Thursday, October 29, 2015

#DoubleFeature - Transylvania 6-5000/Transylvania Twist

I was originally only going to review one of these two Transylvania-themed 80s parody films.. but I kept thinking about the second one while writing this review.

So here's two Transylvanian horror comedy movies for Halloween for the price of one!

The End of the World Starts at Midnight, the classics join forces for a monster-ous good time!

The 1980s was a time where low-budget B-movies and the horror genre thrived with all kinds of films.

People still had fond memories of the classic black & white monsters and that era gave birth to a new generation of splatter films held by slasher killers.

A lot of masters of horror launched their entire career during these creative days for the genre. From smart meta movies to the deconstruction of the genre.

Today I'd like to explore two similarly themed parody films from the late 1980s, one a throwback to classic monster films, the other alluding to modern slashers. And for some reason people tend to mix them up.

I admit my opinion is biased in this case, the first one is a movie I love, the 1985 cult classic Transylvania 6-5000 directed Rudy De Luca, a screenwriter and actor best known for his work with Mel Brooks.

The other is 1989 Transylvania Twist, made by Jim Wynorski mostly known as the director of such B-movie classics as Deathstalker II, The Return of Swamp Thing or even Sorority House Massacre II, quite a lot of B-grade sequels actually.

They're both enjoyable in their own way and yet quite similar.

Movie: Transylvania 6-5000 
Directed by Rudy De Luca
Release date 1985
Genre Horror comedy film
Country Yugoslavia/USA

Our first Transylvanian tale is Rudy De Luca's 1985 horror comedy Transylvania 6-5000.

And no, the film was not named after the 1963 Looney Tunes short, but it's just a pun on "Pennsylvania 6-5000", a famous song from Glenn Miller.

Unlike other similar films of that time, say, like Monster Squad, this not just an 80s-style monster spoof but a throwback to older films, a very stupid goofy horror comedy with a lot of slapstick and throwaway references. 

They were really able to capture back some of the setting and tone of these classic monsters films.

The story follows Jack Harrison (Jeff Goldblum) and Gil Turner (Ed Begley Jr.), two reporters from the little paper "The Sensation". Turner's really working there because his father runs the newspaper, while Jack ambitions to become a real serious journalist, and he's only using this job as a stepping stone for his career. 

One day the duo receives a tape with a sighting of the real Frankenstein's monster on the loose. They decide to follow the lead and send our two protagonists to Transylvania to investigate the truth behind these rumors.

Once they arrive at destined they find themselves in this old medieval castle for an hotel. But it just a tourist trap? They met this over-energetic enthusiastic buttler with an odd sense of humor. At first everything seems normal enough, but there's just something strange about this small little town.

Soon they encounter real horror monsters, all kind of horror movie figures twisted for the film. Such as an uncanny sensitive Wolfman! The horny Vampiress Odette who's in search for love! And a Frankenstein creature that just wants to play cards! And more!

They find out this Dr. Victorio Malavacqua is behind everything! But is he the creator of all these monsters or just trying to help them? 

All our characters end up at the local wine festival in town, people are shocked in face of these real monsters made in flesh! But once Malavacqua's intention are revealed to the to town...

Transylvania 6-5000 is a funny madcap comedy playing off the classic horror stereotypes.

Most of the film was actually filmed on location in Yugoslavia, using local actors. 

The cast features several popular faces such as Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Joseph Bologna and Geena Davis. We also have Michael Richards right off the show Fridays right before people became familiar with his work as Kramer on Seinfeld, and Carol Kane, Teresa Ganzel, John Byner, and Jeffrey Jones. It's a pretty great cast all things considered, with these big actors, I mean all our main actors from Michael Richards to Goldblum and Geena Davis are all pretty tall people!

The film is a very silly screwball comedy. It's your fairly standard fish-out-of-water story. It's not just one of those countless typical parody films we saw through the 1980s, if anything it's closer to Abbott & Costello crossovers with the classic monsters. 

There are several great little funny moments, specifically a lot of great odd Michael Richards moments, his character's always bugging everyone. Jeff Goldblum plays a great straightman guy opposite to all these weird characters.

Overall:  Transylvania 6-5000 is an enjoyable silly film. 

It's no great classic by any stretch of the imagination, mind you. But it's enjoyable and you should definitively Check It Out for a good time. Classic monster fans will have fun with it. And Geena Davis' vampire is easily the most memorable character of entire film as this nymphomaniacal vampire girl, winkwink-nudgenudge. She just looks lovely in the role! The 80s in a nutshell!

Sure, the setup for the film is very silly, it's kind of a stupid movie you would never see anymore nowadays, with a lot of physical comedy. In fact the whole film is kind of stupid and low-grade humor, but what helps it are all the funny little bits here and there. And I just love the idea for the "antagonist" of a mad scientist who's only "mad" in his own lab.

