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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Love at First Bite/
Once Bitten

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Films
    Love at First Bite (1979)
    2.5 Stars
    Once Bitten (1985)
    2.5 Stars
(Release Date: February 10, 2015) – 1979's "Love at First Bite" and 1985's "Once Bitten" share more in common than just a subgenre; they also utilize a curious, little-known (for me, at least) bit of vampire lore. The notion that a victim can only transform into an immortal creature of the night after being bitten three times by a bloodsucker was a new one to me, and yet both of these cheerfully silly comedies use it as a major plot point. Short of these films being direct sequels, there couldn't be a more copacetic pairing.

First up is "Love at First Bite," a giddy time capsule of the late-'70s disco era starring George Hamilton as Count Dracula himself. When the Count finds out his Transylvanian castle is about to be turned into an athletic training facility, he and henchman Renfield (Arte Johnson) make their way to NYC in search of fun-loving fashion model Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James), whom he believes is the reincarnation of lost love Mina Harker. As he works toward winning over Cindy, her psychiatrist-cum-boyfriend Jeffrey Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin)—the grandson of famed vampire hunter Van Helsing—grows progressively suspicious of this new nightlife-loving man in her life. The spoofy jokes in "Love at First Bite" do not consistently hit their mark, but director Stan Dragoti has a ball with the fish-out-of-water aspect of the story and finds boisterous energy and unapologetic goofiness in the romance between Dracula and Cindy. George Hamilton has to be the most likable of all incarnations of this particular role, while Susan Saint James (looking a lot like P.J. Soles from this same time period) is a delight as the dippy Cindy.

If "Love at First Bite" is airy and inconsequential, it is also undeniably entertaining. The same goes for "Once Bitten," starring the forever sultry Lauren Hutton as the vampiric Countess and a charismatic Jim Carrey (in one of his earliest roles) as Mark Kendall, the teenage virgin she sets her sights on in order to retain her youth. She has until Halloween Eve to seduce Mark and sink her teeth into him three times, and the closer he edges toward fully turning into a vampire, the more these changes begin to put a strain on his relationship with girlfriend Robin (Karen Kopins). There has scarcely been a more patently '80s movie that "Once Bitten," but that is part of its charm. From the Countess' sleek, all-white mansion, to the neon-colored unisex clothing store where Robin works, to the cheesetastic dance number to Maria Vidal's "Hands Off" at the Pre-Halloween Hop, watching it is akin to traveling back to 1985. Save for a few homophobic jokes and gay slurs that sneak into a couple scenes—a product of its time, but still uncomfortable—"Once Bitten" is a total cotton-candy confection, preposterous but good-natured.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
Love at First Bite: B+/A-
Once Bitten: A-/A-

"Love at First Bite" and "Once Bitten" arrive to Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory with pleasing 1080p transfers that breathe new life into both undead offerings. "Once Bitten" is the cleaner of the two transfers, almost entirely free of age-related marks and scratches, and its color scheme leads to a brighter, more dynamic image. "Love at First Bite" is no slouch, though, revealing a natural, filmic grain structure in spite of the minor and unobtrusive, but still fairly consistent, specks of dirt that pop up throughout. An uptick in detail and clarity on both pictures is in full evidence, and neither title has ever looked so good on home video. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are wholly serviceable and speak to the time period in which they were shot. Dialogue is clear and even, while the soundtracks and songs (including Alicia Bridges' disco anthem "I Love the Nightlife" in "Love at First Bite") hold a solid power and fidelity. Well done all around.

Blu-ray Features

Love at First Bite
  • Trailer (3:03, HD)
  • Radio Spots (2:03, HD)
Once Bitten
  • Trailer (0:57, HD)
Bottom Line
"Love at First Bite" and "Once Bitten" aren't perfect movies, but this double feature is pretty close to it. As Scream Factory expands its brand while still staying true to the company's genre intentions, viewers should be happy to see two breezy, vintage, vampire-related horror-comedies receive the high-def attention they deserve. If you aren't familiar with either of them, give them a shot; they may not be deep, but they are surely fun. And, as a bonus, getting both features for the price of one is a win-win situation. Highly recommended.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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