Alita Battle Angel – The Movie

Two weeks ago, I shared my thoughts about the Robert Rodriguez film, From Dusk till Dawn. This past week, I watched Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of the manga Battle Angel Alita, which I discussed here at the Web Journal back in December. There was a lot about From Dusk till Dawn that suggested Rodriguez would be a good director for this manga. He clearly had a good sense of both character and action, both of which would be essential for adapting Alita for mainstream American audiences.

The American movie adaptation largely follows the plot of the first two volumes of the Alita manga. Set in somewhat grungy city under a pristine floating city, Dr. Ido finds Alita’s cybernetic head in a scrap heap and attaches it to a new body. We learn that Dr. Ido supplements his income as a bounty hunter. While following Dr. Ido, Alita unlocks some of her latent combat abilities. She also decides to become a bounty hunter. As all of this is going on, she meets a young man named Hugo who teaches her about life in the city. He also shares his dreams of traveling to the floating city, Zalem. In the film, Hugo takes Alita to a fallen spaceship from an ancient war, where she learns more about her past. He also introduces her to a futuristic, rocket-propelled version of roller derby called motorball. These last two elements weren’t in the first two volumes of the manga, but I gather are introduced in later volumes.

Overall, the movie felt like a faithful adaptation of the manga. It stayed true to the story of Alita and her journey of self-discovery and independence. It also kept the manga’s spirit of fighting for justice even when the odds are against you. I liked how even though we’re presented with something of a dystopia, the film’s “Iron City” didn’t seem an entirely bad place. You could get chocolate, make friends, and find moments of joy.

One element of the script that bothered me was the need to change and anglicize some of the names. The manga came from an era when anglicizing names was common. For example, Alita’s name in the original manga was Gally. However, in the movie, they change Dr. Daisuke Ido to Dr. Dyson Ido. They also change Yugo to Hugo, which doesn’t bother me as much since they sound similar. Still, it seems anime and manga translation has largely moved past the need to anglicize Asian names for American audiences. It’s time for more mainstream movies to follow suit.

I have mixed feelings about the movie’s choice to give Rosa Salazar’s Alita large eyes reminiscent of the style seen in anime and manga. On one hand, it’s an interesting nod to the story’s artistic roots. Also, it makes some sense that a battle cyborg might have enhanced, larger eyes to take in more than ordinary human eyes. The large eyes serve to emphasize that Alita isn’t human. However, that’s where I think the filmmakers missed the mark somewhat. Alita is supposed to be very human despite the fact she’s manufactured. Also, in manga and anime, the large eyes are something of an artistic style designed to emphasize the role eyes play in conveying emotion. It seems unnecessary to give one character literal anime eyes. It also had a tendency to remind me I’m watching a “special effects movie” instead of letting me disappear into the story.

So far, Alita: Battle Angel is my favorite American live-action adaptation of an anime. It may be flawed, but it largely stayed true to the source material. It gives me hope for better adaptations in the future and if it introduces some new readers to the source material, so much the better.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – BREAKING THE CODE — eSpec Books

My novella, Breaking the Code, will be released in ten days. I thought this would be a good time to share another post from my publisher, NeoParadoxa, which is an imprint of eSpec Books. In this post, you can read Chapter One in it’s entirety absolutely free. I hope it hooks you enough to want to read the whole thing!

As it turns out, I pitched this novella while taking my youngest child to college. In a normal year, I would have been exploring places around the beautiful city of Flagstaff, Arizona and may even have paid a visit to Lowell Observatory, which is one of my favorite places in the area. Lowell had been closed due to the pandemic and when I wasn’t moving boxes into a dorm room, I was largely sitting in a motel room maintaining a careful social distance from others. I found myself thinking back to my own early college days when I first moved to New Mexico and friends from those days. I thought about stories they told me about one of New Mexico’s very own mysterious creatures, the skinwalker. As I looked through the history of the part of the state where most skinwalker sightings occur, I realized there was a very interesting story to tell. My story is fiction, but it takes inspiration from real events.

