COOL ASS COMEDIES!
This edition features a picture that was popular at the time of its release and has had lasting cult movie appeal. However, it has yet to get its well deserved DVD special edition most especially in a musically unaltered version. This entry we look at the late 70's cult comedy horror classic...
LOVE AT FIRST BITE 1979
George Hamilton (Count Dracula), Susan Saint James (Cindy Sondheim), Arte Johnson (Renfield), Richard Benjamin (Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg)
Directed by Stan Dragoti
The Short Version: Immensely entertaining and occasionally hilarious comedy rife with some un PC moments and filled with recognizable character actors. Hamilton, Benjamin and Arte Johnson put up a grand comedic battle for screen supremacy and all three play off some truly funny scenes among them. A great comedy classic with a lot of rewatchability.
The charming and debonair Count Dracula (Hamilton) is in love with magazine cover girl Cindy Sondheim (St. James). He is forced off his Transylvanian land to make way for shopping centers and general modernity ("What do you want from him?!....Blood?!"). Drac and Renfield (Johnson) head for the Big Apple in search of Ms. Sondheim. Once there, Drac ends up having a relationship with Cindy but this doesn't sit well with her jealous and slightly off balance psychiatrist boyfriend Jeffrey Rosenberg (Benjamin) who also happens to be a relative of the late Professor Van Helsing. Once he discovers she has been bitten twice, with the third bite completing the transformation, the stage is set for a very funny showdown between Dracula and Rosenberg as both vie for the attention of the mentally wrecked Cindy.
One of the very last productions from AIP, a company famous for their low budget horror and exploitation movies. At this time, they were attempting to establish themselves among the big studios. The same year, they released the big budget METEOR, a co-production with the Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong.
LOVE AT FIRST BITE maintains AIP's horror roots, but possesses a helluva cast and features possibly Hamilton's most famous role (a tanned vampire no less). He plays Dracula in the tradition of a lovelorn Lugosi. Hamilton is very funny and the film lets you know where it's going after the hauntingly Gothic opening credits amidst fog and howling wolves. We then see Dracula playing his organ then bellowing... "Children of the night...Shut up!"
Hamilton hams it up as a Dracula who time has seemingly passed him by. No one is afraid of him anymore. Forced out of his country (to make way for a gymnasium no less), he makes his way to New York to meet the love of his life, Cindy Sondheim; a woman who turns out to be not quite what the blood drinking, love deprived Count was expecting. In this new world (the big city), Dracula is just a big joke to pretty much everybody around him (New Yorkers don't scare easily). The inner city residents present more of a threat than the Transylvanian lord of the undead could ever hope to.
James is good as the emotionally reclusive, neurotic, drug and pill obsessed fashion model. Just like the time period in which the film was made, the character of Cindy represents the typical sexually liberated individual living in the fast lane. She has a bizarrely humorous relationship with Rosenberg (Benjamin) in that he is her financial crutch while he sits by and contemplates his delusional plans for a future together. Meanwhile, she pretty much does what she wants.
Her scenes with Benjamin are a riot particularly after each failed attempt to destroy Dracula, Rosenberg finds himself incarcerated (several times) and placed in a padded cell in Bellvue eventually wearing a straight jacket. One very funny moment has Rosenberg pull out a star of David to repel Dracula and another where the two attempt to hypnotize each other--"You're getting sleeeepy..." "No, it is you who are getting sleepy..." "No, you are!" "No, you are!"
Richard Benjamin is spot on here and has many of the best scenes. Benjamin would also play in a horror comedy the following year in Roger Corman's New World Pictures release, SATURDAY THE 14TH starring alongside his wife, Paula Prentiss. Another hilarious bit has Dr. Rosenberg convincing a cop to release a repeat offender on the basis of his psychiatric observations. Immediately thereafter, Rosenberg tells the cop with deadpan delivery that vampires are running loose in the city and must be destroyed.
Comic actor, Arte Johnson perfectly mimics Dwight Frye's performance as Renfield from the 1931 film. One of the best bits with him has Renfield relay to Dracula how he was able to get the address of Ms. Sondheim by showing his "lunch" to the lady agent; the contents of which, brings Dracula to hurl his own "lunch". Johnson was the voice to Depatie-Freleng's MR. JAWS cartoon and also played the mad German pilot that drops Burt Reynolds inside a bomb capsule at the opening of THE CANNONBALL RUN PART 2 (1984).
A number of cameo's are sprinkled throughout LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979). Two that will be instantly recognizable are Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford from the popular show THE JEFFERSONS, spun off of the equally classic, ALL IN THE FAMILY. Here, Hemsley plays a preacher ("When you is GONE, you is GONE!") and Sanford a judge. Michael Pataki (DRACULA'S DOG, RETURN OF COUNT YORGA) also puts in an appearance towards the end. Having been made in the 70s, there are a number of politically incorrect moments. One funny bit has Dracula on the prowl for blood in bat form. He runs a-fowl (haha) of an apartment full of Mexicans who mistake him for a chicken(!)
Arguably the most famous scene in the movie is the disco sequence between Hamilton and St. James with the HUGE one hit wonder, 'I Love the Night Life' by Alicia Bridges playing in the background. Sadly, there must have been rights issues as the old Orion VHS and the recent MGM DVD is missing this number and has been replaced with a riotously inferior substitute. It totally destroys the magic of this wonderful sequence and as popular as this film was, it's a bit of a travesty that MGM couldn't spring for the rights to use the song. Still, in the ending crawl, Bridges song remains among the credits. The Warner VHS from years back features the original song.
A very funny movie which is still funny today and recommended for any vampire movie fan. A sequel was announced back in the 90s but it never materialized. Reportedly, Director Stan Dragoti was arrested for drug possession the night of the films premiere.
This review is representative of the MGM DVD