Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 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
Robert Altman November 20, 2006
Robert Altman dies

On this day in 2006, the legendary film director Robert Altman passed away at the age of 81 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Nov. 20, 1992
Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opens

The unlikeliest franchise was born on November 20, 1992, when Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opened in New York City. Produced by Ed Pressman, written by Zoe Lund and Paul Calderon, and starring Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant boldly yoked a tale of a distraught Catholic cop seeking redemption by pursuing the rapists of a nun to a sordid, walk-on-the-wild side panorama of downtown New York in the early '90s.

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November 20, 1981
Ragtime Starts Up

Released on November 20, 1981, Milos Forman's Ragtime presented a sweeping picture of America at the beginning of the 20th century. While based on E.L. Doctorow’s sprawling novel, the film centers on the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr (Howard E. Rollins Jr.), a young black pianist who fights to have his honor restored after being abused by racist volunteer firemen. For Forman, the film’s story of oppression connected to his own struggle in Communist Czechoslovakia. For others, the story was a reflection of America’s own new Gilded Age, especially as the holiday season approached. But all saw the 155-minute spectacle, with a massive cast that included actors and celebrities like James Cagney, Donald O’Connor, Pat O’Brien, Elizabeth McGovern, Norman Mailer, Mandy Patinkin, and many more, as a movie event. It took an impressive $17 million and was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, and even spawned a Broadway musical; today, however, Ragtime, a historical epic to remind of past excesses, has sadly been all but forgotten.

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