Tuesday, October 1, 2019

B-Movie Review: Transylvania Twist (1989)

In the late 1980s, Jim Wynorski directed a horror parody in the vein of Saturday the 14th. And despite the appearance of Angus Scrimm as a Phantasm-sphere slinging baseball pitcher, it’s still a pretty disappointing picture.

By: Jimbo X

The name Jim Wynorski may not mean much of anything to 99.8 percent of humanity, but around these parts, the man is a living friggin’ legend. In fact, we’ve already reviewed two of his “classics” here at TIIIA 1995’s Wasp Woman redux and that ill-fated live-action Vampirella movie starring what’s-her-name who played Princess Kitana in the first Mortal Kombat movie. Long story short, when it comes to late 1980s, early 1990s soft-core horror exploitation sleaze, the man is pretty much in a class of his own. I mean, just take a look at his oeuvre: Munchie Strikes Back, Ghoulies IV and Point of Seduction: Body Chemistry III … all VHS-era masterpieces (of shit), and all films he directed in just one calendar year. There’s a reason why Wynorski is so often lauded as one of the greatest B-movie auteurs of all-time, even if his name isn’t quite as famous as the likes of Roger Corman, Fred Olen Ray or the dearly-departed Larry Cohen; simply put, this man is a damned one-man factory of sub-par filmmaking, and he for that he ought to be celebrated by everybody with even a passing interest in the cinematic medium.

Of course, not everything Wynorski made was as good as, oh say, Demolition High or The Bare Wench Project. In fact, over the years, he’s actually made a couple of movies that weren’t all that great, and that includes the flick we’re taking a gander at today — 1989’s Transylvania Twist, which is pretty much the epitome of a “how in the world did they fuck this up?” B-movie if there ever was one.

We’ve all seen Saturday the 14th, or at least heard about it, right? Well, Transylvania Twist is pretty much the same concept, meaning it’s an all-encompassing spoof of every popular horror I.P. going on in the late 1980s, but with the added benefit of having one of the all-time great sleaze merchant directors skanking it up with ample gore and nudity. But there’s one humongous problem therein: namely, the fact that Transylvania Twist is a flick virtually devoid of either (serious) bloodspray OR exposed boobies, leaving us with what is tantamount to a hard PG-13 goofball comedy with a few crude one-liners and raunchy entendres thrown in there. Yeah, I know — what a waste of potential, ain’t it?

While there’s no getting around the fact that, taken as a whole, Transylvania Twist is a pretty disappointing flick, it does have a FEW glimmers of hope here and there. If absolutely nothing else, it does dig pretty deep with the genre references, and at least one or two of the sight gags is amusing. And the actresses, as expected/required, are all heavily, heavily-bosomed, although none of them had the good table manners to spring those milkers out at any point in the picture. But hey, it IS fairly appropriate Halloween material, thematically, and even better, I’ve still got a genuine, working VHS copy of the movie right here. And let’s face it, it’s not like ANYBODY reading this has anything better to during the middle of the week in early October, so why don’t we pop this sumbitch in the trusty Sanyo and take a gander at it anyway, despite its numerous faults, foibles and shortcomings?

Well, too bad — I’m reviewing this piece of shit in-depth(ish), regardless.

So the movie begins proper with this red-headed woman getting chased by lawsuit-baiting caricatures of Jason, Freddy and Leatherface, which culminates with her getting chased into a castle and killing all of them (offscreen). She calls them a bunch of amateurs and wipes the blood of her lips as the opening credits doth roll.

From there, we get a “Death City” coffin commercial — it’s very reminiscent of the “Spatula City” gag from UHF — and then we meet our leading main, one Dexter Ward (played by Steve “The Musical Wizard from The Rudy Coby Show” Altman, of all people) he realizes that his uncle isn’t as dead as he seems at his own funeral. Dexter makes a joke about the Reagan Administration embodying a “time of darkness” and then his uncle asks him to retrieve this magical book of spells from some rock and roll singer named Marissa. 

Oh, she can suck me, alright. Anytime

And that’s our cue for a “music video” for the made-for-the-movie track “Give Me Action,” which is filled with stock footage from scores of Roger Corman-produced films and concludes with Marissa pieing Ayatollah Khomeini right in the kisser. 

Then Dexter and Marissa walk onto a black and white kitchen set reminiscent of The Honeymooners, complete with a laugh track and some guy pretending to be Art Carney showing up out of the blue to give them a letter beseeching them to come to Transylvania. 

So they decide to go to Transylvania (I guess it would be a pretty short movie if they didn’t, huh?) and their taxi driver is your stereotypical New York cabbie. Then these two unionized grave robbers almost get eaten by a vampire, only for Victor Van Helsing to show up at the last minute and save ‘em by driving a stake through the bloodsucker’s heart. Naturally, this leads to an extremely long blood explosion gag, which Mel Brooks apparently stole for his own horror parody Dracula: Dead and Loving It half a decade later.

Then Marissa and Dexter go to an inn and we figger out Victor Van Helsing is the one who actually sent her the letter earlier in the movie. Outside of a quick throwaway gag showcasing an off-brand Pinhead walking out of Transylvania Acupuncture, there’s really nothing of note going down in this scene.

From there we’re privy to this non sequitur gagshowing Van Helsing staking another classmate to death when he was in elementary school, then another flashback of him making a vampire skank drink holy water in high school. Then we get another musical number, and even for a late 1980s horror parody, it is REALLY goddamn terrible. 

