Love at First Bite

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Love at First Bite
Love at first bite.jpg
Directed byStan Dragoti
Produced byJoel Freeman
Written byRobert Kaufman
Music byCharles Bernstein
CinematographyEdward Rosson
Edited byMort Fallick
Allan Jacobs
Distributed byAmerican International Pictures
Release date
  • April 6, 1979 (1979-04-06)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$43,900,000[2]

Love at First Bite is a 1979 American comedy horror film directed by Stan Dragoti and written by Robert Kaufman, using characters originally created by Bram Stoker.[3] It stars George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin and Arte Johnson.[3] The original music score was composed by Charles Bernstein. The film's tagline is: "Your favorite pain in the neck is about to bite your funny bone!"


The infamous vampire Count Dracula is expelled from his castle by the Communist government of Romania, which plans to convert the structure into a training facility for gymnasts (including Nadia Comăneci). The world-weary Count travels to New York City with his bug-eating manservant, Renfield, and establishes himself in a hotel, but only after a mix-up at the airport causes his coffin to be accidentally sent to be the centerpiece in a funeral at a black church in Harlem. While Dracula learns that America contains such wonders as blood banks, sex clubs, and discotheques, he also proceeds to suffer the general ego-crushing that comes from life in the Big Apple in the late 1970s as he romantically pursues flaky fashion model Cindy Sondheim, whom he has admired from afar and believes to be the current reincarnation of his true love (an earlier being named Mina Harker).

Dracula is ineptly pursued in turn by Sondheim's psychiatrist and quasi-boyfriend Jeffrey Rosenberg. Jeffrey is the grandson of Dracula's old nemesis Fritz [sic] van Helsing but changed his name to Rosenberg "for professional reasons". Rosenberg's numerous methods to combat Dracula – mirrors, garlic, a Star of David (which he uses instead of the cross), and hypnosis – are easily averted by the Count. Rosenberg also tries burning Dracula's coffin with the vampire still inside, but is arrested by hotel security. Subsequently he tries to shoot him with three silver bullets, but Dracula remains unscathed, patiently explaining that this works only on werewolves. Rosenberg's increasingly erratic actions eventually cause him to be locked up as a lunatic, but as mysterious cases of blood-bank robberies and vampiric attacks begin to spread, NYPD Lieutenant Ferguson starts to believe the psychiatrist's claims and gets him released.

In the end, as a major blackout hits the city, Dracula flees via taxi cab back to the airport with Cindy, pursued by Rosenberg and Ferguson. The coffin is accidentally sent to Jamaica instead of London and the couple miss their plane. On the runway, Cindy finally agrees to become Dracula's vampire bride. Rosenberg attempts to stake Dracula, but as he moves in for the kill, the two fly off as bats together. A check drops down by which Cindy pays off her (enormous) psychiatry bill to Rosenberg, to which he remarks: "She has become a responsible person ... or whatever." Rosenberg keeps Dracula's cape – the only thing his stake had hit – which Ferguson borrows, hoping (since the cape makes the wearer look stylish) it will help him on his wedding anniversary. The last scene shows Dracula and Cindy, transformed into bats, on their way to Jamaica.



The inspiration for the film came about while George Hamilton was entertaining screenwriter Robert Kaufman with poolside impressions of Bela Lugosi, and thoughts turned to what would happen if Dracula lived in modern New York City.[4] A script was financed for $100,000 and later acquired by Melvin Simon, a shopping-mall entrepreneur with an interest in films.[5] Director Stan Dragoti became attached to the project through Peter Sellers, an acquaintance of Kaufman.[5]


The film opened in 88 theaters in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco on April 6, 1979. It expanded the following weekend into another 134 theaters in nine cities, including New York and Boston.[6][7]

Home media[edit]

The movie has been released on VHS from Orion Home Video in 1993,[8] Warner Bros Pictures on June 16, 1993, and DVD from MGM on July 12, 2005.[9] On the VHS and DVD versions, the song played during the disco scene, "I Love the Nightlife" by Alicia Bridges has been removed and replaced by a different song.[10] Shout! Factory released the film in February 2015 for the first time on Blu-ray Disc (with the original disco song intact)[11] as a double feature with Once Bitten, with the audio enhanced to 5.1 surround sound.[10]


