I remember very clearly seeing Leonard Maltin review the film “Transylvania 6-5000” on Entertainment Tonight when it was released in 1985. Maltin sat staring at the camera, bopping his head as the tune “Pennsylvania 6-5000” played. The song reached the point where the group of voices substituted the words “Transylvania 6-5000” for the usual phrase…then the track ended and Maltin simply added, “Stinks! I’m Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonigiht.” Maltin is probably one of my favorite film critics…he genuinely loves movies…but sorry Leonard, I don’t think you earned your paycheck that night.
Truth be told, “Transylvania 6-5000” is not a good film. But when you’re a 14 year old kid, as I was in 1985, this is the kind of dumb comedy you watched over and over again on HBO. Not sure why, I guess it was that or watch C-SPAN. The film stars Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jr. (and Ed Begley Jr’s Hair) as two tabloid reporters sent to Transylvania to investigate reports that Frankenstein’s Monster is roaming the countryside once again. Already we’re off to a bad start, since Transylvania was Dracula’s hood, not Frankenstein’s. Upon arriving in town, the reporters meet the town’s strange mayor (Jeffery Jones) who has converted the local castle into a theme hotel. Somehow, the location scouts managed to choose a castle that looks about as creepy as your average Krispy Kreme Donuts. There are several other strange characters at the castle, including doofus bellhop (Michael Richards) and a couple of hunchback housekeepers (John Byner & Carol Kane).
The reporter’s investigation leads them to a local senior citizens hospital. It turns out that the hospital’s Dr. Malavaqua (Joseph Bologna) has several strange experiments going on in the basement of the castle. These include a Frankenstein Monster, a Mummy, a Wolfman, and Geena Davis as a female vampire in an outfit that is a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. The Doctor is perfectly sane, until he passes under and archway in his laboratory…then he becomes a mad scientist.
The film was written and directed by frequent Mel Brooks collaborateur Rudy De Luca, but this is a long way from “Young Frankenstein.” There is no effort put into trying to parody the atmosphere of classic monster movies. The monsters actually have very little screen time, which I would consider a major flaw for a monster movie parody. I think part of the problem may be that they have the formula all wrong for a comedic monster movie. Take a film like “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” There the monsters are played straight…the comedy comes from Bud and Lou. Here the residents of the castle are the comedic characters and it just doesn’t work as well.
There are a few funny moments. I admit to laughing at some of Michael Richards’ bits. It’s interesting to see him doing some things that became part of our pop culture lexicon when he would become Cosmo Kramer many years later. Carol Kane also provides a few funny moments, but most of the attempts at humor fall flat. The idea behind Bologna’s character, that he is only a mad scientist when in his lab, is funny…but it is not executed well.
Well, that’s 534 more words than Leonard Maltin had to say about it. Think I can get one of his gigs hosting Disney DVD’s?