"Love at First Bite," a new Dracula spoof, was evidently contrived by funnymen who started to run short of gags right after thinking up the title.
The basic idea of inserting an anachronistic decandent like Dracula into a farce set in decadent modern New York may have sounded funnier than it plays. Or perhaps "Love at First Bite" simply isn't slick enough to sustain a comedy based on such a specialized, though promising, form of culture shock.
For example, there's something to be said for the notion that Dracula would flip for a Cosmopolitan cover girl. The Dracula of "Love at First Bite," impersonated by Goerge Hamilton, is evicted from his Transylvanian home by a hostile Communist regime and emigrates to New York obsessed with the thought of meeting and seducing Cindy Sondheim, the high-fashion zombie on the cover of Pizaz. A spaced-out, self-centered mibecile, she finds this strange new suitor kinkily irresistible.
Unfortunately, Hamilton and Susan Saint James don't invest this ludicrous romance with much discernible comic invention or pleasure. Hamilton does an acceptable vocal impression of Bela Lugosi, but the act may have been more amusing when he was just doing it for friends.
Saint James doesn't even seem to be trying, and she's no fun at all to look at. Like Margot Kidder in "superman," Saint James has grown oddly gaunt and cheerless. Given her profession, it may be appropriate for Cindy to look vampirized from the outset, but she needs a little gaiety to come to life on the screen. Saint James sound hoarse and looks worn out. When her jealous boyfriend, a vampire-hunting shrink played by Richard Benjamin, refers to her as "Little Miss Hots Pants," you conclude that he needs to have his head examined.
Benjamin and Dick Shawn, cast as a bungling cop, do have some comedy technique, but on this occasion it's dissipated in slightly frantic distraction around the edges of the scenario.
More often than not, screenwriter Robert Kaufman's nifties take laborious or mean-spirited forms. Dracula is rebuked by a Communist bureaucrat who warns, "Either you spend the rest of your life in an efficiency apartment with seven dissidents and one toilet, or you get your aristocratic- - - together and shplit!"
Dracula's coffin is sent by mistake to a Harlem mortuary upon arrival in New York. When Dracula opens the lid and pop up during a service, the assembled black folk shriek and scatter like leaves on ablustery autumn day. The motician, clothed in dazzling white evening dress and played by Sherman Hemsley, dilates his orbs and jumps through a stained-glass window. Why he didn't also stammer "Feet, do yo' stuff" remains a mystery.
After resurrecting this gag, Kaufman seems to work off a few more resentments. He show Dracula magically disarming some black toughs who accost him on the street. Assuming the form of a bat (dangling from a visible string - a nice cheapo touch), Dracula flies into the kitchen of a famished Puerto Rican family, which mistakes it for a chicken and tries to bag it for supper, and the bedroom of a man who mistakes it for his ex-wife and screams, "The check's in the mail, you filthy, skinny-legged yenta!" Kaufman obviously has a few problems, but considering his style of expression, I'd rather not hear about them.