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Film / Love at First Bite

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"I never drink wine, and I do not smoke shit."
Count Dracula

Decades before anyone even conceived of the first sparkly vampire, we had a Disco Dracula in this 1979 comedy film directed by Stan Dragoti and starring George Hamilton as the tannest Count Dracula ever to appear on screen.

After getting evicted from his ancestral home by the Communist Romanian government, the world-weary Count travels with his bug-eating assistant Renfield (Arte Johnson) to New York City to find his soulmate, currently reincarnated as flaky fashion model Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James). While trying to win her heart, Drac must fend off bumbling assassination attempts from Jeffery Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin), Cindy's long-suffering therapist and quasi-boyfriend, who happens to be "Fritz" Van Helsing's grandson. Assisting Rosenberg is skeptical NYPD detective Lt. Ferguson (Dick Shawn).

Much, much better than it probably sounds, this film provided the role of a lifetime for Hamilton, while the rest of the cast turn in excellent performances as well.

Hamilton has tried to get a sequel made on numerous occasions, but the concept remains deep in Development Hell.

Provides examples of:

  • Badass Cape: Lampshaded at the end, when Rosenberg and the detective agree to take turns wearing it to impress women.
  • Big Blackout: New York City suffers one of these during the climax.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: "Give me my fashion magazine."
  • Black Cloak: As noted, considered a selling point with the ladies.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The only corpse in sight, and he dies before the movie even starts.
    • He really shouldn't have drunk the water.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Rosenberg knows how to pick locks using a credit card.
  • The Cameo: Isabel Sanford and Sherman Helmsley (The Jeffersons) play a judge and a preacher, respectively, albeit in separate scenes.
  • Cardiovascular Love: The Heart Symbol "O" in the "Love" of the title.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Dracula's general attitude towards life.
  • Disco: What's the best place for a vampire to explore Manhattan nightlife in The '70s? Why, at Studio 54, of course.
  • Dracula: Played by, of all people, George Hamilton.
  • Eaten Alive: Lampshaded by Renfield on the flight to New York.
    Flight Attendant: Pardon me. Would you like chicken Kiev, Chateaubriand, or veal cutlet Florentine for lunch?
    Renfield: Everything you mentioned is dead. Don't you have anything that's alive... and kicking?
    Lady on Plane with Cat: [scoffs at Renfield] I'll have the chicken Kiev, miss. Oh, why don't you bring a nice juicy mouse for little Salome here?
    Renfield: Could I have one, too?
    [The lady laughs, and Renfield laughs with her.]
  • Fake Nationality: An in-universe example: Rosenberg, the psychiatrist, adapted that name "for professional reasons."
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Drac's coffin accidentally gets switched with that of a deceased black man. The resulting funeral is memorable.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: In a comedic subversion, Dracula only uses these on men, even when faced with women who are being aggressively unhelpful.
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: "...and I do not smoke shit."
  • Intoxication Ensues: Right after biting a wino.
    Dracula: What was that maniac drinking!? Tastes like the Volga river at low tide!
  • Jive Turkey: More than one black character.
  • Kiss of the Vampire + Rule of Threes: Dracula has to bite Cindy three times to entirely turn her into a vampire.
  • Mugging the Monster: "It's folks like you that give this neighborhood a bad name!"
  • Noisy Shut-Up: As the movie begins, Dracula is playing the piano while wolves are howling outside his castle.
    Dracula: Shhh!
    [He continues playing. The wolves keep howling.]
    Dracula: Children of the night... shut up!
  • Pocket Protector: How Dracula survived getting staked by the original Van Helsing.
  • Present Day: At time of release, this was a comedy about Dracula dealing with the modern world. This is completely enforced thanks to the disco dancing, Jive Turkey supporting characters, Dirty Commies as Romanian government flacks, cheerfully-unprotected sex and Roots references.
  • Pun-Based Title
  • The Renfield / Sycophantic Servant: "Whatever Master wants, Master gets!"
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The scene where Dracula and Cindy dance was initially set to the highly-appropriate Alicia Bridges song "I Love The Nightlife," but a generic disco tune called "The Man That I Love" replaced it in home-video releases. The original song was restored for the twin-pack DVD paired with Once Bitten.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The central conflict of the story. It's first represented by the Count (Romanticism) being driven from his home by the government (Enlightenment). After that, Van Helsing represents Enlightenment. Since this movie sides with Romanticism, it shows Enlightenment as dry, dull, and passionless.
  • Ruritania: 1970s Romania. "I think they're from the government (...) They're wearing shoes."
  • Running Gag: Rosenberg can never get his vampire lore straight.
  • Russian Reversal:
    Renfield: You have thirty seconds to tell me where Miss Sondheim is, or... [Opens his lunch pail.]
    Cindy's Agent: Or what? You'll eat your lunch in my office?
    Renfield: No, my lunch will eat you.
    [Out of the pail slithers a snake.]
  • Shout-Out: Dracula quotes a line from the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday:
    Dracula: I am a great power — but I am humbled before you.note 
    • Multiple Roots references thoroughly date this piece.
    • "Didn't he used to be on Fantasy Island?"
  • Stocking Filler: Cindy fiddles with her garter during a therapy session with Rosenberg, to his great distraction.
  • The Taxi... Oh, what a wild ride!
  • Torches and Pitchforks: A mob gathers to harass Dracula as he departs his castle, although they don't do anything more than yell at him.
  • Überwald: ... for about 10 minutes.
  • Urine Trouble: Dracula appears at Cindy's photoshoot, a guard stops Dracula at the gate, Dracula changes into Doberman and raises his leg on the guard...
  • Vampire Dance: He likes the nightlife.
  • Vampire Fiction
  • We Have Forgotten the Phlebotinum: Rosenberg tries to confront Dracula by whipping out a cross — only he accidentally pulls out a Star of David instead.
    Dracula: I suggest you find yourself a nice Jewish girl.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Rosenberg tries to shoot Dracula with a silver bullet.
    Dracula: That's for werewolves!
  • Wrong Insult Offence: Dracula takes offense to being called honky... because he isn't Hungarian.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Rosenberg's rants about a vampire on the loose get him beaten up in an elevator, tied to an ambulance's gurney, and finally locked up in a padded cell in a straight jacket.