Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 20
November 13, 1967
Polanski's Fearless Vampire Killers Unleashed

Roman Polanski showed a lighter – and more colorful side – to his filmmaking when a film with multiple identities, The Fearless Vampire Killers (aka The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck) was released in the U.S. Coming straight off the huge success of his three first films, Knife in the Water, Repulsion and Cul de Sac, Polanski was making his first film for an American studio, was shooting in color for the first time, and was making his most lighthearted movie so far. Fearless Vampire Killers was, as the title hinted, a horror comedy and starred Jack MacGowran and Polanski himself as the titular characters who head for Transylvania looking for neckbiting daysleepers. However the film, shot under the title Dance of the Vampires, was not intended to be the farce which it was sold to audiences as by MGM. Even worse, the studio actually radically recut the movie from Polanski’s initial version released in Europe – which is described by DVD Savant’s Glenn Erickson as a "unique blend of fairytale beauty, sly comedy and baleful horror" – and even added in a cartoon prologue, and made the lion logo into a hastily scribbled vampire. Polanski understandably disowned the movie, but would maybe have been more angered by MGM’s meddling had he not been in the first throes of a love affair with his Fearless romantic interest, Sharon Tate. Fortunately, in 1979, the original version became the accepted cut of the film and the butchered version is now relatively difficult to see.


More Flashbacks
Harold and Maude Dec. 20, 1971
Harold and Maude Opens

Hal Ashby's iconic black comedy Harold and Maude opened in theaters on December 20, 1971.

Read more »
December 20, 1979
Bob Fosse's All That Jazz

For denizens of the New York theater scene, Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical All that Jazz provided them the guessing game of the season. What scandals was Fosse going to spill in his expose musical? The film, which tells the story of a Broadway choreographer/director Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), whose excesses in life and work bring him to the edge of a collapse, was clearly modeled on Fosse’s own life. Some actors (like Ann Reinking) play characters very similar to themselves; other figures (like ex-wife Gwen Verdon, producer Hal Prince, and others) are played by others; and other actors (like Jessica Lange) who were close to Fosse play oddly mythic figures. Fosse, who’d started choreographing for film in 1954, was soon pulled to New York to choreograph and eventually direct such musicals as Pippin, Chicago, and Sweet Charity. In 1969, he started making films as well, winning an Oscar in 1972 for Cabaret. A demanding taskmaster and infamous womanizer, the chain-smoking Fosse suffered a heart attack in 1975. It was during this period that Shirley Maclaine (according to her) suggested he create something about his brush with death. The resulting film is a breathtaking musical sleight of hand as Fosse’s alter ego Joe Gideon reveals his innermost fears and desires only to cover them in the next moment with all that jazz––surreal show stopping dance numbers and Felliniesque romps into his libido and unconscious. In 1987, life imitated art as Fosse died from a heart attack, just moments before his revival of Sweet Charity was to open at the National Theater.

Read more »