The film was a financial success, grossing $2,136,923 in its first 10 days.[6] It went on to gross $44 million[12] against a $3 million budget[1] and ranking at number 13 on a list of the top grossing films of 1979. It was AIP's highest-grossing film[13] until the release of The Amityville Horror later in the year, and was one of the highest-grossing independent films for many years. However, critical reviews were mixed, and Love at First Bite has a 68% "Fresh" rating on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 22 reviews.[14]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times described Love as "[a] coarse, delightful little movie with a bang-up cast and no pretensions at all,"[3] while Dave Kehr lamented the film's "hodgepodge of flat one-liners and graceless slapstick."[15] Variety noted a "tendency to lurch from joke to joke" and observed that the story may be "silly," but Hamilton "makes it work. In the first place, he's funny just to watch."[4] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film zero stars out of four, writing that Hamilton "has no idea how to play comedy" and gave "a smug performance in a film full of tired jokes and some of the most cruel racial stereotyping you'll ever see."[16] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "It is not quite the coupling of the decade, and Ms. St. James, although sympathetic, looks occasionally distracted, as if she were expecting a phone call at any minute. But Hamilton, baying 'Children of de night, shawt opp' at the baying wolves outside, has all the energy the movie needs. His characterization, grandly sweeping, sincere, preposterous but solemn, is just right."[17] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post suggested that the film "was evidently contrived by funnymen who started to run short of gags right after thinking up the title," also observing that Susan Saint James "doesn't even seem to be trying" and that "Hamilton does an acceptable vocal impression of Bela Lugosi, but the act may have been more amusing when he was just doing it for friends."[18] Tom Milne of The Monthly Film Bulletin compared the film to the work of Mel Brooks and opined that it had "fewer belly-laughs than Young Frankenstein" but was "more consistent in its humour, partly because it pays more attention to character ... but chiefly because it adheres to its aim of producing 'a comedic Dracula, rather than a comical one.'"[19]


Year Award / Film Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
1979 Saturn Awards Best Horror Film Love at First Bite Nominated
Best Writing Robert Kaufman Nominated
Best Actor George Hamilton Won
Best Actress Susan Saint James Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Arte Johnson Won
Best Make-up William J. Tuttle Won
1980 Golden Globes Best Actor – Musical or Comedy George Hamilton Nominated


Hamilton purchased the film's copyright from Melvin Simon Productions[5] and has been very eager to make a sequel. In 2009, he stated:[20]

It's terrific. It's all about old world school of Dracula in the Bela Lugosi 1940s up against the Twilight felons with humor, It's hard to do but it's great fun. I think 'Twilight' is a wonderful series of books. It's so important for these young girls with hormonal changes and this love that's worth giving your life for. But now I have to find a way to bring my 'Love At First Bite' character into that kind of story and make it funny and not be at all like 'Twilight' and I think I found a way to do that.

He later elaborated about the plot:

His [my character's] son is a sort of perennial student in California and he doesn't want to acknowledge his father, Dracula, at all and he's getting married into a family of televangelists. {Laughs} He met this girl that he's in love with who's a zoologist in a cave somewhere; he was a bat in this cave in South America. So now, Dracula's forced himself to come to Hollywood for this big wedding and bring all of his relatives who are pretty ridiculous people. There's a wonderful scene at the bachelor party in a strip club, it's great stuff.[21]

To date, a sequel has yet to go into production.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b B is for Low Budget and Big Box Office Bucks, So Sam Arkoff is Proud to Be Called Hollywood's King of the B Pictures. Archived 2014-05-23 at the Wayback Machine People Magazine. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  2. ^ "Love at First Bite, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Maslin, Janet (April 13, 1979). "Love At First Bite (1979) Screen: 'Love at First Bite,' Dracula's 'Plaza Suite':Full-Blooded Humor". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b Har. (April 11, 1979). "Film Reviews: Love At First Bite". Variety. p. 20.
  5. ^ a b c "Love at First Bite - History". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "American International is pleased to announce that the "COUNT" is in (advertisement)". Variety. April 18, 1979. pp. 13–15. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  7. ^ "A $2,887,474 Gulp". Variety. April 25, 1979. p. 4.
  8. ^ Love at First Bite, Orion Home Video 1993 VHS Release
  9. ^ Love at First Bite
  10. ^ a b “LOVE AT FIRST BITE” / “ONCE BITTEN” Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)
  11. ^ Love At First Bite / Once Bitten Double Feature
  12. ^ Box Office Information for Love at First Bite. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  13. ^ "A Corpuscular Triumph". Variety. May 23, 1979. p. 3.
  14. ^ Rotten Tomatoes
  15. ^ Kehr, Dave. "Love at First Bite". Chicago Reader. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  16. ^ Siskel, Gene (April 10, 1979). "'Bell Jar' is a movie many will see through". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 6.
  17. ^ Chaplin, Charles (April 26, 1979). "Fangs for the Memory". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  18. ^ Arnold, Gary (May 1, 1979). "Toothless 'First Bite'". The Washington Post. B12.
  19. ^ Milne, Tom (August 1979). "Love at First Bite". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 46 (547): 177–178.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Interview with George Hamilton accessed 23 December 2014

External links[edit]