Geektoberfest Year 2: THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS

THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS

or

PARDON ME, BUT YOUR TEETH ARE IN MY NECK

originally released as

DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES

a review

THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, or PARDON ME, BUT YOUR TEETH ARE IN MY NECK, now shortened to THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS but originally released as DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES is a 1967 horror comedy directed by Roman Polanski, written by Gerard Brach and Roman Polanski, produced by Gene Gutowski and stars Jack MacGowan, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, Alfie Bass and the great Ferdy Mayne.

cast

Jack MacGowan as Professor Abronsius

Roman Polanski as Alfred

Sharon Tate as Sarah Shagal

Alfie Bass as Yoyneh Shagal

He easily has the best line in the whole movie. Magda the maid tries to ward off Shagal (a Jewish vampire) with a crucifix.

SHAGAL: Oy Vey! Have you got the wrong vampire.

Ferdy Mayne as Count Von Krolock

One of the unsung heroes of Geekdom. A partial filmography of this great actor would include:

  • BEN HUR (1959) as the captain of the rescue ship
  • OPERATION CROSSBOW (1965) as a German officer
  • THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES (1965) as the French official
  • WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968) General Julius Rosemeyer
  • WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL (1971) Lavorski
  • INNOCENT BYSTANDERS (1972) Marcus Kaplan
  • THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (1976) as Radi’s doctor
  • CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984) The Leader

I wish we had a category in our Horror Hall of Fame for these actors who consistently give us great performances but never get any due credit.

Terry Downes as Koukol

Fiona Lewis as Magda

Iain Quarrier as Herbert Von Krolock

Professor Abronsius – a somewhat bumbling old vampire hunter – and Alfred (his not too bright assistant) travel to a small mountain village in mid-19th Century Transylvania where they find sure signs of vampirism. Renting rooms in the local tavern Alfred falls in love with the innkeeper’s daughter Sarah. However, she is abducted by the local vampire – Count Von Krolock. The Professor and Alfred determined to rescue the girl and stamp out the vampires, travel to the count’s castle to confront him. Only it turns out he is not alone and there are enough vampires there to stage a ball. Alfred and the Professor have bitten off more than they can chew (forgive the pun).

Jill St. John was originally supposed to appear in this film but dropped out shortly before filming started. Producer Martin Ransohoff recommended Sharon Tate to director Roman Polanski. Polanski not only hired her for the movie he married her. 

While filming on location, Roman Polanski hired dozens of workmen to make the large number of coffins that were needed for the film. Unfortunately, tourists were unnerved by the sight of all the coffins lined up and local hotels had to put up signs to reassure their guests that the area hadn’t been struck down by a plague.

This movie was originally released as DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES. Which makes perfect sense because there is a ballroom scene with dancing vampires. However, when the film was released in the United States they wanted to promote it as a farce rather than a spoof so they cut 20 minutes worth of film making the plot incapable of being understood. To help explain things they created an animated opening for the movie, which was now entitled THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, or PARDON ME, BUT YOUR TEETH ARE IN MY NECK. They also redubbed voices to make them sound sillier.

Roman Polanski hated what they did, protested loudly about it to deaf ears, and in the end tried to have his name removed from anything to do with the movie.

The American version is pretty much what everyone saw until the mid-1970s where it was dropped from circulation. In the 1980s a director’s cut was unearthed. It was then sent to various art and revival houses for screening. While the American version had been bashed by critics and moviegoers alike this version caused them to reevaluate their opinions and has gone on to achieve cult status. This is the version shown nowadays and is in fact the version I recently saw.

This film has gone on to be adapted into a stage musical DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES.

For all you horror music lovers the score for the movie was by Krzysztof Komeda who also scored ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968).

I first saw this film when it was released back in 1967. Yeah, I’m that old. I remember loving this movie when I watched it and enjoying it so much that I hated to see it end. I had not seen it since then. I looked forward to seeing it now because I wondered if it would stand the test of time and how would it compare to my memory. Would I love it still?

Unfortunately, I have to admit this time it didn’t wow me over. I guess I was sillier when I was younger and not as demanding. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying I disliked the movie. I did enjoy watching it and Professor Abronsius had me in stitches. Not so much Roman Polanski. Ferdy Mayne is wonderful as the vampire Count Von Krolock. While Krolock looks over the top Mister Mayne plays him more subdued and it works. Alfie Bass as our Jewish vampire is hilarious and threatens to steel the movie. Sharon Tate and Fiona Lewis provide nice eye candy and the ever-present cleavage. Back in 1967 I was 12 years old and that may have been the movie’s big selling point for me.

The movie is well made and looks great. In that respect it has stood the test of time. You can tell Polanski put in a lot of time and effort into this film and this was a labor of love.

But in the long run the movie is just a silly little spoof worth watching certainly but nothing to write home about. Still, I’m glad I saw it again and I’m glad I could share this with all of you.

I recommend this movie for those who like horror spoofs, those who remember fondly the vampire movies of the 1960s, and anyone who likes to laugh at silliness. I give this film Three Gray Geeks in our rating scale:

That is it for now buckaroos. Come see me next week where I’ll be able to talk again about some other geekery and how great it is to be a geek. Until then be smart and most of all be safe. Keep wearing that mask. Keep being the super-hero you were always meant to be.

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