Sunday, October 8, 2017

Dracula Month Day 8: Dracula: Dead and Loving It

Confession time: I'm not that into Young Frankenstein (1974). Perhaps I saw it too late in life, too long after I'd heard it repeatedly referenced in other works, too long after I read review after glowing review. Comedy is, of course, subjective, but I simply did not laugh too often while watching that film. Regardless, there are other Mel Brooks pictures which I found very funny (at least, I did when I was a teenager) and my teenage self enjoyed Leslie Nielsen films; getting those two together to satirize Dracula should have been a slam-dunk for me, right?

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) parodied the 1931 film much as Brooks' Young Frankenstein parodied the 1931 Universal Frankenstein (with a lot of Bride of Frankenstein & Son of Frankenstein thrown in). While I think the earlier Brooks film is okay, Dracula: Dead and Loving It is, in my opinion, a misfire and the critical response & box office seem to agree with me. No doubt part of this is down to the source material; Karloff's Frankenstein films are not only remembered for their performances but for specific set-pieces which Brooks was able to parody; Lugosi's Dracula is only truly memorable for Lugosi's performance, not for any particular set-pieces. And yet, Brooks went to considerable trouble to recreate the 1931 Dracula, down to the tiresome drawing room scenes, Renfield journeying to Transylvania, etc. Although one assumes this film was made in part because of the success of Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula film in 1992 Brooks only referenced that picture in two gags, one where Nielsen sported a similar hairstyle as Gary Oldman's Dracula, then removed the hair, revealing it to be a wig (that's a joke! you're supposed to laugh!) and a parody of Lucy's death scene where the joke is that her body unleashes a torrent of blood when staked.

I was the target audience for this film as in 1995 I was very much into Universal monster films, Mel Brooks & Leslie Nielsen, but the reviews kept even me away. Watching it is a dismal affair; there was a lot of talent in this picture but it was in the service of an unfunny script. It seems to be the end of Brooks' career as a director, which is an awful way to go out.

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