Have you ever wondered to yourself “What would happen if The Dow Chemical Company had a bunch of money it had to spend in Yugoslavia, and decided to make a horror-comedy there so it would get the profits in the USA?”. Well, if so then we have a treat for you in this 1985 Rudy De Luca-written and directed movie that appears to hinge on a pun that also hinges on a 1940s jazz standard! It also also hinges on thinking Transylvania is a country, rather than a region in Romania, and that you don’t really need a script if you have enough talented actors.
The plot starts with Jack (Jeff Goldblum), a serious news reporter and ladies’ man, and Gil (Ed Begley Jr.), a buffoon, going to Transylvania to track down reports of a Frankenstein’s monster. When they get there, they find a rural, yet surprisingly modern, community that happily giggles in their face and brings up Bela Lugosi’s performance of Dracula when questions start being asked. However, the local Major Lepescu (Jeffery Jones) is more than happy to show them around his many commercial ventures and the local fool Fejos (Michael Richards) is more than happy to provide extensive physical comedy.
After finding American tourist Elizabeth (Teresa Ganzel) to fight over, and a couple of servants for the audience to giggle at their wacky ineptitude, the two reporters manage to discover a whole host of classic 50s horror movie creatures, including Geena Davis in a skimpy Vampira-meets-Playboy-bunny style costume. They also meet a sinister cover-up, a mad scientist (Joseph Bologna), and a final conclusion to the whole thing that is unexpected, uplifting, and altogether way more wholesome than the “laugh at the backwards Europeans!”-setup would lead you to predict.
The humour throughout is a mix of gentle comedy-of-errors and Monty-Python-esque blasts of absurdity and drawn-out social embarrassment. How much of that was intended and how much that was the actors filling in a very minimal script isn’t clear, but there are enough moments that remind you of their other works to suggest they were told to do their thing for a set number of minutes. As a result, the performances are all good, because these are skilled artists, but never great, because the director appears more focused on knocking off early for lunch.
Comedy is a highly subjective thing, so it’s hard to say how you will or won’t react to any given gag, but the overall response generated in my viewings was amusement rather than laughter. It’s fair to say that the characters, the situations, and the concepts are all humorous, but the delivery and pacing is muted and lacking in vital energy. There are chuckles to be had, but that’s about it. However, it’s got enough charm to keep you engaged and rooting for the good guys.
Overall, this is an Okay Film. And whilst it’s ironic for a column that deals in blunt binary to say it, that’s not a problem. Sometimes you want an Okay Film, a bit of feel good to fill in an otherwise empty part of your day. There are points when you won’t have the energy for something that can pull you high or throw you low, and you just want a steady chuckle. Not everything has to be life changing, and this absolutely isn’t, but that doesn’t make the rest a pointless failure. It makes it something that will be in your mind whilst you watch it, and that you’ll never think of again. It was an enjoyable, light experience and it can be the same for you. Nothing more, nothing less.