Dracula: Dead and Loving It

Year: 1995
Production Co: Gaumont
Director: Mel Brooks
Writer: Mel Brooks/Rudy De Luca/Steve Haberman
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Mel Brooks, Peter MacNicol, Steven Weber, Amy Yasbeck, Lysette Anthony, Harvey Korman

How the mighty doth fall. There was a time when Mel Brooks was one of the names in film comedy, and to have him cast the king of the comedy spoof in Leslie Neilson should have resulted in one of the funniest movies in cinema history.

Coming a couple of years after Bram Stoker's Dracula, it riffs heavily on Francis Ford Coppola's epic as well as general Dracula mythology gong right back to the Universal classic and the original novel, and because it has so much source material to draw on, you'd think there'd be at least a handful of decent laughs.

No such luck. There's a scene where the Count (Nielson), having hypnotised both Mina (Amy Yasbeck) and her maid, is trying to command them both around the room to get Mina outside so he can bite her, both women responding to the wrong instructions, getting in each other's way and making a complete hash of it. I bring that sequence up because it has the most chuckles of the entire movie, and even that will hardly split your sides.

It follows the well-established mythology of the Romanian nobleman who engages a hapless solicitor to purchase land in England and becomes obsessed with the solicitor's young fiance, determined to make her his eternal bride in undeath.

In all that rich tapestry of characters, melodrama and gothic style, you'd think there'd be more chances for parody than you can fit in a 90 minute movie, but it's as if Brooks (as co-writer, director and co-star) has gone out of his way to see how few jokes he can actually write into the script.

Where the Zucker brothers at the outset of their career either trusted the audience would keep up or their youth just gave them a particular sense of pacing, the gags here are so telegraphed and laboured (and unfunny to begin with) they're ineffective when the actual payoff comes.

Brooks has never been highbrow, but this shows up the flaws in his usual playbook far too vividly – it's juvenile, tedious, childish and idiotic. Not even Nielson or Korman, two of the funniest men alive and working at the time, could save it. Brooks should have hung up his shingle after High Anxiety.

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