Review by C. Demetrius Morgan
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After a tabloid editor receives a mysterious tape enigmatically titled “Frankenstein Lives” he dispatches two bumbling reporters on an all-important assignment to Transylvania to get the hardcover inside real deal story. So begins this zany horror spoof from 1985. As to the rest of the movie, you just have to see its unique brand of slapstick humor and juvenile innuendo laden comedy to believe it.
Audio Commentary w/ Director
Listed Running Time: 94 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG. (Contains gratuitous silliness.)
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Geena Davis, Carol Kane, Jeffrey Jones, John Byner, Joseph Bologna, Michael Richards, Donald Gibb, Norman Fell, et al.
Director: Rudy De Luca.
I have to admit that when I initially picked up this DVD I was very interested to first see who put it out and what extras might be on the disc. When I saw the Anchor Bay logo I immediately knew I’d be buying the disc regardless of what extras might be present. After getting it home I have to say the extras are pretty decent and the transfer is very clear, crisp, and well presented. So if you’ve ever wondered what famous actors and actresses like Jeff Goldblum (Independence Day, Jurassic Park, The Fly), Michael Richards (TVs Kramer), Geena Davis (Cutthroat Island, Thelma & Louise, Beetlejuice), or Ed Begley, Jr. (Addams Family Reunion, Amazon Women on the Moon) did before they became really famous then look no further than Transylvania 6-5000.
Here’s an sign of age: I seem to recall my younger self thinking this movie was far better than my current self does. So that probably tells you the age groups that will most enjoy this movie. Even so there was one thing totally absent from this movie that I never once found myself given pause to wish was there, or even think about, and that‘s hi-fi super test digital CGI effects. Though watching Goldblum playing the womanizer- he puts the moves on a single mother early on in the film!- is funny enough to forgive much.
Overall the movie seems subdued given the sort of things that have appeared on television in the interim, yet it has a special brand of loopy kitsch all it‘s own. Keep an eye on Goldblum‘s reactions in the early scenes to what is going on around him. They are priceless. As is Mr. Begley‘s crowd performance near the end of the film. However if you don‘t care for these actors (or actresses) then you‘ll probably not find much to enjoy in this film. But even if you hate them can you really pass up seeing their performances in this astonishing horror spoof from early in their careers?
The Setting: Transylvania. More generically the action takes place in a small town and is very reminiscent of early CRPGs. There’s the inn, a castle, an asylum, a forest, and similar places that the characters move back and forth between.
The Characters: Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jr. play a not quite dynamic duo of tabloid reporters who encounter various traditional genre characters. There’s the weird doorman, the spooky butler, a ditzy maid, a creepy police inspector, flippant mayor, mad scientist, and various assorted background characters. All in all your typical horror fare, only turned on its ear and peppered with sight gags and slapstick comedy.
Suggested Game Uses: This movie might be good as inspiration for a narrative oriented game with a small group of players. After all there are really only two central characters, both tabloid reporters, sent on what is essentially a journey of exploration and investigation. Perhaps a game like Inspectres or Ghost Stories. Just be aware that humor doesn’t always translate well to the RPG environment and, beyond that aspect of the movie, there‘s really not a lot going on here.
The humor is very lowbrow Jr. High School grade material, then again with a PG rating that was probably the target audience the producers had in mind back in ‘85. Which is really a shame because this movie could have been a classic horror spoof contender ranking up there with genre classics like Repossessed, Beetlejuice, Young Frankenstein, or Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Instead what we have is an ambitious period horror spoof in the vein of cutesy camp favorites like Pandemonium or Saturday the 14th.
Sadly Transylvania 6-5000 possesses a banal immaturity that many may no longer be able to fully appreciate. It’s one of those things that happen to us as we grow older that we don‘t notice, until we try to revisit those fond memories of yesteryear. Which is not to say Transylvania 6-5000 is a total washout. Just that, from a slightly more aged perspective, the movie appears to just barely manage not to trip over itself trying to be funny. But it’s a successful saving throw from falling face first into the muddy ditch to the side of Absurdity Boulevard that is a very close thing. That is assuming you don’t allow those “adult” preconceptions to get in the way of enjoying the movie for what it is, a simply absurd romp.
Rating: 8 out of 10 golden apples. (Rated on a curve based on the extras.)
Negatives: The twist at the end of the movie wasn’t very satisfying and feels like a major let down. Whether that’s just my “adult” sensibilities kicking in or the movie ending really being a total crap out is a matter of debate. Probably a bit of both. Granted, for what it is, and when it was produced, this movie isn’t all that bad. Plus its only PG, so there’s not a whole lot to object to, much less anything that’s objectionable. Which is a shame. What? One look at Geena Davis in her nympho vampire costume and you’ll be thinking the same. Don’t deny it!
Positives: Its Anchor Bay! I‘ve found Anchor Bay releases to always be top-notch quality. The extras are nice. Image quality is simply amazing. Considering the obscure nature of films Anchor Bay has released to date this attention to detail really is awe-inspiring. Grab the DVD if you can find it.
Availability: I found my copy in the bargain DVD section at Best Buy. Most online vendors I checked list it as in stock, so this one should be easy to find.
Coming soon: Zombie Lake!?
Copyright © 2004 C. Demetrius Morgan