My God, what are you doing to the furniture?
Well, we’ve made it this far. With only one week left of October, I’m starting to struggle to find appropriate films to watch and review. It’s not that there aren’t enough to choose from – if anything there’s way too much to choose from.
The problem is I don’t want to focus extensively on the ‘classics’ – nor do I only want to discuss modern horror movies. Instead, I feel the urge to dip into some of the less talked about films of the season.
Take Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (1975). Bring this up in conversation and anyone who knows it, loves it. Why wouldn’t you? As comedies go, it’s virtually peerless. Smart satire, great set pieces, outstanding performances and a whole host of well-earned awards.
And then there’s Dracula: Dead And Loving It (1995).
So Vhut Happens?
Closely following the story of the classic Dracula (1931), the film opens in Transylvania, 1893. Ignoring the warnings of the townsfolk, London Solicitor Thomas Renfield (Peter MacNichol) makes his way to Castle Dracula to finalise the sale of an English estate to the mysterious nobleman Count Dracula (Leslie Nielson).
On arrival at the ancient castle, Renfield is greeted by the Count in full Bram Stoker style. As he descends the cobwebbed staircase, the Count’s shadow leers threateningly toward Renfield. The Count’s demeanour is charming, but aloof. He is particularly impressive at keeping a straight face too, as he slips on bat droppings and tumbles down the stairs. As the Count himself says, “It vould take much more zhan zat to hurt me!” – unfortunately the same can’t be said of his shadow, who hobbles after the pair.
Later that night, Renfield is visited in the night by a pair of beautiful vampire maidens physically abusing the furniture.
When the Count arrives, he chastises them and hypnotises the suggestible Renfield into becoming his slave.
The pair embark for England, but are separated on arrival when Renfield is found alone on board a ship with a murdered crew. He is swiftly arrested and sent in an insane asylum, leaving Count Dracula to fend for himself in London.
At an Opera House, the Count introduces himself to the neighbours of his estate, Doctor Seward, the lunatic asylum’s resident enema enthusiast (Harvey Korman), his daughter Mina (Amy Yasbek), her fiancé Jonathan Harker (Steven Weber) and her ward, Lucy (Lysette Anthony).
The next morning, Lucy is pale and ill. Dr Seward identifies two strange puncture marks on her neck and requests the aid of Dr Abraham Van Helsing (Mel Brooks), an expert on obscure diseases. Dr Van Helsing quickly works out that the puncture marks are evidence of a vampire bite and so begins the hunt for the mysterious vampire in their midst…
As spoofs go, I personally think Dracula: Dead And Loving It is exceptional. I also realise I’m almost completely alone in my opinion, but hear me out here. Leslie Nielson is a master at playing the straight man in a stupid world – this film is no different. His growing frustration as things don’t work as expected never fails to produce a laugh – see the scene in the Opera House or during his attempt to hypnotise Mina, but ends up with the maid instead as an example.
The interaction between characters also stands out to me – with the exception of Mel Brooks, who doesn’t seem to be giving on all cylinders in this film. Perhaps it’s just his delivery when set against English actors in full ham that doesn’t sit right, but several of his lines seem to fall flat when they should be laugh out loud funny.
Peter MacNichol’s performance as Renfield is possibly what sells the film, but the campy, slapstick tone throughout makes this an incredibly fun way to spend an hour and a half.
But wait, there’s more!
As mentioned, check out this wonderful performance by Peter MacNichol as he tries to prove his sanity with Dr Seward. Pure comedy.
Yours, A P Tyler