It’s once again World Dracula Day! And as we promised in our previous post about actors who’ve played Dracula, here’s a look at actors who’ve played comedy versions of Dracula or similar comedy vampires.
Naturally the first comedy Dracula was Bela Lugosi himself, who rapidly tumbled into self-parody as early as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). But he, being Lugosi, is less a “comedy Dracula” than “Dracula doing comedy”. Likewise, on The Munsters it is strongly implied that Grandpa (Al Lewis) is an elderly Dracula, but he has such a strongly-defined distinctive personality we leave him out of this wrap-up as well. And we have already written about several funny lady vampires, like Vampira, Lily Munster (Yvonne de Carlo) and Elvira — also a separate category of inhumanity. Now that we have narrowly defined our boundaries: Onward, through the fog!
Pierre Etaix, L’Insomnie (1963)
The great French clown made this comedy short in which a man tries to get to sleep by reading a book about a vampire — who naturally manifests himself and brings nothing both terror and further sleeplessness.
Ferdy Mayne, The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) and The Vampire Happening (1971)
The prolific British character actor played the main vampire in Roman Polanski’s 1967 Hammer parody, and the Count himself in a later German horror comedy. Mayne’s other comedies included The Bobo, The Magic Christian, Revenge of the Pink Panther, and Yellowbeard, among hundreds of other credits.
Ron Masak, Monstrous Monkee Mash (1968)
In this classic episode of The Monkees, the pre-fab four wind up at a secluded castle and encounter comedy versions of the Universal monsters. Familiar character actor Ron Masak, in one of his first roles, is the Dracula stand-in.
Larry Storch, The Groovie Goolies (1970-72)
This Saturday morning cartoon show was probably my first exposure to the classic monsters. It was years before I ever learned that Drac was voiced by comedian Larry Storch, best remembered as Agarn on F Troop.
Larry Kenney, Count Chocula commercials (1971-present)
In 1971 the Count became a monster cereal and thereby lost his fangs. He was voiced by Larry Kenny, doing a Lugosi imitation.
Jerry Nelson, “Count Von Count”, Sesame Street from 1972)
The famous vampire got the Muppet treatment on Sesame Street starting in 1972, with Jerry Nelson providing counting lessons in his spooky-funny voice…”mwah haha! One cookie! Two cookies!…”
David Niven, Vampira a.k.a. Old Dracula (1974)
This movie was frequently presented on double bills with Young Frankenstein. It features David Niven as an aging Drac who has to give tours of his castle to make ends meet. In order to revive his titular love he drains blood from several Playboy playmates who live at his pad, with the result that Vampira is reborn black! The fact that he has a problem with it is either pushes the thing into either into satire or racism or both. From the perspective of the 21st century, the film would also make a good pairing with The Thing with Two Heads.
George Hamilton, Love at First Bite (1979)
George Hamilton somehow leveraged his poolside Bela Lugosi imitation into a starring vehicle, and I (a teenager at the time) really enjoyed it when it came out. It was written by Robert Kaufman, whose next film was How to Beat the High Co$t of Living, and directed by my wife’s family friend Stan Dragoti, whose next film was Mr. Mom. The premise is that Dracula’s castle gets appropriated by Romania’s Communist government, so he moves to New York (which was a comedy character unto itself in the 1970s, what with disco, porn, S & M, the whole tawdry magilla to riff on). The cast also had Susan St. James, Arte Johnson, Richard Benjamin, Dick Shawn, Barry Gordon, Ronnie Schell, Sherman Helmsley and Isabelle Sanford. That is a SOLID comedy cast. Interestingly, it came out the same year as the Frank Langella Dracula.
Joe Flaherty, “Count Floyd”, SCTV (1981-83)
This was one of my favorite recurring characters on SCTV. Joe Flaherty’s alcoholic newscaster character Floyd Robertson doubled as the horror host, hokey, cliche-ridden Count Floyd, who showed movies he knew were terrible and tried to pretend they were scary.
Leslie Nielsen, Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
One of the few embarrassments ever to be turned out by comic genius Mel Brooks, the movie is a conglomeration of highly overdone cliches, including Leslie Nielsen’s portrayal of the title character. Look at the photo above. Does the costume look anything like the one George Hamilton is ALSO wearing in a photo above? His accent had about the same amount of originality. When you are looking to George Hamilton for your comedy inspiration, prospects are dire indeed. A movie best left unseen.
Adam Sandler, Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Adam Sandler voices the Count in this animated family comedy in which Dracula runs a monster hotel that accidentally gets patronized by a human tourist. Sandler’s portrayal is interesting. He does a vaguely “European” accent that steers clear of the “Lugosi-esque” cliches. The script is weak however. Given that the cast also includes Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz, and Chris Parnell, this movie ought to be funnier by an order of magnitude.
For more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.
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