You can find all the places to order the book at my website: http://davidleesummers.com/Breaking-the-Code.html

With that, I invite you to step over to eSpec’s blog so you can read the first chapter of my novella.


We have another Systema Paradoxa title for you, Breaking the Code by David Lee Summers, a part of the Systema Paradoxa series created in conjunction with Cryptid Crate. It releases May 21, but you can pre-order it now via the link. Chapter One Friday, February 20, 1942 Cheryl Davis parked her Ford Coup in the […]

eSPEC EXCERPTS – BREAKING THE CODE — eSpec Books

Time Traveler with a Celery Boutonniere

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I first learned about the television series Doctor Who from an article in Starlog Magazine. The article announced that Peter Davison would take over the role of the Doctor from Tom Baker, who had played the part for seven years. I knew nothing about who any of these people were or what the show was about, but I do remember blond-haired Peter Davison in a light colored outfit standing next to the ubiquitous blue police box, which I would later learn was his machine for traveling in time and space. When I finally saw an episode of Doctor Who, it featured Tom Baker, a jovial fellow with a mop of curly hair and a scarf that went on forever. I was curious how the young blond actor and the curly-haired actor could play the same part. Eventually, I would learn that the Doctor can regenerate into a whole new body. Still, I was curious what Peter Davison would be like compared to Tom Baker.

The Doctor and the Master face off in Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor.

Around this time, I discovered that my local bookstore started carrying novelizations of Doctor Who episodes. Right there on the shelf was that blond-haired fellow smiling at me from the cover of a story called “The Visitation.” I picked it up and found myself transported back to medieval England in a story where aliens crashed on Earth. In the final struggle, a lamp is knocked into some hay and the great fire of London is started. In college, I would finally see the episode as part of season nineteen of the series, which was Peter Davison’s first. That season is now out on Blu-Ray and I recently revisited the first year of this blond-haired fellow as the Doctor.

I had fond memories of this season from college. Tom Baker played the Doctor for so long, a new actor seemed a breath of fresh air. I remember Peter Davison as an affable, breezy personality. As a quirk, he wore a stalk of celery as a boutonniere on clothes suitable for a cricket match. I remember liking how the writers created something of a Holmes/Moriarty relationship between the Doctor and his old nemesis the Master.

Rewatching it, the nineteenth season didn’t quite match my memories. Peter Davison’s Doctor seemed to snap at people more than I remembered. He also looked a little uncomfortable in the part at times. He was, after all, the first actor to play the part who had also grown up watching it. The season also presented the Doctor with three companions. This wasn’t unheard of in the series’ run, but it wasn’t common. In this case, I could see that four regular characters were a challenge for the writers. Often they’d find a way to put one companion on the sideline while giving one or two others the limelight.

I had fond memories of an episode called “Black Orchid.” It’s a short episode in the middle of the season where the Doctor ends up in the middle of a 1920s mystery. It’s not very science fictional, but it seemed like it made the best use of all the characters and it remains one of my favorite of the season. The episode I first read in novel form, “The Visitation” also held up pretty well. The only part I thought could have been improved were the aliens, who looked too much like people in stiff, rubber suits.

The season felt longer than other Doctor Who seasons I’ve purchased. Indeed, most seasons I’ve watched only have four or five distinct stories. This one had seven. Classic Doctor Who stories were serialized from half-hour episodes. Most of the actual stories were shorter than stories in earlier seasons. Still, I had a feeling that in some cases the writers struggled to find material for all four episodes of a story. Some stories in the nineteenth season might have been stronger as only two or three-part stories. This is probably one of the reasons “Black Orchid” remains a favorite. It doesn’t feel padded out.

As with other Doctor Who Blu-Rays I’ve purchased, this one is chalk full of interviews and behind-the-scenes documentaries. All in all, it was fun to go back and spend a season with the first Doctor I’d ever actually seen, if only in a magazine photo.

