Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dracula - Dead and Loving it – review

Director: Mel Brooks

Release Date: 1995

contains spoilers

Sometimes, amongst all the darkness and the blood, you just need to laugh. “Dracula – Dead and Loving It” is capable of providing such laughter. In many respects it is a typical Mel Brooks movie, though, even if you are not a fan of Brooks' work, if you are a fan of the vampire genre you may find much to tickle your funny bone.

I seemed to remember that this was much maligned by the critics when it was released and a quick look at the “rotten Tomatoes” site confirmed that, the film scoring just 4%. This, I feel, is unjustly harsh.

The film came out three years after “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and drew certain similes with that movie. The movie poster certainly aped the early films promotional material, and such things as Dracula’s (Leslie Nielsen) funky hair – in this film actually a bizarre hat - and the actions of the shadow being independent to the Count were certainly spoofed from Coppola’s vision. However the majority of the film warmly spoofs Universals 1931 “Dracula”, from Dracula’s evening wear down to the very elements of the plot. It is this comedic tribute to the ’31 film that makes the film so enjoyable.

As for the plot, it is probably a useless exercise going through it point by point as it is so well known. It is more pertinent to focus on some of the set pieces, gags and performances.

One of the stand out scenes, that comes early in the film, is Renfield (Peter MacNicol) being accosted by the voluptuous vampire brides. (Bear in mind that in the ’31 plot it is Renfield and not Harker who travels to Transylvania.) In this scene the brides have been cut down from three to two and they glide into Renfield’s room as ethereal music plays. The main joke comes as Dracula orders the brides from the room, out they glide, once again accompanied by ethereal music. “Stop that!” orders the Count, the music stops and the brides stomp through the door.

Lucy is played by Lysette Anthony and Mina played by Amy Yasbeck. Both play the proper English woman well, and, in true Hammer style, after being bitten by the Count both become wanton. Harker (Steven Weber) is wonderfully dense and his stiff upper lip is something to behold. When the undead Lucy comes on to him, he cries “Please, Lucy! I’m British!”. “So are these,” drawls the vampiress, drawing his horrified attention to her heaving bosom. As for Dr Seward (Harvey Korman), well suffice it to say that he is obsessed with giving his patients enemas.

However, two of the best performances come from Nielsen as Dracula and Brooks as Van Helsing, both comedy veterans. In the film Van Helsing offers a truly unique (within the vampire genre) method of disposing of a vampire, “…cut off her head, stuff her mouth with garlic and tear off her ears.”

Unlike the ’31 film, Van Helsing does not spot that Dracula casts no reflection in a small hand mirror, in this film the mirror is huge and at a ball. This leads to a scene of Dracula and Mina dancing, yet in the mirror Mina dances alone. Of course this is scene is not unique but Harker’s comment is a pearl, “She's doing quite well without him, isn't she?”

The best performance, by far, is that given by MacNicol as Renfield, manic at times, barely refined at others, the performance owes much to Dwight Frye’s performance in the ’31 film and yet stretches beyond that in a wonderfully slapstick way.

“Dracula – Dead and Loving It” is not the only vampire comedy on the market, and it is not necessarily my favorite. However, I do have a real fondness for it and think it deserves seven out of ten.

The imdb is here.


Anonymous said...

Some say the good parody is actually a homage. I think this is true in the case of Dracula - dead and loving it. It has wonderful vampires-go-gothic look honed after Hammer films and 1992 Dracula: opulent period sets (which look very much like sets!), dazzling colours and lightning, lovely ladies in frilly costumes, grand mock-serious score... and vampires, of course. A gem.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Christine, I really cannot disagree. Many thanks for the comment.

The T said...

Not my favorite Mel Brooks movie but Nielsen is so great he makes it watchable.

Some of the rest of the acting (with the exceptions you mention which i agree with) could've been improved upon, though...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The T, for some reason I do love this film... there are certainly more consistent Brooks films out there - that said there also some he did that are a lot worse than this...

The T said...

Robin *cough!* Hood *cough!*

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Great minds think alike... fools rarely differ...


That is just the film that came to mind