So our heroic trio makes it the castle and the butler is played by none other than ANGUS SCRIMM. Then a vampiress harem shows up and tries to trick Marissa into getting crushed underneath a falling chandelier, then Lord Orlock shows up in traditional Dracula regalia and Dexter makes some NOT AT ALL DATED jokes about the Nixon Administration.

Then that redheaded, undead vampire THOT tries to bite Van Helsing, only for Orlock to show up and tell here “no in-between meal snacks.” Then Dexter finds Boris Karloff hiding out in a room (of course, it’s all stock footage of Karloff, edited together so it seems like the two are having a conversation) and then he finds a Jack Nicholson mask, puts it on, and does a REALLY bad impersonation to an audience of no one in particular.

Not only is this the best part of the movie ... hell, it's the only good part of the movie, to be honest with you, fam.

Then there’s a Newlydead Game pastiche that goes on for about five minutes and literally adds nothing to the plot and that dovetails into another lengthy seance scene in which Dexter is momentarily possessed by the spirit of Elvis, of all things. Then Marissa gets possessed by the spirit of her mother and immediately starts spraying dark green puke all over the place and trying to crush Dexter’s testicles into sawdust. Meanwhile, a storm rages throughout the village and the inhabitants of the inn keep wondering what the hell’s going on at the castle. 

That red-headed vampire THOT shows up in Van Helsing’s room AGAIN and this time she really does bite him. Then Dexter and Marissa walk into a 3D-vision room (trust me, this part will give you a headache) and then Angus shows up again and FINALLY does his long-awaited Tall Man impersonation, lobbing a flying, killer sphere at them while a dollar store version of the Phantasm theme plays in the background. Anyway, this whole scene devolves into a baseball parody, and it’s pretty much the best thing about the entire movie. Actually, the more I think about it, it’s probably the only genuinely great thing about the whole flippin’ feature, so definitely enjoy it while it lasts.

Elsewhere, the villagers keep lurching towards the castle and Dexter goes into the basement (cue the all-too-obvious Friday the 13th music homage) and there he finds an evil magic book in the coffin. Of course, a vampire is there to knock him out, and when he comes to he’s been tied up as a sacrificial offering by Orlock. Then Marissa shows up — apparently she’s repossessed by her mom’s spirit — and Van Helsing proceeds to rescue Dexter, even though he is technically a bloodsucker himself now.

So Orlock suddenly sprouts devil horns and Dexter impales him with a lightning rod. Then Marissa uses finger lightning to zap him ablaze. Then she’s conveniently depossessed and Orlock emerges from the ground in full Lovecraftian rubber monster form. Dexter blows up the evil book (thus killing Orlock in the process, through whatever supernatural explanation the movie didn’t bother explaining to the audience), Van Helsing contemplates turning the castle into a trailer park and the movie ultimately concludes with Marissa shooting a music video in the castle crypt. As an added bonus, the villagers are STILL trying to find the castle throughout the end credits, and your “reward” for staying through the whole thing? A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag about the “Book of Ultuhr” being available in paperback. Har-har, guys. Har-har.

Surely, this type of humor has to appeal to somebody out there, right?

Well, not that you need me to tell you this, but that movie kinda’ sucked. I mean, the flick certainly had a few decent moments, particularly all of the shenanigans with Angus Scrimm, but outside of his antics and maybe the opening scene, there’s not much memorable about this movie whatsoever. Fuck, I literally just watched the thing and I’ve already forgotten 80 percent of what happened, so that ought to tell you most of what you need to know about the quality of Transylvania Twist as a whole. 

Besides Scrimm, perhaps the only two notable actors in the movie are Howard Morris, who played Marissa’s dad, and Robert Vaughn, who portrayed Count Orlock. The former, of course, is most famous for playing Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show, while Vaughn is one of the most accomplished character actors ever, whose resume included everything from Demon Seed and Superman III to CHUD II: Bude The Chud and Pootie Tang. Of course, he’s probably most famous for playing Napoleon Solo on The Man From UNCLE, but like any of you zoomer twats would know would the fuck that is. And as for the actress who played Marissa, Teri Copley, she didn’t do a whole lot post-Twist; In fact, outside of a couple of bit parts in Brain Donors and Frozen Assets, she took a 12-year break from acting altogether, only recent returning to the medium for some TV show I’ve never heard of before called Enforcer.

Still, despite the film’s many, many shortcomings I suppose the movie does have some seasonal merit and charm. It’s certainly a film that just reeks of late 1980s ephemera, which is something I’ve always found extra comfy, and even though none of the broads in the picture get nekkid, the females in the cast are nonetheless pleasing to the eye. Even now, I’m wondering how in the hell Wynorski was able to get through this one without at least one shower scene — really, it’s the kind of thing that’ll give you an aneurysm if you dwell on it too long. 

Give the guys behind Transylvania Twist some credit, they tried to do a lot of things with this movie. Of course, virtually none of their kooky and cockamamie ideas really came across that well in the movie at all, but you can at least tell the people who made it had a ton of fun yukking it up. And if you’re looking for something way off-the-beaten path to use as background noise while you make scary-themed brownies or compile lists of obscure 1990s arcade games you want to play someday it certainly fits the bill. 

So it’s not even close to being a good movie, but at least it’s get an amiable atmosphere that’ll get you in the mood for better genre movies as Halloween approaches. And hey — that has to account for something, don’t it?


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