Produced under the name Burnin' Love and barely released in early 1988, the low-budget but aimin' to please Love at Stake is a lowbrow and scattershot little spoof. Nestled amidst an 86-minute litany of obvious farce and cornball chuckles, there's a solid handful of truly funny bits. Whether or not they're actually worth hunting for I'll leave up to you.
Starring a bunch of familiar faces like Kelly Preston, Bud Cort, David Graf, Barbara Carrera, Stuart Pankin, and Dave Thomas (with cameos by Anne Ramsey and Dr. Joyce Brothers), Love at Stake aims to be an Airplane!-level parody of the infamous Salem Witch Trials. And while it certainly does succeed as a comedy about the Salem Witch Trials, it's highly unlikely that anyone would mistake Love at Stake for a Zucker Abrahams Zucker production.
Basically, Pankin and Thomas are a devious judge and mayor who aim to steal a bunch of real estate by starting a literal witch hunt. Dead witches leave empty houses, which can then be bought up for a bargain. At first the plan works fine, but when the devious bastards accuse the lovely Sara Lee (Preston) of witchcraft, her noble boyfriend won't hear of it! And of course there's a wild assortment of various goofballs wandering through the story, each stopping just long enough to deliver a punchline or a pratfall.
Most of the material in Love at Stake is hackneyed at best, downright painful at worst, but there's something to be said for the cast assembled here. Pankin & Thomas make a fitfully funny duo, while Preston shows off some fine comedy chops and Bud Cort scores a few bizarre zingers as a blind pastor. Too bad then that the flick feels the need to rely on painfully bad flatulence humor and pointless raunch whenever things slow down. And, despite a punchy first act, Love at Stake slows down a whole hell of a lot.
Fans of the actors involved may want to check Love at Stake out, if only as a 99-cent rental. It's a fairly obscure little spooflet from the late '80s that just might wring a few chuckles out of you, but certainly not much more than a few.
Video: Kudos to MGM-Sony for releasing the flick in its original widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio, especially considering the thing played, what, 102 theaters? Picture quality is predictably fuzzy and flat, although not all that awful.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English, with optional subtitles in English and French.
Extras: Just a bunch of trailers for Bewitched: The TV Series, Creature Comforts, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Urban Legends: Bloody Mary.
These corny little rapid-fire goofy spoofs are only as good as they are funny. You might pop this disc into your player and spit out a solid 19 belly laughs. Me, I could only come up with three or four chuckles, a few bemused grins, and a whole lot of eyeball-rolls.