Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jack MacGowran, Sharon Tate, Alfie Bass, Ferdy Mayne, Roman Polanski
Written by: Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski
Directed by: Roman Polanski
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 107
Date: 06/01/1967

The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Known for his paranoid horror films -- as well as for his Oscar-winningparanoid holocaust picture The Pianist -- director Roman Polanskirarely indulged in his taste for overwrought slapstick, but here it isin the comic horror film, fully titled The Fearless Vampire Killers,or Pardon Me But Your Teeth Are in My Neck (1967).

It was mostly in his capacity as an actor that Polanski cut loose. He could be brutally effective, such as the shy, frightened apartment dweller in The Tenant, but he sometimes overdoes it, as in his recent acting-only appearance in Zemsta.

Thankfully he curbs his hamminess here by playing a supporting role. A vampire hunter, Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran), and his assistant Alfred (Polanski), travel to the castle of Count Von Krolock to catch some bloodsuckers. They spend most of the film running around the richly detailed, murky sets -- photographed in luscious, velvety widescreen -- as one gag after another are unleashed. In one scene, the hunters pound a stake into what appears to be a vampire lurking behind a curtain. A gusher of red comes pouring out, and it's revealed that they've actually tapped into a wine barrel. (Of course, they partake of the drink -- waste not, want not.) Polanski's future wife Sharon Tate co-stars and did a Playboy spread the same year.

DVD Details: Warner Home Video has released this MGM feature on DVD, and it includes a vintage, comical "making-of" featurette (about 10 minutes), a trailer and various alternate language options.

It's part of a package of Halloween-time horror films that includes Larry Cohen's It's Alive, a double-bill of the sequels It Lives Again and It's Alive III: Island of the Alive, TomHanks' film debut He Knows You're Alone, the abrasive sequel Return of the Living Dead Part II and TonyScott's erotic vampire relic The Hunger.

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