Peter’s Retro Reviews: Love At First Bite (1979)

October 1, 2013

Love At First Bite Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

You can almost taste it, can’t you? That slight change of weather? There’s a chill in the wind and you can actually smell the seasons changing…

Yes, boils and ghouls, fall is here, and I love it!

Don’t get me wrong, because I like all the seasons… spring, where everything comes to life again. And the summer with its warm lovely evenings. I even like the winter… if it’s cold and snowy that is! Rain and sludge is not my cup of tea and can be skipped entirely. But the fall… there’s just something about it, wouldn’t you agree? The surrounding woods here just explode in a display of yellow, orange, brown and red, and it’s absolutely breathtaking. I love walking through the woods in the fall and just fill my senses with it!

This time of the year also brings about one of my favorite holidays, namely Halloween. Come “the witching hour” it makes perfect sense to light some candles and listen to scary music by Midnight Syndicate. Well, I actually do that all year anyway, but even more so during this time. (We do love us some Midnight Syndicate on the Forgotten Flix site!)

October is also the month where we turn our attention to all things horror here on the site… Yes, my friends, it’s time for yet another edition of The October Spooky Flix Fest (the third one, I might add). So sit back, relax, and let us take you on a cinematic journey through some “forgotten” horror gems.

Being run off by the townspeople

Being run off by the townspeople.

This year, I thought I might take a look at the horror/comedy genre, because that’s kind of what Halloween and trick or treating is all about. To be scared and, at the same time, have fun with it, right? So, let’s not waste any more time. It’s time to introduce you to my first movie-pick of the month!

Love At First Bite is a comedy set in the classic horror surroundings. Well, at least it is at the start of the movie.

We see a dark castle shrouded in a thin mist, which is even present down in the dark crypt where a coffin is slowly opening. Count Vladimir Dracula has just risen from his slumber and is slowly climbing the stairs to his candle-lit chambers for a little drink. He pours himself a glass of blood from a bottle and, with a disgusted look on his face, calls for his bumbling moron of a servant, Renfield.

When Renfield appears, the Count reminds him that the blood should always be body-temperature and then asks for his magazines. Renfield hands him a bunch of “girlie-mags”, all of which the Count calls smut and filth, and throws them on the fire. After he’s glanced at the pictures, of course! No, the magazine he wants is a fashion one featuring his favorite model, Cindy Sondheim, which he takes with him down to the crypt again.

Renfield disturbing his master

Renfield disturbing his master.

A short while later, the pair get a visit from a couple of representatives from the Romanian government, along with the whole town in tow. They are there to take the castle from the Count and turn it into a training facility for gymnasts. Of course, the Count objects, but they townspeople refuse to listen and tell him to take his aristocratic shit and split.

So, Drac decides to go to New York to find Cindy Sondheim, who he believes is a reincarnation of his long lost love. He leaves his former castle and the townspeople with one of my favorite lines from the movie:

Without me, Transylvania will be as exciting as Bucharest… on a Monday night!

The Count is played by George Hamilton (Doc Hollywood, Evil Knievel). Hamilton might not be the most obvious choice to play an undead creature of the night, but he does it with gusto. He’s charming, suave, and very much of the “old school,” which becomes apparent when he arrives in New York. A lot of the comedy comes from this contrast.

Dracula’s also very much aware of his age (712 years) and is actually starting to get a little bit bored. This is why he wants to find Miss Sondheim. He basically wants a mate to share immortality with and who better than one he’s met before? I also liked the reference to the old Universal Studios’ Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, when Hamilton’s Count says he met Miss Sondheim back in 1931 where he knew her as Mina Harker. Nice touch, wouldn’t you agree?

The Count and Miss Sondheim getting ready for a dance

The Count and Miss Sondheim getting ready for a dance!

As I said before, Mr. Hamilton is perfect in this role. He is a delight to watch and I just love the way he talks. I mean, that accent? Brilliant! Hamilton is one of the reasons why I love this movie. His servant Renfield, played by Arte Johnson who’s done a crap ton of TV work, is another.

Johnson is basically doing an impersonation of the way Dwight Frye played the Renfield character in the ’31 version of Dracula, right down to that wonderfully insane laugh. He’s very funny, I might add!

Miss Sondheim, who’s played by Susan Saint James (Carbon Copy and the TV-show Kate & Allie), falls for the mysterious Count. She does this much to the chagrin of her psychiatrist and former boyfriend Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg, who very quickly figures out who and what the Count really is.

Dr. Rosenberg is actually a Van Helsing, but changed his name for professional reasons. And just like his ancestors, he feels it’s his duty to hunt down and kill Count Dracula. Well, that, and also because he’s insanely jealous! Rosenberg tries to kill the Count in every way he knows, but unlike his ancestors, he doesn’t have a clue as to how he should do it.

Getting the religious artifacts mixed up

Getting the religious artifacts mixed up.

Dr. Rosenberg is played by Richard Benjamin whom you might recognize from Westworld or The Sunshine Boys. He’s also a great director who’s done a bunch of good movies like Racing With The Moon, City Heat, and Mermaids. He didn’t direct this one. That credit belongs to Stan Dragoti. He’s also responsible for Mr. Mom and She’s Out Of Control among others.

I only have one gripe with Love At First Bite, but that’s not the movie’s fault. It has to do with music rights, I suppose. For the dance scene at the nightclub, the Count and Cindy dance to the song “I love the nightlife” by Alicia Bridges. It was kind of a signature song since he’s a vampire and Cindy is somewhat of a party-animal. When the movie was released on DVD that particular song had been replaced by another one! That bugs the hell out of me, because…

A: It fits the theme of the movie perfectly, and

B: I love that song!

It’s just a small annoyance (it really isn’t) and doesn’t make the movie any less funny. It’s a great movie with a perfect cast and an abundance of funny one-liners. I stated this earlier, but I’ll say it again: This is one of my favorite movies and I’ve seen it a ridiculous amount of times. And I still laugh out loud every time I watch it.

Oh, and by the way, be on the look-out for Sherman Hemsley in a small role as a reverend. This was his feature movie debut. You’ll most certainly know him as George Jefferson from the popular TV-show The Jeffersons. And while we’re on the subject, his “TV-wife” Louise (Weezy), played by Isabel Sanford, also made a brief appearance in Love At First Bite.

And on that note, my friends, that’s it for me this time. But next week, I have another great vampire comedy to talk about. It’s one with a little more horror in it, but you’ll just have to wait. If you have any thoughts about this week’s movie choice, please tell me in the comment section below!

I’ll leave you with another funny one-liner from the Count:

Cindy Sondheim: We can go to bed, maybe get in a little quickie?

Count Dracula: No! With you, never a quickie… always a longie!”

How’s that for suave, huh? Until next week…

Here’s a little bonus-clip for you. It’s the disco-scene WITH the original song!

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