COVER REVEAL – BREAKING THE CODE — eSpec Books

Happy Star Wars day! May the Fourth be with you! One of the things I’ve always loved about the Star Wars Universe were all the creatures George Lucas and his team dreamed up. Whether it be the Bith who played mean jazz in the first movie’s cantina scene, the Mon Calamari fish people who fought for the Rebel Alliance, or the Wookies, like Chewbacca who was Han Solo’s best friend, there was something about these creatures that made me want to believe they were real.

Around the same time as Star Wars, there was a television series hosted by Leonard Nimoy called In Search Of…. That show introduced me to strange creatures purported to exist in the shadows of our own planet. Among these creatures were the Sasquatch, the Loch Ness monster and the Yeti. I’ll admit, now that I’m older, I’m skeptical of many of these stories. And yet, I have heard stories from friends and people I’ve met that make me wonder if there could be some truth to these tales of cryptids. Friends who have lived in Gallup, New Mexico have told me stories about the Skinwalker and that helped to inspire my tale, Breaking the Code, which comes out later this month from NeoParadoxa Press, an imprint of eSpec Books.

Breaking the Code is volume 3 of the Systema Paradoxa series. Just because it’s volume 3 doesn’t mean you need to read volumes 1 and 2 to understand my story. Each volume tells its own story of a cryptid. That said, I know many of the contributing authors and you’ll definitely want to read every volume in the series.

I have updated my website to include a page for Breaking the Code. Just visit http://www.davidleesummers.com/Breaking-the-Code.html to be updated with all the places where the book is currently available. Or better yet, subscribe to https://www.cryptidcrate.com where you’ll not only receive the book later this year, you’ll also get all kinds of goodies and many of the other books in the series. With that, I’ll let you take a look at the eSpec Books post.


A part of the Systema Paradoxa series under eSpec’s new NeoParadoxa imprint, this is Breaking the Code by David Lee Summers. A cryptid novella based on the skinwalker. There are creatures lurking in our world. Obscure creatures long relegated to myth and legend. They have been sighted by a lucky—or unlucky—few, some have even been […]

COVER REVEAL – BREAKING THE CODE — eSpec Books

Lucid Dreams

Operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory means that I work a night shift. My working days typically start at 4pm and end in morning twilight, about a half hour before sunrise. Despite that, I often spend my off time on a day schedule. Originally this was a matter of necessity. Being on a day schedule allowed me to interact with my kids before they went to school and after they came home. I also find that I don’t do well staying on a night schedule all the time. I find I do need occasional time out in the sunshine. Also, the neighbors get a little cranky if I mow the yard at midnight!

One of the ways I’ve adapted to swapping schedules is that I drive to work the night before my shift begins. I stay up as late as I can and then sleep as long as I can during the next day. This works pretty well, though I do find the older I get the more my circadian rhythms resist the change back to nights. No matter how late I’ve stayed up, my eyes will tend to pop open for a while around 8am. If I’m tired enough, I will usually go right back to sleep. What I’ve also noticed is that especially on the first night getting ready for a shift, I’m prone to lucid dreams. In short, lucid dreams are ones where you’re consciously aware you’re dreaming. This has become common enough that I’ve discovered I can sometimes interact with my dreams. I can decide where to go or what to look at.

The experience of lucid dreaming feels at once profound and limited. It feels profound because it feels like I’ve gained control of a realm where we normally have no control. It feels limited because the control isn’t complete. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like playing a video game. I can move around, explore some things, but I don’t really control the “plot” or what other people in the dream do. Still, I can see why there’s a history of spiritual teachers, especially in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, ascribing special significance to lucid dreaming.

When I re-read Children of the Old Stars in preparation for starting a new edition, I noticed that I used dreams and dream imagery quite a bit. In my revisions for the forthcoming edition, I decided to enhance this and bring in some of my experience with lucid dreaming. I plan to expand these themes in the next book, Heirs of the New Earth. There, the protagonist’s experience with lucid dreams from Children of the Old Stars, prepares him for being able to move around a non-corporeal reality.

