Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I was alone, falling free, trying my best not to forget

Read a mention over on Dr. Fabre's blog about the Steampunkopedia being back online. And while I'm happy for this, truly--there's a wealth of Steampunk-related information there--one thing brought me up short within the first five minutes.

The Fearless Vampire Killers is considered a Steampunk work.

Let me say that again, because it sounds vaguely important. The 1967 Roman Polanski film--starring Roman Polanski, among other unfortunates--is considered a Steampunk film.

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Why? Well, yes, that was my question too.

The story's simple enough--Professor Abronsius (Jack McGowran, noted Irish actor better known for his work in The Quiet Man) takes his young protégé Alfred (Roman Polanski himself) off to some distant part of Eastern Europe to hunt vampires. Hijinks ensue.

But it wouldn't have lasted as long as it has if it stopped there. First, this was the first big budget film of Polanski's career, and he threw his heart and soul into it. Intentionally--and often unintentionally--humorous, it also bore a lavish score, truly lush costuming, and a baffling series of outdoor montage scenes--which make more sense once the viewer realizes halfway through, the entire production was relocated from Austria to the Italian Alps.

It also bears at least one first, that I'm not sure has been seconded--a Yiddish-speaking vampire.

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The film definitely has a little of everything, and not all of that at the director's insistence--MGM defiantly relabeled it a farce (and, well, they had their reasons), and added in a baffling pre-credit sequence of dancing with bread. (I'm not kidding.) The "love scenes" between the kidnapped Sarah (Sharon Tate) and Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne) are equally as hysterical as the "love scenes" between Alfred and Herbert von Krolock (Iain Quarrier), the Count's very gay son.

Not to mention that notable turn for Yoine Shagal (Alfie Bass), as the amusingly predatory Jewish vampire.

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What it is, above and beyond Steampunk concerns (which, admittedly, I'm still trying to figure out), is a dizzying madcap romp. Crazed sidekicks and even crazier village denizens sparring and singing; a grand ball that might possibly put the ball in Labyrinth to shame (or at least the ball in Van Helsing); an entire scene carried out with the female lead in a sudsy vintage bath...The coffin-sled scene alone is worth the price of admission.

But Steampunk? Not entirely sure I'm convinced of it. For that matter, Van Helsing is a rather ideal Steampunk adventure film...and covers much of the same territory, with only slightly better results (in Van Helsing, after all, the evil vampires are put to rest...in The Fearless Vampire Hunters they're released upon an unsuspecting world).

In other news...

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It's never easy being a mad scientist. I warned him, after all. Nearly five full days of pumping the Hyde retrovirus into Mr. Allen's system?

Now he has eye tentacles.

You can't say no one saw this coming...

4 comments:

Seraph Nephilim said...

Victorian horror, yes. Steampunk? Not from how you've described it. There's a certain technical/gadgetry aspect to steampunk that seems to be missing from what you say.

Emilly Orr said...

And I'm honestly wracking my brain, trying to figure out what made it steampunk enough to be included. I really don't remember a ton of gadgetry, not even the sort of vampire-hunting gadgetry Van Helsing introduced. I remember a very distinct lack of engines, even, save for one--I think just the one--car!

I don't know. Purely don't know.

Frau Lowey said...

I would consider the Phibes films to be Steampunk, but just because a film is set in the Victorian Era does not make it fit the category.

For that matter, considering the gadgetry involved, I would call "The Great Race" more Steampunk than "The Fearless Vamprire Killers".

Emilly Orr said...

You make very good points. Hmm...