Between his 1962 debut A Knife in the Water and the 1968 blockbuster Rosemary’s Baby, Roman Polanski directed three movies—Repulsion, Cul-de-Sac, and Dance of the Vampires (a.k.a. The Fearless Vampire Killers)—that remain a crucial but too often overlooked piece of his filmography. In this remarkable behind-the-scenes look at the director's early output, Jordan Young gives us a revealing look at Polanski at work in the years before his rise to global renown. Drawing on new research and interviews with principals on both sides of the camera—including direct access to the director—Young shares eye-opening, freshly unearthed details. We witness Polanski making movies under some of the worst possible conditions, contending with financing nightmares (both Repulsion and Cul-de-Sac were underwritten by exploitation-film peddlers), poisonous enmities amongst cast and crew, and collaborators who, in the director's words, "did their best to make me feel like a monster." Polanski the provocateur is in full view here, placing actors in physical peril and deploying such unusual methods as slaughtering chickens to provide real blood for a death scene. While never shying away from unflattering or shocking details, Young still provides a nuanced and measured portrait of his subject—a rare look at a controversial artist in the act of creation.
Jordan R. Young is a journalist, film historian, and playwright whose work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, travel guides, and online media. He has written twelve books and more than one thousand articles. His work has been published in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post. Young has written special material for the Grammy Awards and has served as a consultant for BBC Radio. His plays have been produced Off-Off Broadway and in Hollywood. He is a native of Los Angeles.
"This scholarly interpretation of Polanski’s work will be appreciated by his most devoted fans and cinephiles who appreciate ’60s films.”—Library Journal
"Short but detail-packed ... While Young’s reporting on Polanski’s longtime collaborations with the likes of writer Gérard Brach or experimental jazz musician Krzysztof Komeda ... offers keen insight into his creative process, the author’s best passages focus on the day-to-day practicalities behind making a movie (and how a little bit of improvisation can offer a quick fix)."—Film International
"With his vivid history of the film’s troubled production and colorful accounts of the remarkable talents who created it, Young makes a powerful case for renewed appreciation of this darkly glowing jewel and the tenacious brilliance of its rebellious young auteur.”—Quarterly Review of Film and Video
"The life and career of Roman Polanski have been documented in exhausting detail over the last several decades, but Jordan Young finds new ground to cover by turning his attention to a crucial era in Polanski’s development. Specifically, Young outlines the production and release of three films: Repulsion, Cul-de-Sac, and Dance of the Vampires (a.k.a., The Fearless Vampire Killers)."
“Roman Polanski: Behind the Scenes of His Classic Early Films is a fascinating look at Polanski’s formative years in Swinging London—a vital chapter in the director’s career, long before his reputation would become forever mired in controversy. Jordan Young draws upon both insightful archival material and an impressive series of personal interviews with Polanski’s colleagues and collaborators to provide a highly entertaining and revealing account of the making of Repulsion, Dance of the Vampires, and the neglected masterpiece Cul-de-Sac, which brought both the filmmaker and British cinema to the forefront of the thriving international film scene in the 1960s.”—Christopher Weedman, co-editor, Adult Themes: British Cinema and the "X" Certificate in the Long 1960s
“In our era of political and personal polarization, powerful artists are regularly taken down for all-too-human weaknesses. Director Roman Polanski exemplifies the tragedy of flawed genius. In this book, Young's approach to Polanski's work is refreshingly honest and fascinatingly informative in its celebration and critique of the rare brilliance and clay feet of artist and man.”—Grant Hayter-Menzies, author, The Belle of Amherst: A Portrait of the Play That Made Emily Dickinson a Household Name
“The bulk of this essential film book concentrates on the 1966 crazed fruit Cul-de-Sac. It's a paranoid, schizophrenic exercise in psychopathy 101. The movie . . . perfectly conforms to events both behind-the-camera, and those being filmed before it. Seriously, folks, you have to read this to believe it. It's one exhilarating, jaw-dropping ride.”—Mel Neuhaus, author of Noir Voyager: Film Noir Movie Reviews from Supervistaramacolorscope
“Jordan Young’s detailed study offers multiple entry points into the cascading array of perverse ironies and ironic perversities that make Roman Polanski’s legendary Cul-de-Sac a tour de force of norm-breaking 1960s cinema. With his vivid history of the film’s troubled production and colorful accounts of the remarkable talents who created it, Young makes a powerful case for renewed appreciation of this darkly glowing jewel and the tenacious brilliance of its rebellious young auteur.”—David Sterritt, editor-in-chief, Quarterly Review of Film and Video
“A fascinating examination ... I would highly recommend the book to anyone with an interest in Polanski and his work.”—It Came from the Bottom Shelf