horror comedy in the history of cinema, an honor that according to many belongs to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), although probably even earlier examples exist. And let me add that it’s not easy to make a good horror parody: the good ones can be counted on the fingers of one hand! Mel Brooks himself failed with his Dracula, Dead and Loving It (1995), and I don’t even want to mention the various Scary Movies or the Friday 13th sequels (the first came out in 1980) which have become parodies of themselves. In short, Polanski’s film is a horror film with amazing sets, splendid costumes, and a very atmospheric soundtrack, in which the two protagonists, Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski) are completely stupid, especially the latter.
The story is almost like a series of sketches in which the various characters try to do elementary things like making love with the two beautiful girls at the inn close to the castle, Sarah (the unlucky Sharon Tate – the love story with Polanski started when they were shooting this film) and Rebecca (Jessie Robbins), while the evil Count Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne, who also acts as the narrator to open and close the film) is organizing his vampires to feed and, possibly, conquer the world. And eventually he succeeds, of course, thanks to our two protagonists who wanted to avoid that!
This film is brilliant and shows how Polanski has influenced contemporary cinema since the beginning of his career (this is his fifth film). To be honest, though, The Fearless Vampire Killers today works more in its horror part than in the comedic one. I admit that I didn’t laugh much and that I especially liked the Gothic scenes. For example, the dance scene is incredible, especially in its climax when only the three non-vampires (Abronsius, Alfred and Sarah) are reflected in the mirror! The scene is so great that in some countries the film was released with the alternative title Dance of the Vampires!
To conclude, I believe that this Polanski film should pertain to any cinema lover’s collection and I am sure that I will rewatch it soon to try to appreciate also the aspects that initially didn’t entirely convince me. Ciao!