Fearless Vampire Killers, The (1967): Polanski Directs Sharon Tate (Future Wife)

Long before vampirism became a popular subject in literature, TV, and film, Roman Polanski made a satirical tale of the genre, The Fearless Vampire Killers, in which he and his future wife, Sharon Tate also acted.

A pair of bumbling vampire-hunters attempts to destroy an undead nobleman and his cronies and rescue a buxom maiden in playful update of the venerable vampire genre.

Bat the vampire obsessive Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) barely survives his journey through the Alps into snowy Slovenia to continue his oft-maligned research into the undead.

Thawed out by his hapless assistant, Alfred (Polanski), and the local innkeeper, Shagal (Alfie Bass), Abronsius notices the overabundance of raw garlic as a decorating item in the inn.

Too ineffectual to save Shagal from having his blood sucked, the professor and Alfred miss the boat again when the mysterious Count Von Krolock (Ferdinand Mayne) kidnaps Shagal’s beautiful daughter, Sarah (Sharon Tate).

The vampire hunters must travel through the icy wilderness to Von Krolock’s abode and evade his manservant and his effete son Herbert (Iain Quarrier) before Sarah joins the ranks of the ghouls.

The action climaxes during a costume ball attended by a phalanx of blood-suckers.

This feature shows some visual flair but it is not one of Polanski’s strongest films, such as The Tenant and Chinatown.

End Note

About 16 minutes of unauthorized cuts have been restored in some video editions of The Fearless Vampire Hunters, and the animated credits sequence that replaced them is also retained.

The film marks the feature debut of Tate, who replaced Polanski’s original choice, Jill St. John, based on the advice of producer Martin Ransohoff.

Running time: 117 minutes.

Directed by Roman Polanski

Released: November 13, 1967

DVD: October 5, 2004

Warner