Love at First Bite (1979)

“I’m going out for a bite to drink.”

Synopsis:
When Count Dracula (George Hamilton) and his loyal servant (Arte Johnson) are kicked out of their Transylvanian castle, they head to New York City, where Dracula hopes to woo a famous model (Susan Saint James) into becoming his eternal bride. Little does he know, however, that Cindy (Saint James) is dating a psychiatrist (Richard Benjamin) whose grandfather was the vampire-hunter Van Helsing, and who is determined to complete the job his famed ancestor never finished.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
An enormous hit when it was released, this “wacked out spoof of [the] Dracula myth” remains a reasonably enjoyable comedic venture despite its uneven script. It’s primarily remembered today for providing “suave and slick” George Hamilton with his breakthrough role as a comedic actor (who knew that Hamilton’s impersonation of Count Vladimir Dracula as a lonely, smitten vampire would be so successful?). While I’m not a fan of Arte Johnson’s annoying impersonation of “the insect-eating Renfield” (Dracula’s servant), fine performances are given by Saint James as the object of Dracula’s desire (she’s a unique combination of cynical, “oddball” New Yorker and vulnerable romantic), and Benjamin as Dracula’s modern-day nemesis, whose repeated (failed) attempts to kill Hamilton are quite amusing. Ultimately, it’s the lead actors — who are “better than Bob Kaufman’s script” — who make this comedy worth checking out; even when the jokes fall flat (and they do — again and again), we’re kept in eager suspense about the outcome of this most unusual love triangle, one with very real consequences at stake.

P.S. In his feminizing make-up, Hamilton looks uncannily at times like… Sandra Bullock (!).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • George Hamilton as Count Dracula
    Love First Bite Hamilton
  • Richard Benjamin as Dr. Rosenberg (nee Van Helsing)
    Love First Bite Benjamin
  • Susan Saint James as Cindy Sondheim
    Love First Bite Saint James

Must See?
Yes, simply for George Hamilton’s comedic “breakthrough” performance.

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One Response to “Love at First Bite (1979)”

  1. Not really must-see, though it’s mildly amusing and has some fun moments. It should be a lot more fun than it is – and probably would have been if it had been written by people who know how to exploit this kind of material (say, the writers of ‘Airplane!’).

    Hamilton and Saint James are engaging enough throughout, though Hamilton would be seen to better advantage later in Peter Medak’s ‘Zorro, the Gay Blade’ – a more successful parody.

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