Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)

From the very title of the movie (itself a reference to the old Glenn Miller tune, Pennsylvania 65000) to the set up and development of the plot to the large number of groansome gags, Transylvania 6-5000 feels very much like a dated movie unlikely to appeal to modern audiences. Using archetypal horror icons can work (just see the excellent The Monster Squad for an example of just how well) but this film uses them ineffectually and can't even compensate for failing in that department with any comedy consolation.

Jeff Goldblum is the journo rolling his eyes in exasperation and disbelief as he's sent on a job to Transylvania to investigate the background of a video received by his newspaper (that reportedly shows Frankenstein's monster scaring two unsuspecting tourists). Ed Begley Jr. is the editor's son who is along for the ride, making up for in enthusiasm what he lacks in common sense. Once they have arrived at their destination they are treated to a bizarre experience, staying in a hotel that caters specifically for tourists by catering to every Transylvanian stereotype and cliche. Are there monsters on the loose or is the whole thing just a lot of nonsense?

Written and directed by Rudy De Luca, Transylvania 6-5000 at least benefits from a decent cast. Jeff Goldblum has never, in my view, been unwatchable and his cynical presence helps lift this vehicle just above the very bottom of the barrel. Ed Begley Jr is slightly irritating at times but he's not the worst comedy actor ever. Jeffrey Jones has fun, Michael Richards plays a butler who is essentially "Kramer with a fondness for practical jokes" and Carol Kane steals every scenes that she's in as an overly affectionate wife pestering her husband (John Byner) while he tries to get on with his work. There's also a decent turn from Teresa Ganzel as Elizabeth Ellison and Geena Davis looks gorgeous in a vamp outfit. Joseph Bologna is slightly disappointing as a potential mad scientist, Dr. Malavaqua, but he doesn't drag the film down severely, mainly because it never really reaches any higher than average anyway.

The jokes occasionally raise the shadow of a smile but this kind of material was mined for far superior comedy gold by the likes of Mel Brooks, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis and even Abbott & Costello. By 1985 you would think that something sharper and smarter could have been created but that's not the case (I even enjoyed Transylmania and Stan Helsing more than this movie). A revelatory finale proves to be surprisingly sweet and gently amusing but it's also lacking in anything that actually makes up for the rest of the film being so disappointing and stale.


  1. HAHA, I've never seen this one but I've heard much of it. Good review; gave me more than a few chuckles! I love Geena Davis; it's a shame her filmography is so shoddy. She always had presence though and she usually elevates the material she's in.

  2. Yeah, she had the mix of beauty, brains and physicality to succeed in any genre IMO. I still love The Long Kiss Goodnight but think it's only fair to warn people that I also quite enjoyed Cutthroat Island. No accounting for taste :-)