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Fearless Vampire Killers, The
The Fearless Vampire Killers OR Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck (to be referred to here on out in this review as simply The Fearless Vampire Killers purely for the sake of brevity, was directed by Roman Polanski in 1967 and released theatrically by MGM in a trimmed and altered version to American theaters. Warner Archive's Blu-ray release is the full length version of the film, just as their older DVD release was.
This period film begins when Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his assistant Alfred (Polanski himself), a pair of vampire hunters, arrive at a remote tavern in the winter mountains run by a man named Shagal (Alfie Bass) and his surely wife (Jessie Robins). Abronsius is frozen upon their arrival but they quickly get him thawed out and set right. Also inhabiting the tavern is Shagal's gorgeous daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate) and the voluptuous maid, Magda (Fiona Lewis). Abronsius is quite certain that he and Alfred are getting close to the vampire they know lives in the area but it isn't until a hunchback named Koukol (boxer Terry Downes) shows up that Abronsius really figures they're on to something. Alfred follows him when he leaves, and sees him gorging himself on the blood of a wolf… clearly a telltale sign that evil is afoot!
Eventually, it turns out that Count Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne) is prowling about. In fact, he's got his eyes set on Sarah and is savvy enough to wait until she's in the bathtub to attack! Soon enough, he's sucked her blood and whisked her away. Shagal tries to save her, but he too is drained of his blood, only he's left for dead… only to turn into the undead. Alfred, who quite understandably has a thing for Sarah, decides to travel with Abronsius to Krolock's castle in hopes of saving the poor maiden before it's too late. Shenanigans ensue.
An atmospheric and often very clever comedic take on the type of films that Hammer Studios was pumping out in their glory days, The Fearless Vampire Killers puts almost all of its emphasis on humor and very little of it on horror. That said, the film's antics are effective and Polanski and company truly nail the vibe and atmosphere really well. This looks like a creaky, old gothic horror picture, the kind that could have starred Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The costumes, the set design and even the matte paintings all have the right ‘look' to them and visually, this comes together quite nicely. The instrumental score fits in nicely here as well. The movie is a little longer than it probably needed to be, and there are some pacing problems in the first half, but things pick up enough in the second that most won't mind so much.
As to the performances, there's a lot to like here. Jack MacGowran is great as Abronsius, coming across more like your quirky old uncle than a true Van Helsing styled hero. He's quite amusing here, his bright eyes and unique facial expressions lending a good bit of charm to his role. Polanski himself is also quite good as young Alfred, a man more interested in the fairer sex than in hunting vampires and who tends to make mistakes now and again. His performance is enthusiastic and enjoyable. Alfie Bass and Jessie Robins are also very funny here, while Sharon Tate, a year before she and Polanski would be married and two years before she was tragically murdered by members of the Manson Family, is nothing short of radiant here. She and Fiona Lewis, as lovely as they are, also happen to be more than capable actresses, turning in good work, the both of them.
The Fearless Vampire Killers comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Archive in a very nice looking 2.35.1 widescreen transfer presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. The movie looks great on Blu-ray, and we get strong detail, depth and texture throughout. Colors look nice and natural and black levels are strong. The picture shows really good contrast as well. There's plenty of natural looking film grain but no noticeable print damage here, resulting in a very film-like presentations that most fans should find quite appealing.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. The audio here is clean and nicely balanced, no problems to note with any hiss or distortion of any kind. The score sounds good as do the effects. Subtitles are provided in English only.
There are no new extra features here but carried over from the older DVD release is the ten-minute vintage featurette The Fearless Vampire Killers: Vampires 101. This promo film stars Max Wall as an instructor, educating the audience in the fine art of vampire killing. Scenes from the movie are used here and it's quite amusing. Also included is the four-minute cartoon prologue (actually carried over from the old laserdisc, it didn't make it to the DVD), the original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.
The Fearless Vampire Killers is a little longer than it needs to be but it remains a fun little romp. Clearly meant to be more comedic than scary, it's an entertaining picture with some really enjoyable performances and a fair bit of style as well. The Blu-ray release from Warner Archive isn't stacked with extra features but what's there is welcome and the A/V presentation is very strong. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.