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Love At First Bite

***
1979

‘…may have a few regrettable scenes, but there’s plenty of comedy meat on these often gnawed bones…’

After sampling the reputedly toxic, morally corrosive substances emitted by the Joker movie, the immediate aftermath involved watching a short season of George Hamilton comedies, something worth holding the film-makers of Joker directly responsible for. Having followed up on their ‘in-movie’ quote of Zorro The Gay Blade, it seemed natural to look back a couple of years to the film that Hamilton was attempting to recapture the magic of; Love At First Bite.

Stan Dragoti’s comedy was a breakout hit in 1979, but has since fallen by the wayside, partly because of some hideous stereotyping; black characters are little more than cheerful thieves in the Manhattan that Count Dracula visits. Copyright issues involving a featured Alicia Bridges song have also muted re-release plans. ‘Dracula goes disco’ would be an equally good title for this film, in which the Count faces a fish-out-of-water culture clash as he encounters nightclubs, modelling shoots, psychiatry and various other late 70’s touchstones. Along the way, a shrink who is related to nemesis Van Helsing (Richard Benjamin) gets wind of the count’s plans and a duel of wits follows.

Love at First Bite is a more interesting film that a rather sketchy reputation might suggest; this isn’t quite Bram Stoker’s Dracula in that the count can shoot steam jets from his mouth, bend metal with his stare, transform himself into a dog and control a horse and cart with his mind. The world he encounters is recognisably 1970’s, but it’s odd how some characters recognise the Dracula brand, and others don’t; Love at First Bite is so keen to get laughs it can’t maintain a consistent universe.

That said, Hamilton is a good laugh here, playing straight and with great style in the way he’s constantly undercutting of his own gravity. Arte Johnson does well as his cockroach-loving sidekick Renfield, and there’s a few wierdly caustic lines like a psychiatrist saying ‘If you don’t pay for it, it won’t get better’ or a conquest who excuses her messy apartment by saying ‘I hate housework, it killed my mother’. The time-frame jokes are many and varied, but the best scene, a hypnosis duel, is timeless and a great moment; sure, Love at First Bite may have a few regrettable scenes, but there’s plenty of comedy meat on these often gnawed bones.

 

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  1. I remember watching this as a kid and laughing at a scene where (and this is very vague because I haven’t seen it for a long time) the guy yells at Dracula for sucking the life of his mother (or someone) and Dracula says “I sucked your mother and your grandmother.” It made me lose it. Now I have to rewatch this movie again just for that scene.

  2. I have fond memories of this film and remember enjoying it. I think a growing issue is that people view films with modern sensibilities in mind and not with a mind towards the era in which they were made. There is stuff that was bad even when some older films were made but others can be chalked up to “not knowing any better.”

    • If you look at a lot of other terrible stuff from the late 70’s, this is innocent stuff. I totally agree, let audiences decide what they want to see, and less judgement would help us see where comedy comes from.

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