My Patreon supporters have been joining me as I rewrite Children of the Old Stars for a new edition. That journey will wrap up later this month. In fact, I’ve already started the process of giving the book a complete, comprehensive re-read for consistency and last-minute corrections. I’ve also gone ahead and set the ebook up for pre-order. It’s currently available for pre-order at the following stores:

From Dusk till Dawn

From Dusk till Dawn, directed by Robert Rodriguez, is a movie set in the borderland region of West Texas and Northern Mexico. It’s been on my radar for some time, but it’s taken me a while to finally watch it. Released in 1996, this movie tells the story of two brothers on the run from the law. At a motel, they take a family hostage and flee across the border to Mexico. The brothers go to a strip club to wait for their contacts only to find the strip club is, in fact, home to a nest of vampires. The exact fictional settings are a little vague, although it’s implied the motel is in El Paso. Much of the film was made near Barstow, California, where I was born. The edition of the film I watched included the bonus movie Full-Tilt Boogie, which is a documentary about the making of From Dusk till Dawn.

One of the things that makes this movie interesting is that it takes its time introducing the horror elements. As noted in Full-Tilt Boogie, a lot of horror movies get right to the scary parts, but the best horror novels often give you a chance to become acquainted with the characters before throwing them into the horrific situation. This allows you to care more whether or not the characters make it out the other side. The mix of characters was interesting, because the Gecko brothers were not sympathetic at all. Both of them are murderers and one of them is a rapist. However, the family they kidnap is relatable. We meet a dad and his two children. The dad is a minister who recently lost his wife and suffers a crisis of faith.

Once the vampires are introduced, the movie is mostly about action as the human characters fight to survive the night. I thought the strip club was an interesting front for a nest of vampires. It allows vampires in their sexier human form to lure the unsuspecting into their trap. Beyond that, we learn little about the vampires themselves until a compelling hint about their origins and how it might be tied to history and mythology is dropped in the movie’s last scene. I won’t discuss the specifics in case that would spoil it for anyone, but I gather the hint is developed in the made-for-TV sequels and TV series. The vampires themselves are portrayed as pure monsters and they take many different forms.

Although it’s ostensibly a vampire film, the plot structure involving sympathetic characters mixed up with gangsters followed by a frightening second act reminded me most of my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt, which is also set in the borderland region. You can learn more about that novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html.

Even though my Scarlet Order vampires are not outwardly monstrous, they do have ties to history and world lore, including Native American cultural lore. I would have enjoyed more exploration of these ideas in From Dusk till Dawn and may have to watch at least some of the TV series to see how they explore it there. The best place to see these ideas explored in my writing is in my novel Vampires of the Scarlet order. Learn more about it at: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

Guinevere and the Stranger Cover Reveal

Back in March, I teased the comic Guinevere and the Stranger that I had been working on in collaboration with artist Michael Ellis. The project is now far enough along that I can give a few more details about the release. The first people who will get to read the comic in its entirety are my Patreon supporters. I plan to present the pages of the comic over a two-week span in June, essentially sharing a page per day after I’ve finished sharing the work I’m doing on the twentieth anniversary edition of my novel Children of the Old Stars. If you want to be one of the first people to read the comic, be sure to sign up for my Patreon at https://patreon.com/davidleesummers by June 1. You don’t have to wait to see the cover, though. I’ll share that today. The cover features art by Michael Ellis. The layout is by Bram Meehan who was responsible for lettering the interior.

Guinevere and the Stranger Cover.

Inside the front cover, I set up the story. It reads: “In the sixth century, the vampire Desmond persuaded King Arthur to seek the lost Book of Jesus and the Holy Grail. While Arthur’s knights sought these artifacts, the king’s son began a campaign to usurp the throne. It’s said Guinevere went to a convent after King Arthur’s final battle. What happened to her has long been a mystery. At last, this book tells a lost tale from Queen Guinevere’s final years.” As you can see, Dragon’s Fall elaborates on Arthurian legend. I first started delving into the early tales of Arthur in college. Of course, my Scarlet Order vampires are mercenaries involved with the highest level of government, so there was never any doubt that some of them would have known King Arthur. The involvement with the grail legend came from the realization that vampires would no doubt find an artifact so connected with the “blood of Christ” and forgiveness irresistible.

