Leslie Nielsen was around for ages before he hit the peak of his popularity, making his mark on both slapstick 80s comedies and horror movies with films like Airplane!, Naked Gun, Prom Night, and Creepshow.
Conveniently, he also mixed both genres, starting with the goofy Naked Space. His impact on the horror spoof genre would even drag him all the way into the new millennium with appearances in the Scary Movie franchise.
But the height of his horror spoofs came with Repossessed and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. So which one is my fave?
DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (1995)
It seems logical that Mel Brooks would both a) take on Dracula, and b) do a horror spoof with Leslie Nielsen since the actor made a late career out of the same type of slapstick comedies for which Mel Brooks is known.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It is no Young Frankenstein or Naked Gun, but it has its charms. With Brooks and Nielsen joining forces, it just seems the level of humor should have been a bit stronger than it is.
Attempting to deliver the brand of comedy that both men are known for, Dracula: Dead and Loving It sticks fairly close to the original Bram Stoker plot (while also poking fun at that ridiculous hair Drac had in the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola film).
Thanks to a great cast that also includes Harvey Korman, Mel Brooks, Peter MacNichol of Ally McBeal, Steven Weber, and Lysette Anthony, it semi-succeeds, but it isn’t a nonstop laugh riot. Notable moments include Steven Weber and Mel Brooks trying to stake a vampire, Harvey Korman’s character having an obsession with enemas (which could have pushed the envelope more than it does), and Peter MacNichols’s wacky take on Renfield (virtually a nod to Marty Feldman as sidekick Igor in Young Frankenstein).
Still, most of the funniest shtick in the film comes from Nielsen, including his numerous failed attempts to properly glamour victims (priceless), his mishaps while in bat form (so goofy you have to laugh), and his (drawn out) dance scene at a ball, in which he’s dancing with a woman but everyone sees just her being tossed around in a reflection in a mirror.
Repossessed begins a lot better than it ends, making this Nielsen battle a toss up for me. I revel in this film’s comic take on The Exorcist, which hugely benefits from the fact that Linda Blair gets to spoof her own movie and role. She does it brilliantly, both when she’s being funny and when she’s perfectly nailing the nuances of her original performance as a demon child.
Blair totally outshines Nielsen here, having the advantage not only in her connection to the original film, but also because the comedy scenes with Nielsen simply aren’t on par with the quality of his famous 80s shtick. The writing definitely tries to capture that tone of stupid humor and “literal” comedy (for instance, “cue the announcer” sees a guy poking an announcer with a pool stick). However, it goes off the rails in creating absurd setups to force that brand of humor into the plot, which inevitably causes it to stray too far from its goal of lampooning The Exorcist.
Here’s the good. The first few scenes start in 1973 with some great mimicry of the original movie.
The flash ahead to Blair’s adult life as a mother keeps with the spirit, and she becomes repossessed after seeing televangelists talking about the devil on TV.
Now for the bad. A whole lot of it. A young priest sets out to convince Nielsen, who exorcised Blair the first time, to…um…re-exorcise the repossessed. This is where the film is a mess! For instance, a scene of the young priest stalking and harassing Nielsen at a gym is milked to death, the funniest part being some campy gay humor that even Body by Jake gets drawn into.
I live for the nostalgia, so it’s easy for me to overlook that many aspects of the film suffer from being so of their time. Along with Body by Jake, Ed Beatty and his wife are clearly caricatures of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, there’s mention of the Rob Lowe sex tape and Sean Penn beating up paparazzi, and wrestler Jesse Ventura makes a cameo. Plus, the Repossessed theme song is late 80s Latin freestyle, another track is an intentional knockoff of “Devi Inside” by INXS, and the young priest does a brief, horribly unnecessary rap.
Worst of all, Nielsen spoofs the famous Robert Palmer “bouncy babes” videos, in which he also impersonates other famous pop stars of the time—all while singing “Devil With The Blue Dress.”
It’s this musical number that exorcises the demon from Blair and brings the movie to an end. Ugh. Making the finale worse? It takes place at a TV studio, because Beatty had convinced them to televise the exorcism. Disaster. The film should have just stuck to the original source material.
Finally, for a little 90s foreshadowing, Stanford from Sex and the City makes an appearance!