Tuesday, August 27, 2013
LOVE AT FIRST BITE
(April 1979, U.S.)
If you go back in time on my blog and look up my post for the 1979 film version of DRACULA, you'll note that I pointed out how the year 1979 seemed the year of the vampire on screen and on television (look it up for yourself to see what I'm talking about). The art of spoof was not spared for Bram Stoker's legendary character, either. Unlike Mel Brooks' horrible screen swan song of DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (1995), actor George Hamilton brings an irresistible charm and wit to the great Count without forgetting the ridiculous and the outrageous, as well. And quite frankly, Arte Johnson as the ever-eccentric, bug-eating Renfield is definitely worth your time and attention.
So as modern times would have it, LOVE AT FIRST BITE brings Dracula to New York City during the era of disco and excessive crime in the streets; in short, it's 1979, people! While Dracula is learning that America contains such modern wonders as hearses and blood banks, he also proceeds to suffer the general ego-crushing that comes from modern life in the Big Apple as he romantically pursues flaky fashion model Cindy Sondheim (played by Susan Saint James), whom he has admired from afar and believes to be the current reincarnation of his true love (an earlier being named Mina Harker that any Dracula lover knows from the original book and films). Dracula is ineptly pursued in turn by Sondheim's psychiatrist and quasi-boyfriend Jeffrey Rosenberg (played by Richard Benjamin). Jeffrey, as it turns out, is the grandson of Dracula's old nemesis Van Helsing but changed his name to Rosenberg "for professional reasons". Rosenberg's numerous methods to combat Dracula - mirrors, garlic, the Jewish Star of David (which he accidentally uses instead of the necessary crucifix) and hypnosis - are easily averted by the Count. He also, subsequently, tries to shoot him with three silver bullets, but Dracula remains unscathed, patiently explaining that this works only on werewolves. Yes, it would seem that Rosenberg just hasn't done his homework on how to kill a vampire, has he? His increasingly erratic actions against Dracula have put Dracula in the unique position of being the good guy in this film. And why not? He's funny and we enjoy the crazy antics. So why wouldn't we root for him and his lady love in the end, even if she does end up a flying bat of the night just like the Count? And hey, keep a watchful eye out for cameo roles by Mr. and Mrs. George Jefferson themselves!
As a comedy of spoof, the film is rather straightforward and doesn't have any pretensions at all and serves as a simple hodgepodge of flat one-liners and graceless slapstick without being stupid or overdone, as in the above mentioned Mel Brooks Dracula spoof! I saw this film with my family twice in the theaters (we sat for it a second time back when you could still do that!) and it was the first time I'd ever heard the classic disco song "I Love the Nightlife" by Alicia Bridges. Sadly, though, for some unknown reason, this song is substituted by a different disco song during Dracula's disco dance scene on the DVD. Why can't the studios just leave films alone and as they originally were at the time of their release??
Favorite line or dialogue:
Count Dracula (to the howling werewolves beyond): "Children of the night...SHUT UP!"