As I mentioned before, this is a retelling of a chapter from my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires. I had several goals for this project when I started. First and foremost, I’m a longtime fan of the comic book medium and I’ve long wanted to try my hand at scripting a comic. I have sat in on some online courses and some panels given by the group 7000 BC, based in Albuquerque and had learned some of the basics, but realized the only way I would learn more about the process would be to actually dive in, write a script, and hire someone to illustrate it.

When I set out to create this comic, I thought it would be something I would share here at my blog as a fun way to introduce new readers to my novel. In effect, it would serve as a comic book “trailer” for the novel. If I liked how it turned out, I thought I might print some copies to give away at conventions.

What lurks outside?

The thing is, much as I enjoyed the work at Michael’s online portfolio, it really didn’t prepare me for how well he could capture the images I had in my head. As I saw the quality of the work he delivered, I realized it deserved better distribution than I had originally planned. In fact, if you go over to his page, you’ll see several of the pages from Guinevere and the Stranger without dialogue. What’s more, I realized I didn’t want this one 8-page experiment to be the end of our collaboration. Dragon’s Fall contains four short self-contained stories like Guinevere and the Stranger. each one is a brief look into the lives of the Scarlet Order vampires providing insight into who they are. What’s more, I’ve written numerous vignettes about the Scarlet Order vampires. If I can raise sufficient funds to keep paying Michael and Bram what they deserve for their work, I’d love to create more of these books.

As a first step toward this goal, I’m releasing the comic as an exclusive for those people who are signed up for my Patreon. Supporting me there will not only give you a first look at this comic, but you’ll help support the artists I’m collaborating with. After the comic is released on Patreon, a print edition will be released that I will sell at conventions and at hadrosaur.com. Look for that to appear by the middle of June. I’ll likely approach some of my friends in retail about carrying this as well. The print edition will give you the opportunity to hold a copy of the comic in your hand. Finally, I have taken the time to learn how to submit the comic to the Comixology platform for distribution, which I’ve discussed in other comic book reviews. Presuming they accept the book, I’ll share when it’s available there. Out of necessity, the print edition will be the most expensive and most of the income will go to printing costs. Likewise, much as I like Comixology, they will take a large cut of the sales. For now, supporting me on Patreon will be the least expensive way for readers to support this project, but also the way that allows most of the funds to actually go to the artists who created it. Click on the button below to go to my site and sign up.

Fury From the Deep

When I was a kid, video recorders were not a common household item. People watched whatever was on broadcast TV when it was aired. If you missed it, too bad! Being a fairly innovative kid who didn’t want to be limited to experiencing my favorite shows when they aired, I turned to the one recording device a lot of people did have. I used an audio cassette recorder to record my favorite shows so I could listen to them whenever I wanted. It was pretty amazing how well that worked. Between the dialog, the music, and the sound effects, I could visualize episodes of Star Trek or The Wild Wild West just by listening to them. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only innovative kid out there.

When the BBC started making the series Doctor Who, they had no idea it would become a worldwide phenomenon or that people would want to watch episodes that had already aired. What’s more, the United Kingdom at the time really didn’t have syndicated television the way we did in the United States, so there wasn’t a market for rerunning shows after they had first aired. The upshot was that once an episode aired, the video tapes it had been recorded on were often recycled for other shows, which meant numerous episodes had been lost. And this is where the innovative kids (and probably some adult fans as well) come in. We still have audio recordings of some of those lost episodes, many of which feature the second actor to play the Doctor, Patrick Troughton.

