THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE
Co-writer/director Roman Polanski"s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS ($20) is an gentle and affectionate send up of the gothic flavored vampire movies that were coming out of Britain’s Hammer Productions. Although the film is never played for laughs, Polanski manages to inject comic moments into the movie that range from the mildly humorous to the downright slapstick, while never breaking horrific atmosphere of the story. Fortunately, this DVD release presents the longer European cut of the movie, instead of the truncated American version, which seemed to be going for laughs, instead of the jugular…
The plot of THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS finds the elderly and slightly befuddled Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran), along with his young assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski) combing the countryside of Transylvania in search of actual vampires. Stopping at an inn run by the lecherous Shagal (Alfie Bass) and rotund wife Rebecca (Jessie Robins), our intrepid heroes think they have struck pay dirt, after noticing that the inn is decorated with enormous amounts of garlic. However, after Shagal’s lovely daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate) is abducted from her bloodstained bathtub by Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne), Abronsius comes to the conclusion that the nearby castle may be the home to an actual vampire. The cast of THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS also features Iain Quarrier, Terry Downes, Fiona Lewis and Sydney Bromley.
Warner Home Video has made THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is genuinely good looking transfer that easily bests all previous home incarnations of the film. The image appears quite sharp and very nicely defined. Colors are strong and stable without noise or bleeding. Blacks appear accurate, as do the whites. Contrast is good and shadow detail is just fine for a mid 1960s production. The film elements from which the film has been transferred display some blemishes, but they never seem particularly excessive. Film grain is fairly mild and digital compression artifacts are well concealed.
The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is just fine for a film of this particular vintage. Although some mild hiss is occasionally noticeable, it isn’t bothersome at average listening levels. The film’s wonderfully haunting score by Christopher Komeda has a strong sense of presence, despite the expected age related limitations in fidelity. Additionally, the dialogue is always understandable. A French language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. The Fearless Vampire Killers: Vampires 101 is a vintage ‘scope featurette that runs ten minutes and plays up the laughs. A theatrical trailer is also provided.
THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS is an enjoyable albeit gentle spoof that fans of the genre will enjoy. As for the DVD, Warner has done a fine job with the presentation, leaving one with almost nothing to complain about.
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