Review: “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” (1995)

Mel Brooks movies are such a treat! Always, always, always. The sense of humor is, in a simple word, unique. They’re childish, but with high-brow intentions. Deadpan mockery is shoved into every single nook and cranny, every character, and every piece of scenery set up for the sole purpose of being devoured by a Madeline Kahn or an Anne Bancroft or what have you.

If Young Frankenstein is the favorite son, and Blazing Saddles is the racist, mentally-ill but equally beloved cousin, then Dracula: Dead and Loving It is without a doubt the underrated, frequently ignored, well-to-do boy next door. It was pooped into theaters in 1995 and sadly grossed only a third of its budget. Too bad … because this is an effort infused with a master’s touch.

In my official capacity as a CampBlood Counselor, though, I must present caution: the viewer will most enjoy this movie with a total disregard for perfection.

Leslie Nielsen as our deliciously perverted Dracula

Dracula: DALI is a film fan’s paradise. First and foremost, it’s an exhaustive spoof of the original Dracula of ancient time (er, 1931). And by spoof, I do not mean a simple knock-off with comedy – we’re talking total free-for-all boasting crude and sexual humor, British jokes, and grade-A physical comedy. It really puts its heart into it: the costumes and set pieces are quite elaborate, the actors sublimely selected, and the camera shots well thought-out.

But we’re not here to discuss the cinematography … so on to the good stuff!

There’s Something About Dracula…

Spoof mainstay Leslie Nielsen plays the titular life-loving monster, and he’s beyond spot-on, with committed facial expressions and an accent that can only be described as awkward European meets Bela Lugosi – a.k.a., just Lugosi. You can image the rehearsal times spent between Brooks and Nielsen to get this right. It pays off.

Mostly.

Whatever, it’s all for laughs.

Steven Weber and Amy Yasbeck get Brit-nasty

The leading players are led by Steven Weber (that actor who kind of sucks but used to be kind of hot and who most wonderfully had his eye gouged out in Single White Female), who plays off Nielsen as Jonathan Harker, the morally conscious and extra stuffy stock male hero. The underrated Amy Yasbeck gets some lovely screen time here to showcase her flowing red locks, hysterical prissiness, and heaving cleavage – much more so than in her role opposite Jim Carrey in The Mask. Lysette Anthony, a lush-lipped vixen temptress who’s both worked with Woody Allen and co-starred in one of the most enjoyable messes of all time - Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde – is also on board.

But the man who steals the show is Peter MacNicol, a character actor usually reduced to roles in things like Ally Macbeal, Ghostbusters 2, and Addams Family Values. Here he’s Renfield, a character just as ridiculous in the 1931 original horror-drama. MacNicol sneers and snarls with a maniacal cackle, carrying most of the physical comedy and delighting even the tiniest child inside me.

MacNicol deserves a career, and Dracula: DALI is the highlight of his reel. I can’t think of many other movies where a comedic insane asylum patient is played with such glee.

Peter MacNicol: You've seen him before

Above the other performers, even above MacNicol, are Nielsen, unforgettable as always, and Mel Brooks himself. Making his routine cameo, he plays opposite Nielsen and MacNicol as the good doctor Van Helsing. Brooks sweeps into the film almost halfway in and, per the original’s blueprint, concocts the plan to to defeat Dracula.

The plot, a scene-by-scene recreation of the original, is not to be heavily dissected. The movie’s point lies in the thought and energy infused into the dialogue, jokes, and all comedic sequences. Favorite scenes include a magnificent vampire staking with eye candy gore galore, and a creative dance sequence against a mirror in which Dracula shows no reflection, thereby causing the giddy Amy Yasbeck to look like Gidget the Flying Nun.

Literally every line and moment in the film holds some level of entertainment, either as spoof or as general comedy. Scene-chewing supporting characters range from housemaids to prison guards, from lab assistants to usherettes. Nothing is sacred, and it’s glorious.

Dracula and Usherette: "NOOO TIP!?!?!?" Looks like Clue's Singing Telegram Girl, eh?

It’s totally enjoyable without even having seen the 1931 original. If you have seen it, you’ll have an extra boost of satire to make your tummy warm. But if not, I promise, you’ll have a magnificent evening at this Brooks opus du jour.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

Dracula: Dead & Loving It is rated PG-13 for exaggerated British accents, shockingly huge boobs, humping silhouettes, and Leslie Nielsen’s pubic merkin.


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About Ross

Ross studied film at Emerson while working for indie producers, and he critiques shit from a queer POV here and @GingerBredhaus. He also produced 2015 gay horror slasher comedy YOU'RE KILLING ME and creates immersive theater in NYC.