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Dracula:Dead and Loving It
Mel Brooks has a string of wonderfully funny and popular films in the mid to late seventies: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, and the sketch based History of the World: Part I were all great comedies and most of them are considered classics today. (He also the creator and a writer on the short lived TV show When Things Were Rotten (1975,) a show that I loved when it originally aired. I was apparently the only one, as it was cancelled in mid-season.) But Mel's work went downhill as time went on. The 1990's were particularly dry with Mel writing/directing three theatrical releases, none of which were as successful as his earlier triumphs. The last of these, and the last movie that Mr. Brooks has directed was 1995's Dracula, Dead and Loving It, which is now available on DVD.
This is a spoof of the Dracula movies of yore. Both the Tod Browning version and the Coppola film are lampooned, with a slight tip of the hat to just about every other vampire movie from the last 70 years. The film follows the original movie fairly closely. Renfield (Peter MacNicol) travels to Transylvania to finalize the sale of an estate in London to Count Dracula (Leslie Nielsen.) While there, the horrors that he faces drive him insane and he becomes Dracula's loyal assistant. The pair travel to London by boat, and once there Dracula encounters the lovely Mina (Amy Yasbeck) her fiancé Jonathan Harker (Steven Weber) and their friend Lucy (Lysette Anthony.) Infatuated by the girls, Dracula succedes in turning Lucy and starts to feed on Mina when her father, Dr. Seward (Harvey Korman,) calls in his friend and expert on the occult Dr. Van Helsing (Mel Brooks.)
The difference between this and all the countless other Dracula movies is that Mel Brooks is at the helm. This is a comedy, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. All of the classic lines from Dracula are included, but they are turned on their ear. When offered a glass of wine, Dracula states, "I never drink...wine. Oh, what the hell, let me try it!" Like most of Brooks' movies, there is a lot of sexual innuendo and racy jokes, but there is also some good old-fashioned corny humor. One example is when Harker and Van Helsing track the vampire Lucy to her coffin and open it:
Harker: She's dead!
Van Helsing: No.
Harker: She's alive?
Van Helsing: She's nosferatu.
Harker: She's Italian?!?
Hokey, yes, but it gets a laugh. The problem is that these laughs do not come frequently enough. The scene in the crypt was great, as was the scene where Dracula has hypnotized Mina and the nurse guarding her and the instructions that he's giving them keep getting misinterpreted. Aside from that many of the jokes were pretty minor and not very original. Dracula hitting his head as he rises from his coffin is slightly amusing, but not really funny.
Leslie Nielsen tried, but couldn't quite give this film the life (pun intended) that it needed. He was saddled with delivering all his lines in a phony Bela Lugosi accent, that wasn't really funny the first time he spoke and quickly got annoying. Peter MacNicol did a great job as Renfield, playing the part with the same tone that Dwight Frye did in the 1931 version. He did a great job.
Overall, this is a minor film. There just weren't enough big laughs to carry the film. There are too many setups that just never pay off, like when Renfield cuts his finger at Dracula's castle. Instead of a few drops of blood, he bleeds profusely, but there isn't a punch line to the joke. Like the 1931 movie Dracula desired to drink the blood but doesn't. That's where the punch line should have gone, but they couldn't think one up, which is too bad because the film had potential.
The stereo surround sound audio track was standard. It didn't contain anything that would really show off your system, but there were no defects either. The dialog was easy to hear and there wasn't any hiss or distortion. Pretty average all around, which isn't bad.
The anamorphically enhanced widescreen image looked very good. The blacks were nice and solid, and there weren't any digital defects worth noting. The picture had a good amount of detail and the colors were accurate. This was a perfectly acceptable transfer.
There was a commentary by director/co-writer Mel Brooks, co-writers Rudy De Luca and Steve Haberman, and actors Steven Weber and Any Yasbeck. The commentary was apparently done in two groups and then spliced together. Steven Weber and Any Yasbeck were in one session and the rest of the group in another. I was a little disappointed in the commentary track. Mel Brooks didn't talk a great deal about his philosophy of comedy or even crack many jokes, which is what I was hoping for. They talked more about the actors who made cameos, and the various Dracula movies that they spoofed. Ironically they decided to film the movie in color because the great Dracula movies that Hammer made were in color, but those film weren't lampooned much in the movie at all. The actors talk about working with Harvey Corman and the other starts in the film, and joke around a lot. Overall it wasn't a great commentary, but it did have its moments, just like the film.
There was also a theatrical trailer to the film.
This wasn't Mel Brooks' greatest work. It had some very funny moments, but they weren't frequent enough. This movie just didn't have enough funny jokes to carry the whole 90 minutes. A lot of the humor was a little old and of similar to the jokes you'd find on a TV sitcom. I actually liked Men in Tights a little better than this movie. Hard-core Brooks fans will surely want this, since it does have its moments, but others should Rent it.