The Fearless Vampire Killers

Starring: Jack MacGowran, Sharon Tate and Alfie Bass
Warner Home Video
RRP: 12.99
Z1 65146
Certificate: 12
Available 18 October 2004

A dotty professor gives up his seat of learning to follow his true calling: investigating and fighting vampirism. With his young apprentice in tow, he arrives in Transylvania and immediately recognises the signs of skin puncture wounds and hanging garlic. No sooner has the professor's young aid fallen for the innkeeper's beautiful daughter (and who wouldn't?!), than she is kidnapped by the foul creature of the night known as His Excellency, and his homosexual son. The vampire hunters journey to the castle, but the task is made all the more difficult when the professor's tools-of-the-trade bag is lost over the mountainside and he becomes wedged halfway through a window with night approaching once again...

I suppose it's logical (and the irony's not lost on me) that after reviewing sixteen Hammer horror films the very next one should be a vampire movie spoof. The Fearless Vampire Killers, or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck (1966) has locations, sets and costumes very pleasing to the eye, but I've seen funnier movies from directors who were not even trying. "Near-Brilliant Mixture of Humour and Horror" says the cover blurb. Was that reviewer watching a different film? Director and co-writer (and actor in this one; he's the apprentice) Roman Polanski of course went on to better things with Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown. This is a film that looks good without ever being enjoyable. And talking of good looks: Sharon Tate, who plays the innkeeper's daughter Sarah, looks absolutely stunning. And what's more, she takes lots of baths!

Only two moments made me laugh. When the professor tries to stake someone who has been attacked by a vampire, a protective woman stops him. When he creeps back later we see he and his stake's shadow on the wall come across her shadow with a mallet. The other humorous scene comes when the hunchback chases the professor's carriage down the snow-covered mountainside on a coffin, only to go careering over a precipice.

The majority of the attempts at laughs (many surrounding the dotty old professor) are silly or simply just not funny, and at times it forgets to try. The entire film is a product of its time; spoofs haven't really come into their own until more recently. If you want to see a classic vampire movie with just the right balance of horror and dark humour I can highly recommend Fright Night.

Extras are a trailer and the Vampires 101 in-role featurette (10 mins).

Ty Power

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