Love At First Bite (1979) – By Baron Craze

 

After the truly successful Young Frankenstein (1974) from director Mel Brooks, the horror-comedies slowly become careful, some more than others, and recall it’s the late 70s so a bit more sexual suggestions occurring, in fact prior to Love at First Bite, which was an independent film along with six other vampire flicks hit the market. Director Stan Dragoti’s picture actually held the film as one the highest grossing indie films of all time, and it still holds a bit of comedic fun even in today’s market, at the time the gross receipts from the box office and rentals tallied over $60-million. While obviously Bram Stoker responsible the character Dracula, and Mark Gindes (his only screenwriter credit) provided the basis of the story along with Robert Kaufman who wrote the script in his only horror film credit. The year of 1979 became a magnificent time for vampire films to soar in the night sky, as six other movies sucked the sweet nectar of the box office; those were Nosferatu the Vampyre, Nocturna, Dracula, Thirst, Dracula Blows His Cool, and Fascination, as well as two television movies Vampire and Salem’s Lot. However this omits the a tv-series episodes and short film attributed to this one year in the history of horror, needless to say the studios and fans went very batty that year.

The storyline still the same for the spoofing Dracula, in the modern day, think of it as dull, but rated PG allows for it to open itself to a larger audience, and firmly plant the tongue in the cheek. Some critics question the reason of why Dracula needed to go to New York to find a particular girl, Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James) similar to the story of Stroker, the reincarnation of the soul, as he (Hamilton) speaks about the missed opportunities to have the three bites (an abomination to the Christian view). The comedy in the movie is quite good, right from the start with a twist on Bela Lugosi’s soft line regarding “children of the night” Hamilton shouts out “Children of the night – shut up!” As the creepy bug eating lunatic of Renfield, Arte Johnson nails it, a classic copy the laughter of Dwight Frye’s creation, and delivers on bubbling nitwit as a crafty sinister icky fellow – one wonders what’s in his lunchbox. In Young Frankenstein, had the brain depository herein Dracula and Reinfield make withdrawal from a blood bank, in the modern day the wonder one must make changes to survive, especially with the age of 712 years. George Hamilton gives the lead role a surprisingly solid performance delivering a rich accent like Lugosi, only to comically jest at it too, maintain his even tanned complexion. Dr. Jeffery Rosenberg aka Van Helsing (Richard Benjamin) convinces police Lt Ferguson (Dick Shawn) of what is going on, and to help him stop Dracula becomes an entire subplot in the film. Needless Jeffery keeps mixing up the stories of how to kill his foe, such as silver bullets, and best Cindy just goes along with the insanity, as completely normal. In addition, Sherman Hemsley (Reverend Mike) and Isabel Sanford (Judge R. Thomas) from the popular show The Jeffersons (at the time) make wonderful cameos. Entire wonderful and fun flick, to past the time.

Sometimes an independent movie gets lucky and Dragoti definitely got that with cast, a hilarious Hamilton as a tanned vampire, sorry none of the paleness possessed herein, and political incorrect dialogue along with wonderful settings, locations, special effects all on par for a terrific movie. It even references the Blacula with a choice scene, only a few might find the actual moment, then quick quip about Burt Reynolds (a high star of the late 70s) and his film Smokey and the Bandit (1977). The makeup department, must not be overlooked as William Tuttle headed, as man who worked on another vampire movie called Mark of the Vampire by director Tod Browning, who did Dracula (1931) and Freaks (1932), Tuttle’s work also appeared in Young Frankenstein. In addition Shout Factory’s release fixes an outcry from the fans, involving the disco song “I Love the Nightlife” by Alicia Bridges, which suffered from licensing problems, removed from television broadcasts and all DVDs prior to theirs.

Overall the production values for the initial concept come off looking stellar, with some of the lingo dated, it all works well and provides for hearty laughter, a highly positive recommendation for all horror fans especially the vampire fascinated ones. In the 90s, a sequel concept come up, but sadly never took flight, but since then it achieved a modest Blu-ray on a double bill with a very young Jim Carrey in Once Bitten (1985) released from Shout Factory.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079489