Saturday, 16 November 2013

Dracula: Dead And Loving It (1995)

Another dodgy film title and arguably Mel Brooks last decent spoof after a long career in film led to a brief spell in the theatre as things started to wind down. In fact this was Brooks last major film in which he starred and directed.

Now I must admit that when I first saw the film I didn't really like it much, the whole thing looked cheap, tacky and wasn't overly funny. But the strangest thing, like with other Brooks films, I have found myself appreciating it a lot more over the years.

Like his other spoofs this has pot shots at various classic vampire films over the years but the main target is of course the Lugosi gem. Its a real blend of styles which kinda works and kinda doesn't. Naturally the film is created with an old time appearance reminiscent of the 1931 film, but at the same time it has those great cheesy cardboard cutout visuals of Hammer horrors.

I personally think the film has a lot in common with 'Spaceballs' in the fact that it looks hammy but at the same time it also has some neat effects. The main negative aspect of the film in my opinion was most of the sets are obviously sets which is a bit off putting I can't deny and there is a distinct lack of scenic spooky landscapes or creepy castles which is a real shame. I realise the film is suppose to be low rent as it were but all Dracula flicks need some nice eerie real locations and spooky castles. Despite that there are some nice touches here and there, the low budget bat transformations of Dracula are kinda cute, lots of little homages and visual gags, everything has been over done, forced and blown out of proportions on purpose which is amusing, costumes are suitably stuffy and set the mood well, plus the casting is actually quite good.

Now I know you can't expect top rate acting in a Brooks spoof but there are still some nice little performances here. The best for me being MacNicol as the whimpering stir crazy 'Renfield'. The character does get a bit too loony tunes as the film progresses but initially I really like his stiff upper lipped Englishman when he first travels to see Dracula. The best scene must be when Renfield sits down with 'Dr Seward' for tea and ends up eating bugs. Not only that but the pronunciation of raspberries by Harvey korman in this sequence is hilarious.

Even though he has top billing the late great Nielsen wasn't the best thing here (the combination of him and Brooks together in films came too late in the day unfortunately). Bottom line Nielsen is miscast as Dracula, he doesn't look the part and he doesn't sound the part, but that's why he is perfect in the role. The fact he's completely wrong for the role makes it work, its just funny that he doesn't come across as a Dracula kind of guy and I think Nielsen knows that and uses it. Whilst watching I can't help but think Leslie is actually trying in certain scenes bless him, he does appear to actually go for it and really put on his best Lugosi/Dracula performance just for the hell of it, he's enjoying his chance in the role. End of the day only Nielsen could get away with this kind of deliberate miscasting, he was (and still is) such a popular lovable guy.

Brooks himself enters the fray as 'Van Helsing' and fits the role pretty well with his mock German, Jewish accent. In a sense he's playing the same characters as 'President Skroob' and 'Frederick Bronski' with similar facial hair but not as dumb. Yeah sure we've seen it all before with Brooks but if you're a fan then you won't complain. His best scene must be the stake through the heart sequence, simple but effective.

I do get the impression that Brooks is merely working his way through every genre he can and this film simply ticks a box on the list...pretty much like 'Men in Tights'. I also get the feeling he is trying to recapture the same level of success he achieved with 'Young Frankenstein' and the gothic horror genre. To be brutally honest most of the jokes have been used before in previous works but at least its not as childish as 'Men in Tights' and does offer some adult content. I won't say this parody is a great film, it doesn't really come close to previous Brooks films but its still mildly amusing and a must for fanboys.