Friday, March 31, 2017

Yes, We Have Nosferatu, (We Have Nosferatu Today), or Thoughts on Mel Brooks and Dracula: Dead and Loving It

Mel Brooks, along with Sir John Gielgud and Audrey Hepburn  belongs to the exclusive EGOT club; in that he’s won an Emmy, a Grammy an Oscar and a Tony.  But what about Liza and Barbara Streisand, you may ask and yes, technically they’re members of that club too.  But those divas actually received non-competitive awards, a 1970 Special Tony in Babs’ case and a 1990 Grammy Legend for Liza.  Mel won all his awards fair and square, mostly for his Broadway production of The Producers (2001).
What does this have to do with Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), you may also ask, and I’ll be happy to tell you.  It’s not his greatest movie; it’s no Young Frankenstein (1974).  But then again, Young Frankenstein (1974) should be on everybody’s top 10 list, it is the gold standard for horror comedy, and he’s only made 11 movies in his career.  A Mel Brooks movie is a rare commodity, and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) deserves a re-watch and some affection.
Written, produced and directed by Mel Brooks, Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) is an affectionate, goofy, and almost Vaudeville-esque send-up of Bela Lugosi’s 1931 Dracula, and therein lies its fatal flaw.  Movies like Dumb and Dumber (1994) ushered in the next generation of comedy and by comparison Mel Brook’s brand of Borscht Belt farce, sly puns, and wordplay with generous amounts of cleavage seemed tired and dated.  You know the plot of this movie, you've seen it a dozen times before.  But if you love the genre and Mel Brooks, there's no way you won't thoroughly enjoy this underrated and criminally unappreciated gem.
Leslie Nielsen stars as the Count with the cape and does a great job with the pratfalls and a broad Transylvanian accent.  In fact the mostly American cast affects what I would call the Hollywood English accent, with the exception of the director as Dr. Van Helsing, doing his best Freud impression.  With Peter MacNicol, Janosz Poha from Ghostbusters II (1989) as Renfield, Harvey Korman as Dr. Seward, Lysette Anthony as Lucy Westenra and Steven Weber as Jonathan Harker.  Also watch out for Anne Bancroft, also known as Mrs. Mel Brooks, as Madame Ouspenskaya, the Gypsy lady who sells a cross to Renfield for 12 kopeks.
Everyone forgets that Leslie Nielsen had a successful film career before his second act as a comedy superstar, and also starred in one of my favorite movies, ForbiddenPlanet (1956).  Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) was eviscerated by critics and currently holds a dismal 11% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I also recommend his Hitchcock pastiche, High Anxiety (1977), another forgotten Mel Brooks film.




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