The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I reacted to The Fearless Vampire Killers about the same way that I did to Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. For the first half hour, I found myself thinking "geez, this is dumb. It's just unsophisticated, slapstick, Catskills-style comedy performed in dime-store Halloween costumes. It's the same humor as Gilligan's Island". As the film progressed, however, I found the film ever more dumb until it broke through my barriers and I started smiling at the sheer exhuberant stupidity of it. After a while, I was actually laughing out loud in a couple of places. Yes, the humor is sophomoric, but it's winning - in a way.

In some ways it's a great shame that Roman Polanski didn't become a director of comedies. Of course, if he had done that we might have lost all of his dark masterpieces like Chinatown and The Pianist, but Polanski showed some signs in this film that he might have been the greatest director ever to create comedies. He obviously has great comic timing, as he demonstrated in his writing and direction as well as in his starring performance in this crazy parody of the Dracula/Von Helsing battles. (Amazingly, Polanski was the best performer in the film, playing the Gilligan role as the bungling, likeable assistant.) In addition to his comic gifts, he has the well recognized sensibility of Roman Polanski. He has an outstanding eye for set design, editing, color, and scene composition. Therefore, he might have become the greatest director to dedicate himself to comedies in the past four decades.

Think about the direction in comedy films since the 60s. Terry Gilliam's direction kept getting better and better and Woody Allen became a good director, but Mel Brooks was just serviceable, a bit above the TV sitcom level, and Kevin Smith barely knows how to remove the lens cap. Imagine if someone with the filmmaking sense of Tarkovsky had the humor of Mel Brooks. Could those characteristics co-exist, possibly even blend amicably into something truly wonderful? I guess we are not destined to find out. This film wasn't anywhere near the "wonderful" stage, but it did occasionally show the possibilities inherent in Polanski's unique combination of talents. It showed that he might have made great comedies. Of course, he never did.

But I guess you don't need me to tell you that Polanski did not go on to become the Shakespeare of wacky cinema pratfalls.

What happened?


There is a VERY brief glimpse of Sharon Tate's breast as she bathes and struggles with the vampire.

DVD info from Amazon

  • ultra widescreen (2.35:1)

  • a blatantly promotional "making of" featurette

In 1969, his beautiful, sweet, adoring, pregnant wife was brutally murdered by the so-called "Manson family" during a deranged orgy of violence which may be the most famous murder case of the 20th century. Polanski's wife was Sharon Tate, the model and actress who was also his co-star in this film. Many people have speculated that Sharon's murder changed Polanski so profoundly that he could never again find the light side of his nature, driving him ever deeper into the darkest corners of his personality. I don't know if any of that is true, although it seems to make sense, but I do know that he never made another film with the warmth and humor and sweetness he exhibited here.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.0/10. That is too high, although this is not a bad film. It should be about 5.9 or so.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. It's a really dumb movie, with humor and comic acting about on the level of Gilligan's Island, but it grew on me.

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