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  • Michael Rickard II

"1989's Film Comedy 'Transylvania Twist' is Worth Tracking Down."

Editor’s Note: I’ve been covering some of the horror films that dotted the landscape during the made-for-television movie heyday. Today I’m going to take a look at the horror spoof Transylvania Twist, a much-overlooked film that’s worthy of checking out.

1989 was arguably one of the greatest years to be a fan of the blockbuster and film in general. Where do you begin? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Lethal Weapon 2 led the pack while films such as Roadhouse, Weekend at Bernie’s, License to Kill, The Abyss, and Lock-Up proved good choices for nights when the top films were sold out. Even No Holds Barred was there for people looking for a good laugh at what happens when two millionaires (Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan) pursue a vanity project.

With so much competition, it’s no surprise the little-known film Transylvania Twist got lost in the crowd. The surprisingly funny film that slipped through the cracks when it was released in October 1989, and while it’s out of print, it’s worth hunting down, much like the ancient book that the movie revolves around. Consider the film’s synopsis: “A librarian from Transylvania must collect the fines on a 200-year overdue book ‘The Book of All Evil’ During his trip to the castle he meets Marissa a gorgeous rock star and heir to the castle's fortune. There they must confront the only other heir to the fortune and the book Uncle Byron; and Uncle Byron has a very very very broad smile.” You might waver whether to watch it—that is until you see Robert Vaughn stars as a vampire lord. What cinephile worth their salt is going to pass on the chance to check this one out?

Who wouldn't want to watch Robert Vaughn as a vampire?

You start watching Transylvania Twist and you realize it’s a movie that has no business being funny, yet it draws you in. It’s not a film worth watching because it’s so lousy you laugh at its many shortcomings (such as the previously mentioned No Holds Barred). Instead, it’s more like a hapless sports team that stumbles into the playoffs, despite their many faults. They might not make it to the championship game, but they make it enjoyable to watch and impress you with their heart. Such is the film Transylvania Twist.

The only reason I even knew of this film was because I picked up the remastered version of Phantasm, and started looking into the films Angus Scrimm aka “The Tall Man” starred in. When I saw he was in a film called Transylvania Twist, I dug deeper and discovered Robert Vaughn was in it. Now, I was really intrigued.

Angus Scrimm takes a funny turn in Transylvania Twist.

Robert Vaughn has always been one of my favorite actors, a man who exuded class, but could also exude the right tone of arrogance when he played an overconfident politician in Bullitt or General Stockwell in The A-Team. As his career went on, he proved ever-capable of playing lovable scoundrels such as American conman Albert Stroller in the BBC series Hustle. He was also an actor who seemed to have no problem starring in roles some might have looked down upon. Whether it was B-grade films such as Chud 2 or Transylvania Twist, Vaughn was ever ready to collect a paycheck and add his star power to any film. He proved this time after time in roles such as Pooty Tang and BASEketball. While some might question the wisdom of lending one's name to a questionable property, consider Sir Laurence Olivier's answer to why he starred in Inchon:

People ask me why I’m playing in this picture. The answer is simple: Money, dear boy. I’m like a vintage wine. You have to drink me quickly before I turn sour. I’m almost used up now and I can feel the end coming. That’s why I’m taking money now. I’ve got nothing to leave my family but the money I can make from films. Nothing is beneath me if it pays well. I’ve earned the right to damn well grab whatever I can in the time I’ve got left (qtd. in Lewis).

And if that doesn't persuade you, consider the words of master thespian Shaquille O'Neal who when discussing his role in Kazaam quipped,“I was a medium-level juvenile delinquent from Newark who always dreamed about doing a movie. Someone said ‘Hey, here’s $7 million, come in and do this genie movie.’ What am I going to say, no?'” (qtd. in Lewis).

Robert Vaughn, always exuding class no matter what film or TV show he collected a paycheck from.

Transylvania Twist is similar to The Naked Gun series or Mel Brooks’ many spoofs. It mocks everything and anything, ranging from horror movies to politics. It doesn’t always hit the bullseye, but the film shoots so many comedic arrows, enough hit their mark. Transylvania Twist’s true charm is how incorporates a love of horror and music into its comedy. Whether you’re a Boris Karloff fan or an H.P. Lovecraft enthusiast, you’re going to have fun catching all the in-jokes and finding the film’s many Easter eggs. The film also features several musical numbers (all of them comedic) which are good enough you might even want to order the soundtrack (like the film, you’re going to have to try eBay or thrift stores to track down copies).

Two crazy mixed-up kids looking for a lost book in Transylvania.

Jim Wynorski was known for his assembly-line method of directing films (which makes Roger Corman’s role as producer all the more appropriate) and lists this as one of his favorite films. It seems like he and everyone involved had a good time making the film as their work is energetic and engaging. Transylvania Twist may not be an A-level comedy classic, but its abundance of jokes (albeit some groan-inducing), over-the-top storyline, and staunch refusal to take itself seriously make it worth checking out. All that and Robert Vaughn as a vampire lord., proving the 1980’s was the age of excess both on Wall Street and in Hollywood. Rather than drop $50 to go see Geostorm at the local multiplex, invest in a copy of Transylvania Twist.

Work Cited

Lewis, Morgan. "Top 13 Quotes From Actors About Bad Films." Morgan on Media. 5 Sept. 2012.

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