Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Tate’

The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019) *

Dir/Wri: Daniel Farrands | Cast: Hilary Duff, Jonathan Bennett, Lydia Hearst, Pawel Szajda | Horror | 87′

Which ever way you look at it, The Haunting of Sharon Tate is a dreadful film, and a bad idea. Not only does this schlocky drama insult the memory of Tate and her former husband Roman Polanski, it also re-imagines her tragedy as a surreal flight of fancy, changing the course of its terrible reality.

Sharon Tate is made out to be a loopy, histrionic lightweight prone to fantasising about her own murder on a regular basis, and obsessed by thoughts of her husband’s putative infidelity. Infact, she was a promising actor who had made a name for herself in The Man from U.N.C.L.E (1965), Valley of the Dolls (1967) and Twelve Plus One (1969) alongside Orson Welles (1969). Polanski was in London at the time finishing off a script so he could join his wife for the birth of their first child together. She was 26. It was one of the most gruesome Hollywood events, and another shocking time for Polanski who had lost his parents during the Holocaust. He has now been married for 30 years to French actor Emmanuelle Seigner.

As Quentin Tarantino found out a few years ago with his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, making a feature film about Tate’s demise was always going to be a tricky endeavour. And we all remember the disaster that was Oliver Hirschbergels’ Lady Diana, despite Naomi Watts’ sterling effort. Well this is actually worse because it demeans Tate, and those who also died on that fateful August in 1969 in Benedict Canyon. Hardly surprising then that her sister has distanced herself from the whole project. At least a documentary form could have re-examined the facts and made some intelligent contribution to the events, told evocatively in Vincent Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter.

Here Daniel Farrands uses a fractured narrative to question Tate’s presence of mind by exploring the idea that she (played here by Hillary Duff) was experiencing premonitions about her own slaughter in a series of horrific re-occuring nightmares. And that her final hours did not result in death at the hands of the Mansons, but in some kind of aggravated break-in which sees her walking away into the countryside. Meanwhile the Mansons are pictured as baleful zombie-like killers, peering through windows before they eventually made their move. You couldn’t make it up – but Farrands did, with a feature that’s clearly intended for a teen audience who may not appreciate the gravity of the source material.

Apparently, Farrands gets his title from a throwaway quote Tate gave in an interview where she reportedly said: “Yes, I have had a psychic experience – at least I guess that’s what it was – and it was a terribly frightening and disturbing thing for me”. She went on to say that the dream featured Jay Sebring or herself “cut open at the throat”.

Well, we all have bad dreams about losing our own body parts, or people we love – sometimes in tragic ways. But you’ve got to be pretty crass to make a second rate horror flick about such things actually happening in the light of a real and dreadful calamity. The film is not cinematic or remotely compelling. Most of the action takes place in semi-darkness, the flashback scenes repetitive to the point of boredom – the whole thing is uninspiring. Duff, Jonathan Bennett and Lydia Hearst do their best with a threadbare script, in a film that deserves to be haunted by the ghost of Charles Manson himself. MT


Dance of the Vampires aka The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

 Director: Roman Polanski

Writers: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach
Cast: Jack MacGowran, Roman Polanski, Alfie Bass, Sharon Tate, Ferdy Mayne, Iain Quarrier, Terry Downes | 108 mins  Comedy Horror

An old professor and his apprentice hunt down vampires and rescue a damsel in distress in a remote part of Transylvania.

Dance of the Vampires is a stylish antidote to the regular slew of vampire films. Hilarious, grotesque and weirdly compelling, it was Polanski’s first real acting performance (as Alfred, the apprentice) and his first outing in Panavision colour. Douglas Slocombe’s expert camerawork compliments the fabulous sets inspired by Eastern European folklore and, in particular, Jewish folklore showcased in the heightened performances of Alfie Bass and Jessica Robins as the Innkeepers, Mr and Mrs Shagal.

There are also some lewd moments keeping the tone light, but occasionally running the risk of it drifting into Carry On territory. The first half of this horror spoof set in a Transylvanian boarding house is uneven and slightly jumpy.  It also suffered from being heavily edited down from 148mins to 91 mins but the film improves dramatically once the Professor and Alfred move on to the Vampire’s castle.

Polanski was a keen painter and echoes of Marc Chagall’s surrealism can be seen in the costumes and imagery. In fact, the film explores the lightless of tone in Polish folkloric culture that we don’t get to hear about in baroque folklore and is actually a far cry from the style of Hammer House of Horror.

There is a fairytale quality to the film that comes through in the enchanting set pieces reminscent of the Polish Avantgarde.  And an absurdist aspect: the main characters of Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and Mr Shetal are ridiculous in a cleverly stylised way.  And the Midnight Ball scene has a surreal edge to it that’s extremely funny in parts.  There’s even a kinky vignette featuring Alfred with Count Von Krolock’s Herbert (Iain Quarrier) with homosexual undertones.

Krzysztof Komeda’s needling original score is delicately composed to be spine-chilling and light-hearted to leaven some of the more frightening scenes. And there are horrific moments particularly in the opening sequence. Ferdy Mayne manages to be both comical and sinister as the Count. Sharon Tate gives an inspired turn as Sarah Shetal, the damsel in distress. The part was originally intended for Jill St John but Sharon took over in a role that was to change the course of her life: she went on to marry Polanski.

Many disregard this film as unimportant largely due to its billing as a comedy spoof of heightened melodrama.  But it really belongs to a specialised horror genre and draws on the deviant strains of sixties art-horror such as the Castle of the LIving Dead (1960) or even the Polish film The Hour Glass Sanatorium (1973).  If you’re interested in Polanski and his ingenious work, then this film is one you absolutely have to see. MT


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