Good evening, darlings, and thank you for reading our 31 Days Of Halloween. Recently I posted an overview of the Big D (also known to humans as Count Dracula) as he has appeared in films, and someone who is a newcomer to our little Halloween soiree asked me why I had not included The Fearless Vampire Killers (1966) in my list. Simple; the Big D is not in this film. The main vampire in FVK is Count Von Krolock, who reminds me very much of a head waiter I once met while traveling in Prague, oh, years ago. But I digress.
The Fearless Vampire Killers is personally satisfying to me for two reasons; first, it reveals many "vampire hunters" for the annoying and slipshod vigilantes that they are*, and second... well, not to reveal too much about the movie, but the vampires get to unlive instead of being staked off. The film opens on our two "heroes," the doddering Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his shy, rather put-upon assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski, who also directed this film) as they enter a small Central European village where the locals perform regular rituals to ward off Those Nasty Vampires. (Honestly, if I had a dime for every time I went into a Central European village and some waiter in a restaurant tried to serve me chicken in garlic sauce... you just can't have a decent vacation in a small town anymore.) Staying at the inn, which is run by the lecherous Shagal (Alfie Bass) who has naughty designs on his busty tavern help Magda (Fiona Lewis), Alfred takes a liking to Shagal's daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate), who immediately becomes the not-so-unwilling victim of Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne). Krolock also turns Shagal into a vampire minion, which leads to the funniest line in the film: when Shagal tries to turn Magda she attempts to ward him off with a cross, which leads the very Jewish Shagal to laugh, "Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire!" (Memo to any would-be vampire hunters: know your holy objects and how to use them.)
I also enjoy this film for its delightful atmosphere, which echoes the best of the Hammer horror films, and the farcical elements played against the lavish background provide an interesting contrast. The cast performs excellently as well, and despite my dislike of vampire hunters, Polanski's Alfred is a likable character who is a great straight man for MacGowran's clueless and obsessive Professor Abronsius. The film also does a good job of parodying the more foppish aspects of vampires, as noted in Mayne's aristocratic, patronizing portrayal of Von Krolock and also in actor Iain Quarrier's portrayal of Von Krolock's son Herbert, who has a few designs of his own on Alfred (and I'm not telling, because it's very naughty). One more reason I like this film: it is the only vampire film in existence to have a vampire named Herbert. Good, solid Anglo-Saxon name; none of this over-umlauted Vladivostolikus Transyl-wanian Gothic nonsense. And of course, we are treated to the innocent beauty of the lovely Sharon Tate as Sarah. This charming actress unfortunately met her end at the hands of the Manson "family" four years after this film was released, and through her portrayal of Sarah one is reminded of what a pity it was that she was taken from us so cruelly and soon.
The Fearless Vampire Killers is my personal pick for the Halloween season for anyone who likes a few laughs along with their scares, and has my highest recommendation. Incidentally, I showed this film to a few acquaintances of mine who are vampires, and they didn't get it. (Pedants.) But of course, they never understood why I laughed all the way through the film version of Interview With The Vampire. To each his own, I suppose.
Wishing all of our readers warm felicitations for the Halloween season as always, and do return tomorrow as we continue our countdown for The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween. Tally ho!
*Seriously, if you'd ever woken up from a pleasant day's sleep to find a grubby collection of superstitious peasants with a bunch of crosses and stakes being led by a great swaggering git in leather armor all standing over you, you'd know why I'm adverse to vampire hunters. But thankfully, those are old days gone by. --B.R.