"That night, penetrating deep into the heart of Transylvania, Professor Abronsius was unaware that he was on the point of reaching the goal of his mysterious investigations."
Fearless Vampire Killers is what we may easily call a toothless affair, but it’s sort of charming in its own stupid way. Film is inspired by the aesthetics and mechanics of Hammer horror film, being a half tribute and half spoof of the classic British horror movies that came out of Hammer Studios in the 50s and 60s (they, again, were inspired by the even more classic Universal horror films of the 30s and 40s). Most of the slapstick is kind of awkward. It’s not really scary enough to be a proper tribute and it’s not really funny enough to be a spoof or comedy.
But I liked the castle. The castle, like all good spooky castles in horror movies, is more than an impressive set piece; it’s a character. The ersatz snow and faux-frost covering every (clearly soundstage) location gives the film a strange, phony atmosphere that sort of appealed to me too. Then there’s the awesome, bone-jangly musical score composed by Krzysztof Komeda. It feels like what it would have sounded like if Philip Glass had composed the music for Argento’s Suspiria (1977). There’s also a pretty good vampire ball towards the end. Vampires of all ages fancy regalia and dance in an elegant—albeit a bit dust-covered—ballroom. And they don’t actually kill a single vampire the entire film!
Amongst the ancestral portraits in the castle is a depiction of an ugly old woman inspired by a sketch of ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ and since the 18th century frequently connected with Margarete Maultasch, countess of Tyrol (1318-1369) and the murals in Count Krolock’s hall show motifs of Peter Brueghel the elder’s “Triumph of Death” (c. 1562).
For the ballroom scene (when the music stops and only three people are visible in a huge mirror despite of a few dozen vampires in the room) Roman Polanski had the room completely copied behind a fake mirror with three doubles acting as the human protagonists.
A musical adaptation of Dance of the Vampires premiered at the Raimund Theater in Vienna, Austria, on October 4, 1997. It was directed by Roman Polanski, and featured music by rock composer Jim Steinman, who is best known for his work with Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler.
Photos from the dance sequence.
And some devilish delights: Roman Polanski & Jack MacGowran on the set of The Fearless Vampire Killers.