If someone were to ask me what the best time was to go vampire hunting in Transylvania, assuming of course that Transylvania still holds that special place in the vampire hunter's heart, I would unreservedly say summer. Now I understand that snow and vampires have certain romanticism attached to them but one should never loose sight of practicality. Hunting vampires is no trivial task. For one it is awfully difficult to track them down. And even if you manage to locate them sleeping in their coffins in the secluded castle the weather will make it incredibly hard to get there.
Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) could however be forgiven for undertaking the monumental task of eradicating vampires in the snowy season. It is important to keep in mind that even though the existence of vampires is universally acknowledged now during the time of the professor they were still a myth. But he believed in their presence. So much so that he lost his job at the university due to his views and his peers nicknamed him "The nut".
But mockery can not stop a man of conviction such as the professor himself (we shall refrain from calling him a nut for there are other characters in the movie that are more deserving of the title). And so he sets forth in his expedition disregarding the weather conditions. A brave move without a doubt but like I said it was not practical. I was not surprised then when he arrived at his destination completely frozen.
Thankfully the innkeeper had at his disposal means of thawing frozen men. In a few gulps of the soup the professor could once more feel the blood flowing in his veins much to relief of his assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski). After resting for the night professor, being a man of action that he was, starts investigating about the vampire. But the folks at the inn are reluctant to divulge any secrets.
His assistant Alfred, meanwhile, falls head over heels in love with the innkeeper's daughter Sarah. The innkeeper himself falls in love with his maid arousing suspicion of his wife.
Sarah is extremely fond of bathing. Her father (Shagal) warns him that bathing will get her into trouble some day but she refuses to listen. Shagal's fears are realized one day when the vampire abducts her from the bathroom. He sets out to get his daughter back only to return frozen himself. I was disappointed to note that he learned nothing from professors example.
He however suffered more serious afflictions than frostbite. One that escaped everybody's eyes but the professor's. He had bite marks over his body. The professor rightfully prescribed that he should be purified by driving holly through his heart, to which his wife objected and so he transformed into a vampire and escaped.
Professor assistant duo set out once more armed to bring him down. They come across a castle and introduce themselves to the count. The count being a big admirer of the professors' work extends his hospitality to them. In the castle Alfred and the professor must look for clues to capture Shabal but it seems that there is more to this castle than meets the eye which I won't spoil here hoping that what you have read so far would prompt you to watch the movie.
Even though The fearless vampire killers is a comedy it is one of those films that portrays vampires in a way that I like. As the dwellers of big, beautifully furnished, eerie castles. Throughout the film one thing that stands out is the set design. From the woodwork of the inn to the decorated ball rooms it is apparent that a lot of care has went into designing the pieces. Even the bath tub that is featured in many scenes is very detailed.
The dialogues are very well written and their effect is only increased by the amazing delivery of the cast. Jack MacGowran plays the role of the professor to perfection. He bumbles and sometimes it seems that he is not too sure of himself. But in moments of grave danger he shows a remarkable calm. For instance when Alfred comes face to face with a vampire he raises a sword. Professor realizing that he could not possibly kill him places his own sword over his forming a cross which makes the vampire stop in his track. It sounds crazy but it worked.
The count has a deep voice. He speaks slowly and has powerful dialogues. The following is one of my favorites in the movie
A year ago exactly on this same night we were assembled here in this very room: I your pastor, and you my beloved flock. With hopefulness in my heart I told you then that with Lucifer's aid we might look forward to a more succulent occasion. Cast back your minds. There we were, gathered together, gloomy and despondent, around a single meager woodcutter.
While Shabal is just an old pervert. Turning into a vampire does not make him stop hitting on his maid. In fact he even bites her eventually turning her into a vampire.
At times the comedy turns into slapstick. But even then it is tremendously entertaining thanks to some fantastic acting. Other times the humor is more subtle. Like the scene in which the count locks Alfred and the professor in a room with a cannon! Or the one in which professor and Alfred stumble upon an empty coffin only to find later that Shabal is sharing coffin with the count's son.
The music is used sparingly in the film. I am used to horror movies using copious amount of background music to set the tone. But here the majority of the movie is devoid of any soundtrack. This makes the environment more believable. I could sense that the castle was a desolate place. The lack of music accentuated other sounds like the creaking of bed or walking or cutting of wood. It made me feel like I was there.
Overall I was very impressed with The Fearless vampire killers. It was funny,atmospheric, witty and entertaining. Can't ask for anything more.