Retro Review - "Transylvania 6-5000"


When the title credits of the 1985 Transylvania 6-5000 start splashing onto the screen, you know you're in for something special. Aside from an infectious theme song, we see a talented cast that includes Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Geena Davis and Michael "Kramer" Richards, and we've already got a promising concept set up in the opening moments. You can tell that this is a movie you won't soon forget. And by the time you're at the ending credits, that theory will most definitely be affirmed.

But dear lord, you'll wish it wasn't, because this movie is why babies cry at night.
Don't watch this movie. Alright? Can I just keep this review short and concise?

Will it be enough for me to tell you that this is easily one of the worst pieces of garbage ever conceived, and that anybody who funded it, legitimately believing it to be a worthwhile investment, must have been an absolute loon? Could I possibly persuade you into just taking my word that this film has no redeeming qualities, and if it did, they would be buried in the most outlandish, shitty execution this side of Troll 2? No? Okay, fine then. Here are a few of the many, many reasons that I despise Transylvania 6-5000, an alleged comedy directed by longtime Mel Brooks underling, Rudy De Luca.

The "plot" follows two bumbling reporters, played by Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Goldblum (pre-Chef Goldblum days,) who get sent to Transylvania on a hot tip that young inhabitants ran into Frankenstein. Goldblum's the skeptic, Begley's the believer, and together, they explore the infamous town in hopes of running into monsters. And because there wouldn't really be a movie if they didn't, they eventually run into a child-loving Frankenstein, a wolfman who calls people communists, and Geena Davis with her tits out, along with a whole other cavalcade of ghouls. Oh, they're also staying at a hotel run by Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and attended to by Cosmo Kramer. I couldn't make this shit up if I tried, folks.

Stuart Little's mother, everybody.
If this sounds even remotely funny, please, hear me out. With the comedic timing of a Gorgon attack victim, and the wit of contemporary Pauly Shore, Transylvania 6-5000 takes its unique set-up and throttles it until it's blue in the face, all potential fun dashed against the rocks. It's like somebody gave Ed Wood the script to Casablanca, or Michael Bay the greenlight to remake Schindler's List; all potential is lost at the inept hands of Rudy De Luca, who both wrote and directed. How somebody can come up with this idea, then murder it so brutally is beyond me, but it happened, and this cinematic disaster is proof of it. Proof that there can be no God, because if there was, he would smite this movie into the lower fathoms of hell.

Why is this movie so unfunny though? What sets it apart from, say, your average inoffensive Adam Sandler movie, or even your shlocky Rob Schneider flick? Hell, what makes this even less funny than Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (which even then had its moments)? Well, if I were to pick just one problem with this movie, which is a huge ordeal in and of itself, I would have to say the sociopathic idea of humor present here. That may sound harsh, but here me out. In this film, De Luca sets up gags to be followed with pause for comedic timing, and directs actors to react in zany ways, but there's a problem. Nothing funny is even remotely happening in this movie.

The only laughter here is at the movie, not with it. The script assumes it has funny material, and demands actors react as such, but in reality, this is a cruel pantomime of comedy. It acts like something funny is occurring, and tries to convince viewers of that, but every attempt falls on its face in a spectacular fashion. It's awkward and creepy and just plain fucking awful in every conceivable fucking way. Take for example Krame-... Michael Richards' character. He tells the protagonists that he's going to slip on a banana peel, sets the peel down, takes a few steps back, then does just that. It's a banana peel gag somehow done horribly, horribly wrong. The joke is only funny if the character doesn't know it's going to happen, and the dramatic irony allows the viewer to see it going wrong, much to the surprise of the character. It's fucking Comedy 101, and this movie can't even do that right. Seriously, how did this get produced?

The truth is stranger than you may think.

Way stranger.
That logo, for the unaware, is the logo for Dow Chemical. Yes, the fucking fertilizer company. What do they have to do with this cinematic abortion? Why, everything, as a matter of fact. See, in 1985, Dow Chemical apparently had accumulated funds in dinar, the Yugoslav currency. The only problem was that Yugoslavian law prevented Dow from repatriating these funds, therefore freezing them. In order to free them, then, they decided to use them to fund a movie production inside the country, which could then make profit in American dollars. An insidious little scheme, to be sure, but a savvy one. And thus, Transylvania 6-5000 was fucking born. Or at least, funded. Interestingly enough, though, Rudy De Luca barely had any control over this film, according to his commentary. His video monitor was taken away so he couldn't edit shots the way he wanted, the producer constantly pressured him to finish production quicker so he could get a pay check, so on, so forth. So, in complete honesty, it's hard to entirely blame De Luca. Perhaps this movie was funny at one point, and then ruined by a shit production.

Who knows, really, but what's important is that this movie came out in 1985. Why? Because that's the year we got big hits like The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future (a personal AFC favorite) and The Goonies. The year we were hit with big, dumb action classics like Commando (another personal favorite,) Rambo: First Blood Part II and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. And who can forget cult gems like Weird Science, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Clue (all personal favorites)? Hell, and what about critical darlings like Cocoon, The Color Purple and Kurosawa's epic Ran?! 1985 was a fantastic year for cinema lovers and the casual moviegoer alike.

Yet in the middle of it, we were hit with this abysmal fuckheap of a movie, an unforgivable excuse for a "comedy" that isn't "so bad it's good," isn't an "underrated gem," isn't even a "forgettable but funny little movie." It's whatever comes out of Dracula's rear end when he drinks contaminated blood; it's the excess bits of skin and muscle left over from making Frankenstein's monster. Transylvania 6-5000 is an offensively bad movie, one whose sense of humor is nowhere to be found, and whose talented cast is squandered. If you value your life, don't watch this movie. Instead, go watch virtually anything else that came out in 1985.

I mean, fuck, at least Rocky IV was unintentionally hilarious.

Grade: F+



Comments

  1. I've seen the movie, and I don't think it's quite as bad as you make it out to be. Keep in mind, it isn't a GOOD movie by any stretch. But at least IMO, I got through it without being scarred for life.

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