As I’ve said in other posts, I think animation is an underutilized medium for storytelling. One of the more clever ways I’ve seen animation used in recent years is to recreate some of these lost Doctor Who episodes. We have audio and we often have still photos from the set to know how things looked. Artists can then retell the story in animation. Of course, there’s more to it than that. Audio engineers need to clean up the audio recordings from over 50 years ago. Also, you have to decide how much artistic license to employ. Do you retell the story shot for shot as close as you can? Or, do you enhance the creatures, sets and special effects to make it “better” than it had been before? At what level do you go too far adding new visual elements?

“Fury from the Deep” is a well-remembered “lost” episode of Doctor Who. The Doctor and his young companions arrive on Earth in the 1960s and find a natural gas production facility that’s being besieged by sentient seaweed. In this telling, it sounds silly, but decent script writing gives us a facility staff that’s sympathetic and trying to keep things operating all while our strange menace is slowly taking over the people in hopes of driving away the facility. Patrick Troughton shows himself as a great actor who can take all of this seriously, make us care about this problem, and see the seaweed as the intended threat.

The animators strike a nice balance and keep much of the original episode’s look. However, where the original episode gave us a few pieces of menacing, wiggling seaweed, we now get something that looks like it’ll sting you when you pick it up, as said in the dialogue. Where the original gave us a stuntman in a costume, we now get something that looks like a plant breaking through the plant’s pipes. We even get menacing seaweed coming out of the ocean.

I enjoyed this look back at an early episode of Doctor Who. Between this and other animated retellings of early episodes, I’m getting a better sense of how the series became so well loved that it would last for many decades. “Fury from the Deep” does include something of a milestone. It’s the first episode to introduce the Doctor’s ubiquitous sonic screwdriver. In later episodes, he uses it for many different tasks. In this episode, we actually see it used to remove some screws!

The DVD includes a radio play by Victor Pemberton, the episode’s author. The story is, effectively, an earlier version of “Fury from the Deep,” that features sentient mud in place of sentient seaweed. What makes the radio drama interesting is that the scientist who fills the Doctor’s place in the story is played by Roger Delgado, who would eventually play the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master, in Doctor Who. In a nice touch, the animated backgrounds for this episode include wanted posters for Roger Delgado’s Master. This is especially fun since Delgado wouldn’t be cast in the series for another two years. It seems a very appropriate touch for a show about time travel.

The Airship Rustlers

This week, the poem “The Airship Rustlers” that I wrote with Kurt MacPhearson appeared in the the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s online magazine, Eye to the Telescope. You can read it at: http://eyetothetelescope.com/archives/040issue.html. The issue’s theme is “Weird West” and the editor is Gary Every, who I’ve been pleased to work with on a number of other occasions.

A while back, Kurt MacPhearson and I collaborated on a handful of poems and a short story. The way we worked on the poems was that one of us would write a verse or two of a poem, then email it to the other. Effectively, we played a game of literary hot potato, passing the poem back and forth until we came to a conclusion we liked. We also allowed each other to edit the poem as it stood, to make sure all the ideas worked together and to make sure it had a uniform voice.

As I recall, I started this particular poem. I would have been working on my Clockwork Legion novels at the time, very much entrenched in reading about airships and wild west lore. I was also inspired by the TV series Firefly and the episode where Captain Reynolds transports cattle from one planet to another aboard his space ship. Kurt gave the poem a somewhat darker tone than I originally imagined, but it fits how seriously people took cattle rustling in the wild west. In passing the poem back and forth, the poem’s narrative took some interesting turns and by the end, it’s not altogether clear the title refers to those people aboard the airship rustling cattle.

