Customer Review

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "One night, penetrating deep into the heart of Transylvania...", 15 Aug. 2007
This review is from: The Fearless Vampire Killers [DVD] [1967] (DVD)
How does that line go, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"?

Well, much like the Dukes of Stratosphear's loving imitations of British Psychedelia on the equally enthralling '25 o' clock' album, Polanski's love letter to Hammer 'Dance of the Vampires' (US; 'Fearless Vampire Killers'), almost outdoes that which it is parodying.
The film immediately evokes the correct mood with the superb music of Kristof Komeda (a good friend of Polanski's, who would go on to record the soundtrack to 'Rosemary's Baby') and the superb exterior shots of the Alps-this is a fairy tale for sure, but it's one with a dark undercurrent.
the story rolls along fairly conventional vampiric lines, the superstitious villagers, the castle no one wants to talk about, the esteemed professor/vampire hunter Abronsius (Jack MacGrowan)...and Alfred, his side kick (Polanski himself); the charms of this film however, are in the details. There are twists to the conventions; Alfie Bass as Jewish inn keeper (which leads to interesting problems for our vampire hunters when he eventually joins the Undead), the Count's gay vampire son (cinema's first?) and the twist in the tail ending (more of that later).
But one of the greatest things I can say about this film is how it looks- the scenery is breathtaking and the sets are fantastic (i'm sure Hammer would have given anything to have such lavish creations)- production designed by Wilfrid Singleton and lensed by Douglas Slocombe, they manage to evoke a mittel-Europe that both enchants and chills in equal measures (the section where Polanski and MacGrowan follow the Count's hunchbacked henchman {Terry Downes} to the castle is like a sinister re-shoot of the Alpine scene in the Beatles movie 'HELP!').
It is these parts of the film (including the castle rooftop scenes) that surpass Hammer's own efforts (the Alps or Black Park? you decide) - sure, this film plays for the laughs, but there are moments during the Hammer Dracula cycle that evoke similar mirth...for all the wrong reasons. 'Dance...' looks great, is sassy and humorous and not a little disturbing. It also marks the first point in horror cinema that the bad guys win, something that Hammer (and most other companies) shied away from during all of their vampire movies. Throw in the gorgeous and gloriously-doomed Sharon Tate (who did a semi-nude on set shoot for the March 1967 Playboy), and it just goes to show that imitation can occasionally transcend its source material. Considered an aberration by some in Polanski's canon, the time is right to re-evaluate this as the classic it surely is. if any of you have not seen this gem, i can't stress enough how much you have to see it. it's a film that gets better with each subsequent viewing. This ranks in my own top three vampire movies, and now the evenings are beginning to draw in, I know I'll feel the inevitable urge to drag the film out and watch it again for the umpteenth time...especially if it starts to snow.
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