• Love At First Bite / Once Bitten



    Released by: Shout Factory
    Released on: February 10, 2015
    Director: Stan Dragoti/Howard Storm
    Cast: George Hamilton, Susan St. James/Lauren Hutton, Jim Carey
    Year: 1979/1985
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    The Movies:

    Shout! Factory's Scream Factory imprint celebrates the humorous side of the horror movie with this double dose of vampire comedy films presented on a single Blu-ray disc.

    Love At First Bite:

    First up is 1979's Love At First Bite, directed by Stan Dragoti. The film stars George Hamilton as Count Dracula, a vampire who at first glance seems to have it all: the castle, the money, the lifestyle. But he's lonely… so lonely. The closest he gets to loving a woman is ogling a beautiful model in a magazine. This, and the fact that the local villagers want to do away with him (they're not fans of his feeding tactics it would seem), is reason enough to hop a flight from Transylvania to New York City. He doesn't travel alone, however, as his right hand man Renfield (Arte Johnson) is along for the ride.

    After a detour to Harlem after his arrival, Dracula winds up setting up a residency of sorts at the fancy Park Plaza Hotel where he winds up meeting that model he was digging so hard earlier in the film: Cindy Sondheim (Susan St. James). When he runs into her at a dance bar things seem to be off to a good start and when he winds up at her place later, they're definitely off to a good start. Things turn sour though when Cindy shows up to talk to her shrink, Jeff Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin), a man who just so happens to be her ex. When he realizes what those bite marks are on her neck, he takes it upon himself to take Dracula out of the picture. After all, he is a direct descendent of the legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing, so he comes by it naturally. Of course, no one believes Rosenberg, least of all top cop Ferguson (Dick Shawn), that is until a local NYC blood bank is robbed…

    Briskly paced and plenty funny, Love At First Bite does a pretty fine job of lampooning vampire movie clichés one after another pretty much throughout its running time. Moving most of the action from Transylvania to New York City adds a bit of interesting NYC grit to a few scenes and helps to set it apart from other vampire films and the movie is well shot with some slick location footage. A good score with some catchy tracks included on it helps to add to the enjoyment of the feature while the script offers up a good mix of funny dialogue, kooky characters and amusing sight gags.

    As far as the cast go, Benjamin is funny to watch as the wannabe Van Helsing. He plays the crazed, obsessed vampire hunter type well and does so with enough energy that it's no wonder he winds up getting tossed into the loony bin. Great casting there. Dick Shawn as the cop in charge of looking into all of this also does fine work while Susan St. James as the woman who acts as the catalyst for Dracula's obsessions coming on full force is also lots of fun, and quite beautiful. Of course, the real star of the show is George Hamilton as Dracula. He's suave and debonair, as you'd expect, but also quite adapt at the more comedic side required by the part. His style of line delivery apes the Transylvanian accent so often associated with the character well and he really seems to get into the role. Cult movie fans will appreciate seeing Michael Pataki pop up in a small supporting role! This one holds up quite well, definitely worth revisiting.

    Once Bitten:

    The second feature on the disc is 1985's Once Bitten directed by Howard Storm and it introduces us to the Countess (Lauren Hutton), a vampire who lives in a fancy mansion in sunny California. Like other vampiric countesses before her (think Bathory), our heroine needs to drink blood to keep up appearances but she doesn't need female virgins for this, just virile young hunks! She's got to get this taken care of before Halloween arrives, however, and she's quickly running out of time. Enter Mark Kendall (Jim Carey), a high school student who has had it up to here with his girlfriend Robin (Karen Kopins). She won't give him the sweet, sweet loving he so desperately needs so when he winds up at an nightclub looking for a cheap, no-strings-attached encounter, through a series of strange circumstances he winds up going home with, you guessed it… the countess.

    When he wakes up the next day he doesn't remember ANY of this. He hasn't reconciled with Robin and doesn't remember the Countess at all, but she remembers him, in fact she plans to bite him two more times to complete the transformation and turn him. Once she gets him a second time, he starts to look like a ghoul and Robin starts to wonder what's really going on. Once she puts two and two together she figures it's up to her to save Mark, even if he is a horndog, before it's too late for him.

    Crammed full of all the eighties sex comedy clichés you can imagine, Once Bitten is amusing enough even if it isn't an eighties comedy classic. Lots of dirty jokes and sex references are scattered throughout the movie, some goofy double-entendres, and plenty of eighties colors and fashions keep it fun. It's amusing to see Jim Carey here in an early role, driving around in an ice-cream truck in search of a lay. Everyone knows he's got a real knack for comedy and he uses those skills well in the part. Karen Kopkins plays things a bit more straight laced but she's fine in the part and plenty cute. Lauren Hutton vamps it up in grand style. It's a blast to watch her here, interacting not only with the living, but with the dead as she keeps her past conquests, acquired over not decades but seemingly over centuries, in coffins in the basement of her mansion home.

    Though the movie keeps things within its PG-13 ratings limit, there's enough racy humor to make for a few solid laughs. Add to that a bizarre dream sequence that pays homage to the Lugosi Dracula film and, yes, a very eighties looking dance sequence, and you get just enough ‘what were they thinking?' style content along with the comedy to make Once Bitten worthy of a watch.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Both films debut on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and they look quite good. Love At First Bite looks a bit on the dark side at first but that improves quickly and if shadow detail in these early scenes isn't reference quality it's definitely solid. Once things move to New York color reproduction improves considerably and we get some nice detail and texture here too. Once Bitten, being an eighties film shot in California, is also fairly colorful but it doesn't quite seem to have as much depth, likely stemming back to the camerawork. Regardless, it too features nice color reproduction and good black levels. Neither film shows any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement having been applied and there don't appear to be any serious issues with compression artifacts. Elements used were pretty clean, meaning you aren't going to see any major print damage on either film, just a few specks here and there. Skin tones look nice in both pictures and generally both films look very good here.

    Both films get the English language DTS-HD 2.0 treatment, with optional subtitles offered up in English only. No problems here for either film. Balance is fine throughout and dialogue remains clean and clear from start to finish. There were no noticeable instances of any hiss or distortion and the levels are good. The music sounds nice in both films, providing a bit more depth and range than you'd expect.
    Extra are slim, limited to a theatrical trailer for each film and three radio spots for the first feature. Menus and chapter selection are also included.

    The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory's double feature Blu-ray release of Love At First Bite and Once Bitten may not pile on the extras that are typical with the Scream Factory titles but it does offer up a fun pair of vampire comedies with very nice high definition presentations. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Jim Carrey playing electric guitar with his leg....worth the price of admission.
    1. major jay's Avatar
      major jay -
      This movie is so damn eighties that I kinda ended up loving it.