The Fearless Vampire Killers, or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck
Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire.
(universally known in countries outside America as Dance of the Vampires
) is a 1967 horror comedy film from director Roman Polanski
(who also starred and cowrote the screenplay), which gives a good-natured ribbing to vampire movies, particularly those in the Hammer Horror
tradition. It is today perhaps best known as the inspiration for Tanz der Vampire
, a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation
that is extremely popular in Europe, as well as for being the film which introduced Polanski to his future wife, Sharon Tate, and in turn, being a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment
The eminent (in his own mind, at least
) vampire expert Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his bumbling assistant Alfred (Polanski) arrive in a small Transylvanian village to track down and kill a nest of vampires that they believe are lurking nearby. Stopping to rest at a local inn, they become convinced that they are on the right track, both by the presence of garlic adorning every available surface, and by the reluctance of the innkeeper Shagal (Alfie Bass) to discuss the location of the local castle.
As Professor Abronsius spends his days surreptitiously searching for clues, Alfred meets and falls head-over-heels for Shagal's beautiful daughter Sarah (Tate). He is not the only one who notices her, however, and soon the lord of the local vampire coven, the elegant Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne), abducts her to his castle. When Shagal attempts to keep the interlopers out of the matter and rescue his daughter himself, he is quickly turned into a vampire himself. It therefore falls to our two heroes to travel to Castle von Krolock, rescue the fair Sarah, and put the curse of the undead to rest once and for all.
Provides examples of the following tropes:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Alfred sees Herbert, the Count's son, this way.
- Absent-Minded Professor: Abronsius is easily distracted by books, bats, and discoursing on how great a scholar he is.
- Affably Evil: Count von Krolock
- And Then John Was a Zombie: Sarah transforms into a vampire at the end.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Shagal appears to be the only "commoner" vampire.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Unintentionally, Krolock only meant to have Sarah join his legion of undead within the castle, meaning she would just be another victim. He succeeds on that front but ultimately lost Sarah when Alfred and Abronsius escape. However that only means the curse of vampirism has spread beyond his castle which wasn't his intention.
- The Blind Leading The Blind: Alfred hangs on Abronsius' every word, and doesn't seem to realize that he's more than a bit incompetent.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Herbert is the only blond man in the film.
- Breaking and Bloodsucking: Krolock captures Sarah this way by coming in through the window roof of the bathroom she's in. As she's taking a bath and naked, she can't run leaving her in a perfect position for Krolock to bite her.
- Censor Suds: When Alfred encounters Sarah in the bath.
- Classical Movie Vampire: Count von Krolock.
- Depraved Homosexual: Let's just say that Herbert is interested in sucking more than just Alfred's blood.
- Dirty Old Man: Shagal.
- Distracted by the Sexy: A constant problem for Alfred.
- Distressed Damsel: Sarah, though she never seems aware of the danger she is in or shows any desire to be rescued.
- Failure Hero: Both Abronsius and Alfred show to be terribly incompetent and useless hunters, so that not they only fail in killing any of the vampires, but end up helping in spread the vampirism to the rest of the world by bringing a vampirized Sarah with them.
- Likewise Shagal who, even though he knows a bit more about vampires, tries to venture off and save his daughter by himself. Krolock quickly captures him and makes him a vampire.
- Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Crucifixes ward off vampires ... but only Christian ones.
- Glamour Failure: Vampires do not show up in mirrors. This becomes important in the ballroom scene.
- Haunted Castle: Practically de rigeur, isn't it?
- Heroes Want Redheads: Alfred and Sarah.
- The Igor: Alfred is a rare heroic version.
- Innocent Fanservice Girl: Sarah.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Professor Abronsius' advice is singularly unhelpful at just about every stage of the film.
- Logo Joke: Leo the MGM lion morphs into an animated Orlokian vampire, whose fangs drip blood that trickles down past the scrolling credits.
- Love at First Sight: Alfred's reaction to Sarah, and Herbert's reaction to Alfred.
- Matzo Fever: Alfred, for the beautiful red-headed Jewess Sarah.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The fearless vampire killers unwittingly bring a vampire back to civilization, where it can spread the curse and continue the supernatural evil of vamprisim.
- Nonindicative Name: While Abronsius is indeed fearless, Alfred is scared as hell, and both aren't effective in killing vampires.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Actually, they've got every one of the classic traits. Vampires sleep in coffins, only go out at night, and do not appear in mirrors. They can be warded off with garlic and religious symbols (apparently only the religious symbols they believe in). Theoretically, at least, they can be killed with a stake through the heart, but the protagonists never get a chance to test that idea.
- The Professor: Professor Abronsius likes to think he is this.
- The Renfield: Koukol.
- Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Became the popular European musical Tanz der Vampire (and, allegedly, the much less popular American version, Dance of the Vampires).
- Shiksa Goddess: Shagal for his blonde serving wench, though anything would be preferable to his wife.
- Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror
- They Called Me Mad!: Professor Abronsius' vampire obsession eventually got him fired from his post at Königsberg University, where his colleagues dubbed him "The Nut."
- Twist Ending: Sarah has already become a vampire, and turns Alfred as Professor Abronsius unknowingly takes them to Vienna. Doubles as a Downer Ending and a Cruel Twist Ending.
- Überwald: Transylvania gets this treatment, natch.
- Vampire Bites Suck
- Vampire Dance: The climax occurs during the vampires' annual ball.
- Vampire Hunter: What does it say in the title?
- Vampire Vords: The Count talks like this, but Herbert, oddly, does not.
- Vampires Are Rich: Shagal appears to be the only lower class vampire.
- The Virus: Vampirism.
- The Von Trope Family: von Krolock
- Yiddish as a Second Language: Shagal, the innkeeper.