Our rating: 3 out of 5
reviewed by: Charity Bishop
I enjoy a good parody, particularly at the expense of a character that I love. Call it cynicism or a healthy sense of mockery, but movies like Love at First Bite and Dracula: Dead and Loving It amuse me to no end. Mel Brooks is known for his sarcastic humor, and this is no different. Our poor count gets mercilessly hounded by problems his predecessors never had to face.
A coach drives in a mad panic down a narrow country road, its occupants thrown from one end to the other in the desperate dash to get to the village before darkness falls. Inside is Renfield (Peter MacNicol), a London solicitor delivering papers to the local castle, to be signed by Count Dracula (Leslie Nielsen). The infamous count has quite a reputation among the locals, who mutter about vampires and force Renfield into taking a cross with him on his journey. There's a little something odd about his host, who just about goes ballistic when Renfield cuts himself and starts squirting blood in all directions, and can walk through spider webs without disturbing them. Then there are the mysterious, sinister, seductive women that attack him in the middle of the night.
Toting Renfield along as his slave, Dracula journeys to Whitby in the English countryside and takes up residence in the melancholy Carfax Abby, not far from the local asylum and its keepers. Making the acquaintance of Dr. Seward (Harvey Korman) and his lovely daughter Mina (Amy Yasbeck) at the opera, Dracula is immediately drawn to her dear friend Lucy (Lysette Anthony). When she is found drained of her blood the following morning, Jonathan Harker (Steven Weber) and Dr. Seward call in the renowned Van Helsing (Mel Brooks) to investigate. Harboring dark suspicions as to their neighbor, Van Helsing attempts to prevent Dracula from draining Mina as well, amidst a fantastic array of puns, light jabs at earlier adaptations and the book, and a few outrageously funny pranks. It's not that the movie is hilarious from beginning to end, it just knows where the best gags are. And they come when you're least expecting it. Dracula rising majestically from his coffin -- and banging his head on a low-hanging chandelier.
Turning into an accident-prone bat. Stepping in guano and falling down a flight of stairs. Not to mention Jonathan's "repressed British sensibilities," and Renfield eating bugs. A few of the jokes are crude in nature, but for the most part they rely on timing. What I loved most was the subtle nods to other famous portrayals. Walking through the spider web is right out of the Bela Lagosi version, along with a stupid valet at the theatre, who is hypnotized to deliver the count's message, and instead promptly forgets it. Nielsen's hammy line, "You are a wise man, Professor, for one who has not lived even a single lifetime!", along with crawling down the outside wall of the asylum head-first, is a comic rip-off of Frank Langella's film in the '70's. The best one, however, is the gag on Gary Oldman and his ridiculous white wig.
No Brooks film would be without complications, and the primary fault lies with sexual gags. Dr. Seward is very fond of prescribing enemas to his patients. Our introduction to Van Helsing has him slicing open a corpse (not seen) and pulling out the intestines, which he passes around to his students (all of whom faint). The last one standing is handed a brain. The women display exorbitant amounts of cleavage. Lucy reveals more while propositioning Jonathan. Two buxom vampire brides come into Renfield's room in the middle of the night, climb on top of him, and start wriggling around -- after moaning and caressing the furniture. Renfield sneaks into Lucy's room and lifts up the sheet to peer underneath, then makes a quip about having seen "everything." Mina behaves seductively toward Jonathan and tries to get him to touch her. Without thinking, he brushes her breast, then jumps back in horror. She then gets him to embrace her backside just as her father walks in. The most offensive scene is when Dracula is dancing with Mina, and their shadows (separate from their actual actions) hump one another.
Language is nonexistent except for one use of ***hole, one mild profanity, and
three mild abuses of deity. Jonathan drives a stake through Lucy (unseen) and
blood spurts ten feet in the air, drenching him and the surroundings. The film,
while being a shameless parody, sticks fairly close to the original novel. Not
everyone will appreciate its hilarity, but fans of Mel Brooks or those just
looking for a laugh or two will find it amusing enough.