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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 346: Dracula: Dead And Loving It

Dracula: Dead And Loving It
His cape is bigger on the inside

I love to laugh and make people laugh. Nothing makes me happier than having a room full of people laugh at a smart, thoughtful, well-timed joke. Some of my favorite funny people include George Carlin, Lewis Black, Patton Oswalt, Demetri Martin, and good friend/former roommate Drew Mayer (follow him at @mayercomedy). My all-time most favorite funnyman, though, has to be Mel Brooks. He always manages to make me laugh, even if it's with a funny look or a goofy voice. His movies have greatly influenced my own sense of humor throughout the years. His combination for smart jokes, slapstick, and visual humor makes for a thoroughly enjoyable watch. You may be wondering why I'm heaping huge praise on a comedian when this is a horror review blog. Well, Mel Brooks is no stranger to horror. His movie Young Frankenstein has become immensely popular over the years and was even made into a Broadway musical. Everyone knows and loves that movie. I'd like to focus on a not-so-beloved Mel Brooks movie featuring another funny man, Leslie Nielsen.

Dracula: Dead And Loving It is a 1995 horror comedy starring Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun, Creepshow) as Dracula and Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Robin Hood: Men In Tights) as Abraham van Helsing. The movie spoofs the classic 1931 Dracula film, following the story relatively closely. Solicitor Thomas Renfield (Peter MacNicol, Ghostbusters II, Ally McBeal) travels to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula to finalize his purchase of Carfax Abbey in England. When he reaches a nearby village, the villagers (Anne Bancroft and Chuck McCann) warn Renfield that Count Dracula is actually a vampire and with the sun setting, they will not take him to the castle. Unconcerned and with a schedule (pronounced “shedule” by Renfield) to keep, Renfield proceeds on foot to Dracula's Castle. Dracula puts Renfield under a hypnotic spell, turning him into a slave that subsists only on bugs. They travel to England and when the boat docks, all the crew have vanished except for Renfield. He is committed to an insane asylum run by Doctor Seward (Harvey Korman, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety). That night, Dracula visits the opera where he introduces himself to Dr. Seward who happens to be his new neighbor. He also meets Dr. Seward's daughter Mina (Amy Yasbeck, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, The Mask) and her friend Lucy (Lysette Anthony, Krull, The Advocate). That night, Dracula goes to Lucy's room and bites her. The next day, she is inexplicably exhausted and sick, so Dr. Seward calls on Dr. Abraham van Helsing, an expert on obscure diseases. Van Helsing explains that she has been bitten by a vampire and covers her room with garlic. That night, Dracula breaks Renfield out of his asylum to remove the garlic. He is captured and returned to the asylum while Dracula bites Lucy again and turns her into a vampire. Van Helsing and Mina's fiance Jonathan Harker (Steven Weber, Wings, Farm House) kill Lucy with a stake to the heart while Dracula eventually bites Mina. Will Jonathan and van Helsing be able to stop Dracula before it's too late?

I make the same face when I find out the deli is out of knishes

If this movie sounds just like the 1931 Dracula, it's not a coincidence. Other spoofs by Brooks, such as Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs, had managed to create their own stories while poking fun at the originals. Dracula: Dead And Loving It is more faithful to the source material with just a few little asides here and there. It's perfectly fine because the focus of the movie is more to make you laugh than to make you enjoy the story. For those that have seen Dracula, it may be slightly boring to have to sit through a story you already know. The jokes come quickly, with a mixture of physical comedy, word play, clever asides and all the other hallmarks of Mel Brooks' work. There's even the usual sprinkling of Jewish and Yiddish humor which no doubt will leave some gentiles scratching their heads. For those aware of that type of humor, it's highly enjoyable, as always. Still, the jokes are fairly “by the book”. Those accustomed to Brooks' wackiness in movies like History Of The World Part I and Silent Movie may be a little disappointed with Dracula: Dead And Loving It's straightforward nature.

While the story is nothing special and there's no scares to speak of, the performances from the cast help move the film along. Leslie Nielsen is fun and occasionally hammy, but in a good way. Fans of his Naked Gun movies will enjoy him immensely. Mel Brooks is his usual funny self while never hogging the spotlight. Amy Yasbeck is good as well, though I would have liked her to have a bigger role. She was great as Maid Marian, so it's not like she wasn't capable of having a larger role. The same could be said for Steven Weber as Jonathan Harker. Despite being a comedy, there is one scene that contains more blood than many horror movies. When Jonathan kills Lucy, blood literally explodes all over him multiple times. Other than that, there isn't much action of violence to speak of. There are some pratfalls and physical comedy thrown around for good measure just to keep the audience visually stimulated. The sets look OK, but tend to have a fakeness to them that takes away from the overall movie.

"Uhhhhh...she tripped!"

Dracula: Dead And Loving It may not be the best Mel Brooks movie, but it's still very funny. There are many negative reviews out there, but I feel that the movie has gotten better with age. The jokes are still capable of making people laugh which is more than what most new movies can do. I would take this movie over any of those Date Movie, Superhero Movie, Meet The Spartans crapfests. There isn't much story to speak of and if you've seen the 1931 Dracula, you already know what is going to happen. If you need something fun to watch, but still want a touch of traditional horror, Dracula: Dead And Loving It is worth your time.


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