DraculaFest: Dead and Loving It

Mel Brooks. Leslie Nielsen. Harvey Korman. Do I even need to write this? Anyone mystified at how this will turn out?

My neck, my back

My neck, my back

Dracula: Dead and Loving it (1995) is the successor to Spaceballs, a send-up of Dracula timed to ride the coattails of Coppola’s film. It’s silly, irreverent and not all that concerned with telling a story. But then, you knew that. Arch acting, pun-laden screenwriting, it ticks all the boxes you’d expect from a Naked Gun/Blazing Saddles crossover. The only question that really matters in a situation like this is, of course, is it laugh-out-loud funny?

In spots.

It’s hard to imagine Leslie Nielsen as a serious actor before Airplane! turned his career on its head. Here he continues the “don’t call me Shirley” schtick he perfected with the Zuckers; surprisingly, he’s not the most over-the-top Dracula out there. But you don’t need to see the film to imagine his performance. Ditto Brooks as the latest Van Helsing and Korman as Dr. Seward, who believes in the enema as a cure for all ailments. This legendary trio deliver what you’d expect of them, but only Peter MacNicol seems to be having fun as the demented Renfield. Then again, the character of Renfield borders on parody even in the most austere productions.

Same bat-time, same bat-channel

Same bat-time, same bat-channel

Somewhat surprisingly, Loving It veers in the opposite direction of Love at First Bite and follows the standard Stoker narrative for the most part. Things get off to a rocky start with a mundane setup, then pick up as the count moves to England and the other loons get introduced. We get a few laugh-out-loud moments: Dracula attempting to mind-control both Lucy (Lysette Anthony) and her maid at the same time (“No, you sit down!”); Renfield gobbling insects while Seward looks away. The overall effect, however, is not enough yucks per minute. Considering the film’s only value is in its hilarity, it’s strangely muted at times. It does continue the Dracula parody tradition of extended ballroom dancing sequences, which is interesting considering dancing is nowhere to be found in the original. A few of the sight gags provide chuckles, like the vampire bat sporting Inspector Drebin’s head. As Nielsen antics go, I prefer the Zuckers’ willingness to wallow in the mud for a good laugh. (Top Secret! is a classic! I went there!) Loving It is a bit too polite for its own good and feels like it’s pulling its punches by remaining firmly in “take my wife, please” territory.

As with Bite, you already know whether you’ll be watching this one. And you pretty much know how much you’ll enjoy it, too. Dracula, Dead and Loving It ekes out .5 out of 2 fangs out. Funny in places, but not really my cuppa.

Next up: New territory!