Archive for AWESOME-tober-fest 2011

AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Dracula Dead and Loving It (1995)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by Paxton

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This is it. The final day of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week I looked at lots of Dracula movies. I usually end these things with “Freaky Friday” in which I’ll review a particularly silly or spoof movie about the subject at hand. I did this with Billy the Kid last year. I also did it with last years’ werewolves AWESOME-tober-fest. So it goes this year. Today I’m going to look at a Mel Brooks spoof of Dracula from 1995.

Dracula Dead and Loving It

That movie was Dracula Dead and Loving It. I originally saw this movie in the theater. I am a HUGE fan of Brooks’ Young Frankenstein which spoofs the first three Universal Frankenstein movies.  So I was excited to see what Brooks had in store for Dracula.  This movie not only spoofs the 1931 Universal Dracula, it also pokes fun at the 1992 Coppola Dracula and the 1958 Hammer Dracula.

So overall, this movie isn’t that funny. It’s more along the lines of a modern spoof movie like Date Movie or Disaster Movie. It’s nowhere near as satisfying as a Young Frankenstein. And it’s tough that Brooks had to live up to Young Frankenstein which is a nearly perfect spoof comedy, but that’s how I watched it.  I enjoyed parts of it, though.  Leslie Nielsen is okay as Count Dracula.  The standout performance in the movie, however, is Peter MacNicol as Renfield.  He really gets his crazy on and models his insanity on the original 1931 Renfield, Dwight Frye.  He is a joy to watch.  It looks like he had so much fun.

Dracula Dead and Loving It 2

Steven Weber as Jonathan Harker isn’t bad either. Unfortunately, however, I’m not a huge fan of Weber’s Wings costar, Amy Yasbeck. I just don’t think she’s funny nor a good actress. She similarly tanked another Brooks movie, Robin Hood Men in Tights, which I thought was funny despite Yasbeck’s performance.  And she was terrible in The Mask.  How does she keep getting work?

This movie is all about the sight gags, so I’m not going to sit here and describe that to you. There are some genuinely funny moments onscreen, unfortunately, they come too infrequently. I really think the problem here is the script. Dracula is ripe for some parody, yet the material seemed thin and less a parody of Dracula and had more situational comedy. Maybe the movie would have been better with better actors. I don’t know.  I just wish it would have worked more as a whole because I really like the idea of this movie. Like I said, these horror movies are ripe for a good parody (not looking at you Scary Movie 2-4).

Mummy_banner Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.


AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Posted in Dracula, Frankenstein, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2011 by Paxton

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Continuing the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week I’ve been reviewing all Dracula movies. Monday was Nosferatu from 1922. Tuesday was Universal’s Dracula from 1931. Yesterday I reviewed Horror of Dracula by Hammer Films. Today I’m looking at a movie that threw out these past movie versions of Dracula and went back to the source.  The director wanted to do a new, more faithful adaptation of Stoker’s novel.  That director was Francis Ford Coppola.

Coppola's Dracula

So, in 1992 we got Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Coppola was actually given the script for this adaptation by Wynona Ryder.  She wanted a project for them to do together to help patch things up with the director after she pulled out of The Godfather Part III at the last minute. So Coppola agreed to do this and production began.

Coppola really wanted to create an ethereal almost dreamlike quality to this movie. Originally, he didn’t want to build any sets. He wanted elaborate costumes but very sparse, minimalistic backgrounds. Luckily the studio said no and forced him to do “traditional” sets. I’ve attempted to watch this movie several times since the 90s. But I hadn’t tried for a few years, so I thought this might be the year to give it a try, especially since I just read the original novel and watched a bunch of other Dracula movies.

So, what did I think this time? I didn’t like it. At all. They put Stoker’s name over the title, but that was mainly to differentiate it from Universal’s movie, not because there is that much more devotion to the novel. Coppola has created an overly indulgent arthouse flick about Dracula. It’s surreal and strange and boring. He ties the origins of Dracula to “The Impaler” Vlad III who renounces God after his beloved wife kills herself after mistakenly believing her husband was killed in battle.  Then Dracula stabs a stone cross, which starts to bleed, then he drinks the blood from the cross.  WHAT?!

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Hammer’s Horror of Dracula (1958)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by Paxton

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Continuing the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week contains all Dracula movies.

