Saturday, February 7, 2015

LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979) / ONCE BITTEN (1985) SCREAM FACTORY DOUBLE FEATURE

LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979) / ONCE BITTEN (1985)  
SCREAM FACTORY DOUBLE FEATURE 

Label: Scream Factory

Release Date: February 10th 2015 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG/PG13
Duration: 96/94 min
Audio: English DTS-HD Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Stan Dragoti, Howard Storm
Cast: Arte Johnson, Richard Benjamin, Susan Saint James, Isabel Sanford, George Hamilton, Dick Shawn, Melvin Simon, Karen Kopins, Cleavon Little, Thomas Ballatore, Lauren Hutton, Jim Carrey


LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979)
On the nights my father would work the late shift my mother would wait up for him while watching movies on TV after she put us kids to bed. It was one such night in 1982 just before I was about to bed down for the night when I saw a promo for the Wednesday Night Movie, the CBS network premiere of Love at First Bite, and knew it had to watch it, but there was absolutely no way mom would allow me to stay up late on a school night. So, like a good boy I went off to bed but once I heard the movie beginning I snuck out of my room and crawled silently down the hallway, once I entered the front room I could see mom curled up on the end of the couch staring at the TV. The couch had long legs and a decent amount of clearance beneath which allowed just enough room for me to snake my underneath where I could get a better view of the TV. It was there I nestled myself in just underneath mom who had no idea I was laying directly beneath her watching the movie, trying hard not to laugh and reveal myself. I was risking a whipping from my mom if I had been discovered but it was worth it. Sure, much of the adult humor was over my head but what kid of nine would not appreciate a comedy about Dracula?

Now three decades later I am revisiting the film for the first time since 1982 and I am pleased to say that the vamp comedy is still a damn fine watch. The eternally tanned George Hamilton is fantastic as the suave bloodsucker, able to play it for laughs of the both the subtle and more over-the-top variety when called upon. At the start of the film we find the Count and his bug-eating sidekick Renfield (Arte Johnson) being evicted from their Gothic cobweb strewn castle by the Romanian Government, the communists apparently plan to convert it into a facility for Olympic gymnasts.

Before you know it the Count is on a plane headed for New York City where he takes up residence in hotel after a slight mix-up at the airport which places the count at the center of a black funeral in Harlem. Soon after the Count pursues a romance with a model named Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James) whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his true love, Mina Harker. The courtship is threatened when Sondheim's former boyfriend, Jeffrey Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin), a neurotic psychiatrist, turns out to be the grandson of Dracula's greatest nemesis, legendary vampire-hunter Fritz Van Helsing.

The immortal Dracula is old fashioned and not well prepared for the life in the Big Apple, not accustomed to the ways of modern women and life in a modern metropolis. What ensues is a fish-out-of-water comedy with the suave bloodsucker trying to find love during the daunting era of disco, the infernal music which features prominently in the film.

Richard Benjamin threatens to steal every scene as the neurotic former lover of Cindy who is out to murder the undead Count, every scene is pure comedy gold as he sets about thwarting Dracula, but it soon becomes evident he's not the vampire hunter his fabled grandfather was when he attempts to ward off the vampire with the dreaded Star of David. Arte Johnson's giggling riff on Dracula's minion Renfield is another slice of comic gold, the bug-eating henchmen gets quite a share of memorable quotes throughout, and Susan Saint James annoyingly good as the painfully superficial and woefully dim witted model whom the Count wishes to make his vampire bride, though she's certainly not one of the more memorable vampire brides in cinema, she just doesn't have that eternal beauty about her, but I think that's what they were going for here.

It make for a fun watch as the Count discovers the conveniences of modern life, such as the existence of blood banks, and the downside, neurotic modern women. A fun parody with no chills to speak of but plenty of humor, this would make a pretty great double bill with Young Frankenstein, they are kindred spirits.  

This marks the Blu-ray debut for the film from Scream Factory and the image is quite nice, grain is intact and with it a fair amount of fine detail. The image has a nice clarity and is crisp throughout. Black levels are deep and inky and the flesh tones appear natural, this a very nice presentation, I did not detect and any compression issues or artifacting during my viewing. The DTS-HD MA Mono is crisp and clean, well-balanced and the disco soundtrack sounds as good as disco can sound.

Extras on Love at First Bite include a theatrical trailer and radio spots for the film, fans should not this is the new Blu-ray from Scream Factory reinstates Alicia Bridges disco anthem "I Love the Nightlife" which was omitted on the previous DVD versions of the film.

ONCE BITTEN (1985)
The Countess (Lauren Hutton) is a centuries old vampire who must feed on the blood of a virgin three times by Halloween or she will revert to her true self, but being the '80s virgins are not so easy to come by. Which is why she must prowl the singles scene in hopes of finding horny young men who have not yet popped their cherries. Enter Mark (Jim Carrey) and his three awkward '80s buddies Jamie and Ross who are out on the town trying to score some strange when they encounter the Countess who takes Mark back to her place for some fun, when Mark passes out she drinks from his inner thigh, and in the morning he assumes they have had sex. When Mark's virgin girlfriend Robin (Karen Kopins) discovers that he has betrayed her with the Countess she doesn't dump him as you might expect, nope she challenges the bloodsucker to a dance-off '80s style and it just gets worse from there.

Double featured here with Love at First Bite this very '80's vampire comedy is mighty awful n my opinion, but I understand that it as a bit of a cult following, though i could not say why. Starring a pre-fame Jim Carrey who shows some minor presence and comic timing throughout but is not a stand-out by any means. He had not yet become the rubber-faced star he would become a few years later on with the sketch-comedy TV series In Living Color and the Ace Ventura films.

Lauren Hutton appears to be reading through her dialogue but not doing very little with it, she's just phoning it in for a paycheck. A very silly supernatural comedy probably fueled by a producer's out-of-control coke-binge, it's not unwatchable but I certainly didn't find it enjoyable. Unfortunately, the very talented Cleavon Little from Blazing Saddles is squandered as the Countess's flamboyant henchmen. 

The ridiculous finale features a group of dweeby vampires chasing the young lovebirds through the Countess's mansion, and it screams '80s coke-binge from start to finish, not even so bad it's good, just bad.

This is the Blu-ray debut for Once Bitten and the transfer is solid though the image can be a bit soft from time to time. Film grain is managed nice appearing uniform throughout, skin tones appear natural and color reproduction seems accurate. The DTS-HD MA Mono is crisp, clean and well-balanced with optional English subtitles. The only extras is a theatrical trailer for the film.

Scream Factory have ventured into supernatural comedies this month with two double-features Blu-rays, each featuring one enjoyable and one dreadful movie apiece. Neither of these movies were begging for a HD upgrade but I am pleased to have Love at First Bite on Blu-ray, this is a damn funny vampire parody. On the opposite end Once Bitten is a poorly conceived and executed '80s comedy that I will never re watch. The supernatural comedies from Scream Factory this month are my least favorite of their double-feature offerings, but I applaud them for branching out a bit, just don't go diluting the brand with too many of these watered down comedies. This double-feature will be available for purchase on February 10th from Scream Factory, I highly recommend Love at First Bite to fans of horror-themed parodies. 

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