Comedy Oddities: Transylvania 6-5000

transylvania 6500 indexWay back in nineteen eighty five Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr, Jeffrey Jones, Carol Kane, Michael Richards and Geena Davis created this very silly sort of supernatural comedy, it’s not quite a full on parody in the way that Airplane or The Naked Gun function but it’s not far off. It’s also surprisingly weak given the talented individuals involved, sure, many of them were fairly near to the beginning of their careers but it’s almost crazy as to how many of the jokes misfire or just plain don’t work.

Jack Harrison (Jeff Goldblum) and Gil Turner (Ed Begley Jr) are two journalists, one talented and one who’s the son of the editor, and they’re sent off to Transylvania after a tape was sent in purporting to feature Frankenstein’s monster. When they arrive in the country they meet a number of locals including Mayor Lepescu (Jeffrey Jones) who owns the castle they’re staying at and who employs Radu (John Byner), a servant who insists on calling everyone “Master”, Radu’s irritating wife Lupi (Carol Kane), and Fejos (Michael Richards) who seems to exist only to annoy others.

The locals initially mock Jack and Gil’s investigation and accuse them of believing in lazy clichés about the country, but soon Geena Davis pops up as a vampire who seems to have an aversion to clothes as well as garlic, and there’s a mad scientist who is undertaking a number of unusual experiments. Not that Jack really cares as he’s more interested in attempting to seduce fellow American Elizabeth (Teresa Ganzel) but Gil is doing his best to find out if there’s anything unusual occurring.

There’s a number of dodgy gags throughout the movie, some are just poor attempts at wordplay (a newspaper story uses the word rape instead of rope, for example, while a character with a hunch is the recipient of a joke so bad that the dead might groan upon hearing it), while other attempts at humour are moments involving characters bickering or arguing which aren’t entertaining in the slightest. A mad scientist screams at Radu and Lupi a lot and appears to be a Jekyll and Hyde type figure, but it’s just loud and annoying rather than amusing, and though Goldblum and Begley Jr bicker like a couple from a fifties screwball comedy it’s rarely in a funny way,

Michael Richards is strong when it comes to physical comedy as his character is prank obsessed and rarely without a number of daft props, including fake legs, arms and banana peels, and Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jnr meeting some unusual beings and doing a sod load of screaming in the woods is quite funny. As is a bizarre bit where the wolfman grabs Jeff Goldblum and inexplicably says “I’ve got you now you communist”, plus a kid beating Frankenstein’s monster at poker contains a decent sight gag, but they’re pretty much all of the bits in the film which elicit laughter.

Given the cast you may still be tempted to give this a go and at least at just over ninety minutes it doesn’t last for too long. But even if you absolutely adore the cast and think horror spoofs are the only films worth watching it’s unlikely you’ll find much of value here, it’s not a bad film and there’s only one ugly joke, but the amount of weak ones is depressing, and the cast deserved a much stronger script than the one they ended up with.

★★

Alex Finch.
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