By Kris Tronerud
The Fearless Vampire Killers (aka Dance of The Vampires) • 1967 • dir. Roman Polanski – Original Theatrical Trailer
Someone’s heart is beating around in their bosom… pitter pat… pitter pat… like a rat in a cage…
— Iain Quarrier to Roman Polanski in The Fearless Vampire Killers
From the beginning of the long and winding road that has been the film career of Roman Polanski, the Polish-born director’s films have been judged not only by their often considerable merit, but as a kind of post facto barometer of his tragedy-haunted, scandal ridden life. The corrosive alienation and jaundiced world view of his early successes Knife in the Water (1962), Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-Sac (1966) taken as a reflection of his being left alone to escape the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto and survive the war in the Polish countryside at the tender age of nine; the pessimistic, paranoid (and brilliant) Rosemary’s Baby of the fears of a successful young director dependant on strangers in a foreign environment; the brutal, feral violence of Macbeth redolent of the horrific murder of his wife, unborn baby and 4 friends at the hands of the Manson family; with his whole post-exile career seen as a long string of reflections on personal morality, corruption, and the terrible difficulty of human relationships in general, and a string of artistic missteps and/or commercial failures viewed as some sort of karmic/filmic comeuppance. All this ephemera has been, happily, put to rest with the commercial and critical success of the Oscar/Cannes Prize-winning The Pianist and the presumably healing effect of the 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired; a good time, perhaps, to revisit the one Polanski film that can truly be enjoyed completely on its own, the light-hearted and baggage-free The Fearless Vampire Killers, an affectionate, charming homage to the Golden Age of Gothic Cinema in general, and 60’s Hammer vampire films in particular.