“I am a night bird; I am not much good in the daytime.”
Vampire-hunting Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his nebbishy assistant Alfred (Roman Polanski) arrive in a small Transylvanian town where Alfred falls for the beautiful, bath-loving daughter (Sharon Tate) of an innkeeper (Alfie Bass) and his wife (Jessie Robins). When Tate is bitten and kidnapped, Professor Abronsius and Alfred travel to the castle of Count Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne), who is hosting a gala vampire ball.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Roman Polanski Films
- Satires and Spoofs
Critical and popular opinions seem to be enormously divided on this “genre outing” by Roman Polanski, who both starred and directed. Cult-like fans adore its quirky sensibilities, while detractors are annoyed by its over-reliance on slapstick and find its fame incomprehensible. Polanski himself apparently disowned the film (also known as Dance of the Vampires) when it was cut down from its original 148-minute running time to just 107 or 91 minutes. (Missing from the version I watched was this animated opening sequence, though I’m not sure what else was taken out.) Peary is clearly a fan, given that he lists it as a Personal Recommendation in the back of his book — but I happen to fall in the camp of detractors. I find the lead protagonists insufferable, and grow weary of the physical “knock-about” humor almost immediately.
With that said, I do appreciate Douglas Slocombe’s gorgeous cinematography — much shot in the snowy outdoors, which lends a unique atmosphere to the proceedings — and I also admire Polanski’s attempts at satirizing a beloved genre. The culminating vampire ball is quite a sight to behold, with the presence of decrepit and decaying aristocrats making one question the trope of vampires as invariably gorgeous young men and women. And Krystov Komeda’s score is mesmerizing. But none of this can make up for the inane slapstick and nincompoop leads. As a final thought, I will cite Time Out’s reviewer, who writes that “With all its faults, [it’s] an engaging oddity”; ultimately, all film fanatics should see it once to craft their own opinion.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography
- The creepy yet humorous vampire ball sequence
- Krystov Komeda’s score
Yes, as a cult favorite.