Judge Patrick Naugle's reaction to this Mel Brooks horror/comedy flop is roughly the same as a vampire's reaction to garlic.
"Listen to them…children of the night. What a mess they make!" And with those immortal words, Mel Brooks skewers Bram Stoker's immortal (pun intended) Dracula, as well as Francis Ford Coppola's film, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the 1931 Bela Lugosi classic of the same name.
In Dracula: Dead and Loving It, the Count (Leslie Nielsen, The Naked Gun) enlists the help of Renfield (Peter MacNicol, Addams Family Values), who falls under the Count's spell (this includes eating spiders and other assorted bugs). Dracula soon leaves his home in Transylvania in hopes of purchasing property in England, where he finds a formidable foe in the person of Professor Van Helsing (Brooks), the only man who knows the true secrets of the vampires. The Count moves in next door to a sanitarium run by Dr. Seward (Harvey Korman, High Anxiety), who lives with his daughter, Mina (Amy Yasbeck, Problem Child). When the count claims a victim being treated by Dr. Seward, Van Helsing is called in to track down the culprit and destroy the vampire menace forever!
Oh, Mel…sometimes when I'm watching your newer movies (anything after Spaceballs), I get the sense that someone sucked the comedic lifeblood from your veins. I'm not trying to imply that you're not still a funny guy—I'm just saying that something feels like it's missing in your movies from the 1990s. Did you run out of inspiration? Has the well dried up?
1995's Dracula: Dead and Loving It is a prime example of Brooks at his least funny. I know there are purists out there who will send me irate e-mails telling me I am insane, as if I have peed upon some sacred ground. But the sad fact is that Dracula: Dead and Loving It is a truly unfunny movie. Are there a few light laughs? Yes, a few, and that's about it. The comedic high point of the film is watching Steven Weber (an actor I wouldn't consider to be of sufficient caliber for Brooks's comedy) drive a stake through the heart of a vampire as blood explodes all around him. Har-har-har. If that sounds endlessly hysterical to you, then by all means snag yourself a copy of this movie. Me? I would much prefer Brooks's far better horror parody Young Frankenstein, a film that knew its sources and how to skewer them with both wit and love.
One of the main problems with Dracula: Dead and Loving It is that Leslie Nielsen doesn't fit the role of Count Dracula. It's as if some casting director whispered into Mel's ear, "Hey, Leslie's on a hot streak right now…let's use him!" More inspired casting would have called for an actor who really fit the role—someone younger who wasn't already a parody of himself. Alas, Nielsen recycles much of his old shtick from The Naked Gun and its sequels (banging his head into a chandelier, running into a window while the Count is a bat, ad nauseum). Other actors do a better job (Harvey Korman is fairly amusing as a doctor who wants to give everyone an enema), but none of them are standouts. In fact, they all seem to be in on the movie's joke, which is often the death nail in the coffin of satire.
Let's just hope Dracula: Dead and Loving It isn't the death nail in the career of Mel Brooks.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Warner has done a great job with this transfer—the colors and black levels are all spot-on and accurately rendered. The black levels appear to be solid without any graying in the image. In fact, try as I might, I never spotted any major defects; dirt, grain, and edge enhancement are all absent from this print. Overall, fans will be happy to see this transfer in very good shape.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround in English. Unfortunately, the soundtrack isn't as good as the video transfer. Though the dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly heard and well mixed, I am a bit surprised that Warner didn't give this less-than-10-year-old film a new 5.1 remix. All aspects of the mix are free of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It doesn't sport a lot in the way of extra features. The only meaty supplement for fans to sink their teeth into is a commentary track by director/co-writer Mel Brooks, stars Steven Weber and Amy Yasbeck, and co-writers Rudy De Luca and Steve Haberman. The track features some funny stories, a lot of hearty laughs (I dare say, more than the film itself), and other tidbits about the production. Also included on this disc is an anamorphic theatrical trailer for the film.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary Track Featuring Director/Co-Writer Mel Brooks, Actors Steven Weber and Amy Yasbeck, and Co-Writers Rudy De Luca and Steve Haberman
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.