Our review of Fright Pack: Campy Classics, published July 26th, 2005, is also available.
Wanted: Two thrill-seeking reporters, brains optional, looking to dig up the story of the century. For information call…Transylvania 6-5000!
Oh, the things we find funny when we're children. Here are just a few movies that I really liked when I was a kid: Saturday The 14th, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, Hot Dog: The Movie, and Just One of the Guys. What do all of these flicks have in common? Taken out of the 1980s and placed in 2002, they suck. Suck, suck, SUCK. I think we can safely add to this list the horror comedy Transylvania 6-5000. I'm sure back in 1985 studio executives thought to themselves, "How can we go wrong? I mean, here's a movie starring Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley, Jr., Michael Richards, Geena Davis, Joe Bologna, Jeffery Jones, and Carol Kane. Look at that cast! These are funny people! How can Transylvania 6-5000 NOT be funny?!?"
Oh, let us count the ways…
Facts of the Case
What if Dracula was real? How about Frankenstein's monster? Or the Wolf Man? Just what if these creatures actually existed?!?! Well, tabloid reporters Gil Turner (Begley. Jr.) and Jack Harrison (Goldblum) are on the case in the zany spoof Transylvania 6-5000! When Jack and Gil's boss (Norman Fell, The Boneyard) send them into Transylvania to seek out a story on a real life Frankenstein monster, the boys find out that they're about to get more than they bargained for when a nymphomaniac vampire (Davis), a clumsy butler (Richards), a hairy looking strong man, a hulking green giant, and a wacky mad doctor (Bologna) all show up for a "bloody" good time! Throw in a few mummies, hunchbacks, and other natural oddities and you've got…well, you've got a pretty lame comedy. 'Tisk 'tisk…and what a wasted use of Jeffrey Jones.
Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker must have been rolling over in their graves by 1985. I'm sure that the two classic horror visionaries never expected their creations to be used as punch lines in a movie starring Ed Begley, Jr. and Michael Richards. Come to think of it, I doubt they even knew who Michael Richards was. Transylvania 6-5000 is a movie that works neither as a comedy nor as a horror movie. It does, however, work well as a Frisbee on a hot summer day.
The story is a mish-mash of classic horror and modern day comedy. It's fascinating to watch the movie today because the cast is filled with so many well known faces. Look! There's the dryly sarcastic Jeff Goldblum! Ain't he a riot? And isn't that the wacky Michael "Kramer" Richards?! Oh, I just loved him on Seinfeld! And isn't that sexy countess Geena Davis?? She's such a hoot! While these may be your sentiments about the actors, I don't think that a "hoot" is how you'll feel about Transylvania 6-5000. The jokes are almost all as flat as a pancake. There are only so many times you can watch Michael Richards pretend to have a false leg (getting slammed in a door, no less) before you begin counting ceiling tiles. Then again, it's not really the cast's fault that they aren't doing a very good job—director Rudy DeLuca's screenplay just don't delve deep enough into the cauldron of comedic possibilities. There are a few good gags to be found (I enjoyed some of Goldblum and Begley's banter) along with some humorous physical comedy (Kane and John Byner are a funny comedic duo). But these instances are few and far between, nestled between long stretches of unfunny gags and boring exposition. The story seems to move at a snail's pace, grumbling along so we can watch Joseph Bologna run his hands through his hair while sputtering mad scientist dialogue. Jeff Goldblum gets the most mileage out of his perpetually annoyed character, though he's often upstaged by the always entertaining Jeffrey Jones as a Transylvania elected official who's fantastically rubber face is always good for a few laughs. The rest of the cast, including Carol Kane, Norman Fell, and sexpot Teresa Ganzel (The Toy) as Goldblum's love interest, are mostly wasted on quick one-liners that don't work or slapstick shtick that even Mel Brooks would be ashamed of.
Transylvania 6-5000 is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. To no one's surprise, Anchor Bay has once again come through with a very clean looking transfer to an obscure '80s comedy dud. While a few instances of grain and dirt abound, overall this is a very decent looking transfer with bright colors and solid black levels. Some of the shots tend to look softly muted, though this seems to be more a production than a transfer problem. That being said, all nine fans of this film should be happy to finally get this in a first ever widescreen presentation.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and sounds about as good as you'd expect from a mono soundtrack. All aspects of the dialogue, effects, and music are free of any excessive hiss or distortion. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
Good old Anchor Bay…purveyor of movies that need no special treatment, but get it anyhow. A prime example is Transylvania 6-5000: while not stuffed full with features, this disc still includes a few supplements to satisfy even the most monstrous extra feature appetite. The juiciest supplement on this disc is a the commentary track by writer/director Rudy DeLuca and visual consultant Steve Haberman. It's a sad day when the commentary track is far funnier than the movie, but that's exactly the case with Transylvania 6-5000. Both Haberman and DeLuca are funny, witty guys who genuinely seem to enjoy the creature feature they created. DeLuca often has some oddball things to say which end up coming off as un-PC and fairly humorous. Interestingly enough, the director originally wanted Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari for the leads after seeing them on TV's cult classic Bosom Buddies. What an entirely different movie Transylvania 6-5000 may have been had those casting choices come through!
Rounding out the extras is a storyboard gallery filled with drawings and concepts from the pre-production stages of the film, a still gallery of behind-the-scenes photos, three TV spots, and two theatrical trailers for the film.
Horror and comedy can co-exist in the same movie when done right. Tremors, Evil Dead II and Killer Klowns From Outer Space are all examples of giggles and scares coming together and making very entertaining movies. Transylvania 6-5000 does not belong in that category. It belongs somewhere else, far away from my DVD player. Preferably in Peru. I can't say that I found Transylvania 6-5000 very funny, though you nostalgia freaks (like myself) might want to give it a spin and see for yourself. After all, I loved Ski Patrol and how many people can make that claim?
Transylvania 6-5000 gets the award for the film with the most annoying theme song ever (the entire cast crooning "Transylvania 6-5000!" over and over and over and over and over…).
Transylvania 6-5000 needs to change its number to "1-800-BORING-MOVIE."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Commentary Track by Director/Writer Rudy DeLuca and Visual Consultant Steve Haberman
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