It was going to happen sooner or later. I was going to come across the first of the parody/comedy films that sprang up around vampires as I continue to work my way through the highly enjoyable Monsters in the Movies written by John Landis, and released through DK Canada.
So it’s time to let Mel Brooks drive a stake through the vampiric legend with his light-hearted take on the Dracula story that skewers the original Bram Stoker tale as well as vampire films in general.
Leslie Nielsen is Dracula this time around, with Peter MacNicol as his Renfield. Steven Weber is Harker, Amy Yasbeck is his Mina, while Lysette Anthony plays their friend Lucy, and Harvey Korman is Dr. Seward. Brooks saves the most enjoyable role (outside of Dracula) for himself, that of Van Helsing.
Nielsen’s turn as Dracula is pretty basic, he dons a silly Lugosi accent, and is very aware of the jokes that are going on.
The plot follows the story loosely, and makes nods to the films that influenced it, even as he makes fun of them. There are even line lifts from some of the classic Dracula films, as nods to the classic Universal, Hammer, and modern takes soak the screen.
There’s goofy humour, wordplay, slapstick, and innuendo, heaving bosoms in bodices, English accents, silly and good effects (the simple effect of Carfax Abbey works wonderfully), and a cast that looks like it’s having a fairly good time.
There isn’t a lot of scene-chewing going on, except for maybe MacNicol, but that seems like an intentional choice. In fact except for a few effects and moments it feels almost like a stage play, which again, harkens back to the fact that before the 1931 film, Dracula was a theatrical play based on Stoker’s novel.
Brooks doesn’t overdo it, either as director, or actor, and the film, seen within the context of all the vampire films I’ve recently watched, is pretty on the nose. No version of the film is safe, and for all that, it actual works.
That is not to say this is an outstanding vampire film, or a brilliant comedy, but it is fun, coming as it has right in the midst of all the nosferatu I’ve been exposed to. It’s far from Brooks’ best film, but it does feel like a nice homage to classic Dracula films.
DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies continues to entertain, and it’s been a complete joy to sink my fangs into it. So if you’re looking for something with teeth, pick up a copy today and find something macabre to watch tonight!