I give it:
2 / 3 Urkels!

Movie: Transylvania Twist 
Directed by Jim Wynorski 
Release date 1989
Genre Horror comedy film
Country USA

What Transylvania 6-5000 did for the classic horror monsters, this one tried to do the same for the 1980s slasher horror culture... with more or less success.

This other Transylvanian horror comedy is titled Transylvania Twist, the film was made by screenwriter, director and producer Jim Wynorski. Who's mostly known for classics of the B-movie genre such as Deathstalker II, The Return of Swamp Thing or even Sorority House Massacre II - quite a lot B-grade sequels actually. His more popular and "successful" films are probably gems such as Dinosaur Island, Chopping Mall and Hard to Die.

The title of this one comes to us from the music scene as well. It's actually a line from the 1962 song "Monster Mash."

Our movie opens with a prologue. A young woman (whose face might be familiar to you B-movie fans out there) being chased by classic slasher figures! Jason Voorhees, Leatherface and Freddy Krueger are after her!!... But in fact it turns up it was just an advertisement all along (or was it...?) for... a cemetery?! 

We are introduced to Dexter Ward (Steve Altman), our main protagonist for this film. He's going to the funeral of his uncle.. But actually not. He helps out his uncle out of a coffin. He just had a medical condition... Doctors!

As you can see the tone, story and flow of this movie is very... how to put it? "Random".

Dexter is the nephew of a librarian. His uncle sends him to collect a 200-year old book that is still missing, the guy who took it never checked it back. He goes to Transylvania to retrieve "The Book of Ulthar"!, A book of infinite power, in the wrong hands whoever holds it could unleash evil powers like the world has never seen!!

Dexter finds out the book should be in the hands of this singer Marissa Orlock (Teri Copley), who just discovered she inherited Castle Orlock in Transylvania. Dexter goes with her to the castle. There, they meet this vampire hunter Victor Van Helsing (obviously). They find out Marissa's own uncle is a vampire!! They're welcomed by this Count Byron Orlock. Orlock sends his vampire daughters after the heroes. 

But who has the book?! Where is it??

Dexter finally finds it, but it's too late! They summon... The Evil One!! (from the 1956 black & white classic It Conquered the World). And it all ends in this nonsensical climax which promises a sequel and a music video!

Oh, and we get to see the local villages trying to find the castle to burn it down through the film. They finally abandon the quest at the end.

Transylvania Twist stars Steve Altman, Teri Copley, Ace Mask, Howard Morris, Jay Robinson and Robert Vaughn. The film contains the cameos from several famous faces from the B-movie genre, both the actors and the characters.

In fact Angus Scrimm reprises his role of the "Tall Man" from the cult classic Phantasm movies. The film contains a ton of references and parodies. We get to see Pinhead in an hilarious totally random joke, a Boris Karloff clip, a 3D scene without 3D glasses, and references to The Twilight Zone, Casablanca, The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and several others!

It's certainly not the best Naked Gun-inspired spoof movie I've seen. In fact it's kind of boring, despite all the references and B-movie babes guest appearances.

One of the best part of the film, oddly enough, is probably the main theme composed by Chuck Cirino. So catchy it received several releases over the decades.

Overall: Transylvania Twist is a funny parody take on horror movies, but certainly the best of the genre.

That decade saw a whole plethora of spoof genre films. For a PG-Rated one it was certainly decent, but not by much.

It probably sounded a lot better on paper than in the execution. The film wants itself to be akin to the much more famous Airplane! and Mel Brooks comedies, but it relies too much on lowbrow humor. There's a couple of great 4th wall-breaking scenes though.

Think of it as a Scary Movie long before Scary Movie even existed. On a similar note the 1995 film
Dracula: Dead and Loving It would offer a much better product and completely overshadow it.

I give it:
1.5 / 3 Urkels!

And that is it for today's DoubleFeature!

Both films seem pretty familiar on the surface, even the titles (and how they came up with them), but they're fairly different flicks. And even the quality is noticeably different between the two.

Transylvania 6-5000 is sort of a parody and homage to classic 1930s monster films, while Transylvania Twist tries to spoof 1980s horror films but didn't bother catching the tone and spirit of said films.

Despite both being relatively obscure, each had their own share of memorable handful scenes... and people somehow keep mistaking both films - understandably! Let me put it straight once and for all: Transylvania 6-5000 had Jeff Goldblum and a sexy vampire, Transylvania Twist has ton of slasher cameos and the old man vampire with the triplets daughters.

Watched back to back, they certainly make for an okay Halloween movie night-double feature!

That's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

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