Next up is another very famous version of Dracula.  It was by an independent movie production company known for horror movies.  That company was Hammer Films.

Hammer Films

Hammer Films garnered its first hit in 1955 with an adaptation of an old British television serial called The Quartermass Experiment.  During production of a sequel to that movie, Hammer developed a re-imagining of the Frankenstein story.  This was released in 1957 as The Curse of Frankenstein with Christopher Lee as the monster and Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein.  I reviewed this movie back in 2009 for my Frankenstein AWESOME-tober-fest.  Curse became a huge hit which led to Hammer wanting a Frankenstein sequel as well as investigating other horror movie icons that could be given the “Hammer treatment”.

Horror of Dracula

After beginning development on The Revenge of Frankenstein, Hammer decided to remake Dracula.  Several scripts were submitted, certain rights agreements had to be signed with Universal Pictures and production began for in 1957 for Hammer’s Dracula.  Hammer released Dracula (titled Horror of Dracula in the States) in 1958.  It starred Christopher Lee as the titular Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as Dr Van Helsing.  The movie would break box office records in the UK and America.

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Many changes were made in the Hammer movie that deviated from both the novel and Unviersal version. Jonathan Harker does visit Dracula in the beginning, but he’s there to kill him, not to help him sign some real estate documents. Dracula appears to only have one bride. Dracula only uses two supernatural powers; hypnotism and travel through fog. Other powers like shapeshifting into bats and wolves is never shown. Also, Dracula is killed by sunlight in this movie (like Nosferatu) but in the novel, the sunlight only removes the Count’s powers.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Universal’s Dracula (1931)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by Paxton

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Continuing the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week contains all Dracula movies. Next up is one of the most famous Dracula movies, the one that defined the image of Dracula today. Universal’s 1931 Dracula.

Universal Dracula

Universal’s Dracula was directed by Tod Browning and starred Bela Lugosi in the title role. The movie wasn’t based directly on Bram Stoker’s novel, it was actually based on a 1927 theater production of Stoker’s book.  Bela had played the Count in that production and actively lobbied to get the movie role as well.  However, Universal, after acquiring the rights to the play, wanted Lon Chaney to play Dracula.  Unfortunately, Chaney passed away in 1930 before production could begin, so Universal agreed to let Lugosi play Dracula.

The stage play changed much of the detail to Stoker’s novel, but left much of its structure intact. The beginning of the movie is much the same as the novel, however it is Renfield that visits Castle Dracula, not Jonathan Harker, to attend to the Count’s real estate dealings. Renfield is at first attacked by Dracula’s brides, but is then bitten by Dracula himself. Dracula uses Renfield to get himself and his coffins to London safely. When the ship crashes in London, an insane Renfield is found to be the only living person on board. Renfield is sent to Dr Seward’s sanitarium (where he is in the novel). Dr Van Helsing studies Renfield’s blood and talks to him about his obession with eating insects and, of course, vampires.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Nosferatu (1922)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by Paxton

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This is it. The final week of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week I’ll be looking at lots of Dracula movies. Let’s get this Dracula party started with one of the first filmed adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel. Nosferatu 2 Nosferatu is a silent film from 1922 written by Henrik Galeen and directed by FW Murnau.  Galeen originally wanted to do an adaptation of the Stoker novel, but the movie studio couldn’t secure the rights.  So Galeen wrote the adaptation anyway and changed some of the character names and details of the story.  He kept the main characters, like Jonathan and Mina Harker but changed their names to Hutter.  And Count Dracula was changed to Count Orlock, which is a pretty bad ass name itself.  This movie was the first time sunlight was said to be lethal to vampires.  Stoker’s Dracula was not physically harmed by sunlight, only weakened.  In order to make Orlock a little different, Murnau made sunlight lethal to Orlock, even using it to kill him at the end of the movie in order to avoid being sued by the Stoker estate.  All instances of sunlight being lethal to vampires after this are based on Nosferatu.Nosferatu 1

Count Orlock was played by Max Schreck. Schreck was a popular stage actor at the time he was cast as Orlock. Many legends have been built up around Schreck. Some rumors say this was his only movie and he mysteriously disappeared afterwards.  There are even rumors of his being an actual vampire which is why he played the part so well. Urban legends like this were examined in the 2000 movie Shadow of the Vampire starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe as Schreck.

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