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Camp Vamp

Mel Brooks' Dracula isrise-from-the-dead funny

Renfield, who wants to stay free so he can serve Dracula, wants to appear perfectly sane. At the same time, the bugs are terribly attractive. So, as though trying to conceal an ordinary faux pas, like a bit of tissue paper clinging to his shoe, Renfield tries to conceal his insect appetite. He snatches his prey while Dr. Seward isn't looking and, eyes bright, flatly denies having eaten anything odd. Korman's doctor is very British and proper, and he finally cannot bear Renfield's bald-faced lies. When Renfield tosses a fork to the ground, announces, "Oh, I've dropped my fork," and dives under the table after a grasshopper, Dr. Seward insists that his patient is not normal. "You've got a bug in your mouth right now," he says, which is not an unreasonable assertion, given that Renfield is crunching away with a grasshopper leg sticking out of his mouth. Renfield denies this with a tight shake of his head, but the doctor is not fooled. "My god, it's fighting for its very life," Dr. Seward says, capping the whole scene of clandestine insect eating with an unexpected show of sympathy for crawling things.

Weird twists, such as the doctor's compassion for the grasshopper, add a great deal to the movie and help keep this free-ranging parody interesting. Suspense is not part of a spoof; the strength of a movie like this is in the quality and timing of the jokes, as well as in some surprises. (One of the best surprises is a gag from Renfield. The not-so-surprising and charming cameos are from Chuck McCann and Anne Bancroft.)

Dead and Loving It is sprightly, and it has the true enthusiasm for the subject matter of Brooks' other good movies. It's a merry, untidy overview of the bloodsuckers we've known and loved. It celebrates both the fun of monster movies, and Mel Brooks' incorrigibly crude sense of humor.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
Directed by Mel Brooks. With Leslie Nielsen, Lysette Anthony, Steven Weber, Harvey Korman and Amy Yasbeck.

Rated PG-13.
90 minutes.

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