Not only did Kurt and I collaborate on poetry, we also tried our hand at a steampunk short story. Again, we played literary hot potato with the story. I introduced the brave Captain Penelope Todd of the airship Endeavor and immediately thrust the crew into a nasty storm from which there seemed to be no escape. Kurt took the idea and ran with it, sweeping the Endeavor and its hapless crew off to a strange new land called Halcyon along with the crew of a sea-going pirate ship. Kurt had Captain Todd taken prisoner with no apparent way of escape and left me to find a way out of the situation. That story was picked up for the anthology Gears and Levers 2, edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and you can get a copy at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AYAF6X2/

Another interesting aspect of all this is that Gary Every, the editor of the Weird West issue of Eye to the Telescope, and I also played literary hot potato on a story for a while. It was all about exploring underground waterways on Mars. Unfortunately, life got in the way for both of us and we never finished the tale, but we did have fun and it took a lot of inspiration from stories of people on the Western frontier. Even though Gary and I never finished that story, I did publish a pair of his fantasy tales under the title Inca Butterflies. In the book, Incan Emperor, Huaina Capac, comes of age as Alejo Garcia and his band of mutineers arrive in America carrying a weapon far more devastating that cannons. Huaina Capac’s successor, Manco Inca, must lead his remaining people as bearded men from Europe swarm the countryside like butterflies sweeping the plains. Set in the last days of the Inca Empire, Inca Butterflies is a tale for all times. You can get the book at: https://hadrosaur.com/IncaButterflies.php

Dracula, Dead and Loving It

I grew up with classic Mel Brooks films such as Blazing Saddles, History of the World: Part I and Young Frankenstein. At 94, Mel Brooks is still around and still involved in the film business, though his later films don’t have the same reputation for greatness as his earlier films. So, I was a little uncertain when my wife brought home a copy of Dracula, Dead and Loving It, which, to-date, is the last film he directed. Although the movie didn’t quite reach the heights of Brooks’s earlier films, it still had a lot of great moments and I was glad to have watched it.

Nosferatu contemplates Dracula, Dead and Loving It

One of the things that makes Young Frankenstein great is the clear love Mel Brooks has for the Universal monster films of the 1930s. He pays homage to many of the great moments in Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein while poking fun at them. That same love comes through in Dracula, Dead and Loving It. The story largely follows the 1931 Dracula which starred Bela Lugosi but also includes send-ups of the 1922 Nosferatu and Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992.

The earlier Mel Brooks films benefit a lot from the comedic talents of people like Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn, and Cleavon Little. It’s hard to say anyone in Dracula, Dead and Loving It rises to their level, but there are still some fun performances. Harvey Korman is one of those actors who appears in a lot of Mel Brooks films, and I confess I’ve tended to like movies more in spite of Korman than because of him. In this case, I thought Korman did a brilliant job of playing Dr. Seward. He “disappeared” into the role and felt very much like versions of Seward who appeared in the Universal and Hammer films, which made the humorous lines he delivered straight all the funnier. Peter MacNicol is another actor who I’ve seen in other films but didn’t especially stand out to me. In Dracula, Dead and Loving It, he channels Dwight Fry’s Renfield beautifully. One of the best scenes in the movie involves Korman and MacNicol having a dialog over tea while MacNicol surreptitiously snatches bugs and tries to eat them unseen.

Mel Brooks gives a nice performance as Abraham Van Helsing and also pokes fun at many of the tropes surrounding the character. Like Korman, his performance here is a little more understated than in other films where he appears and it works to the film’s benefit.

For me, Leslie Nielsen’s best film is Forbidden Planet where he really defined the role of the brave, stalwart starship captain for many actors who would follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, Forbidden Planet was made at a time when Hollywood didn’t take science fiction seriously and Nielsen didn’t get many roles until he found his way into comedy. To me, his real comedy talent is delivering silly lines with the same kind of stalwart earnestness he gave to the Captain Adams part in Forbidden Planet. That ability served him well in Dracula, Dead and Loving It. He delivers a performance that pays tribute to both Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. The only problem is that by this time, Nielsen was so recognizable that he didn’t quite disappear into the part in the same way that Korman and MacNicol did into theirs.

While there are stronger vampire comedies and even stronger Mel Brooks films, I enjoyed Dracula, Dead and Loving It and plan to give it another watch to see if there are other elements and classic film tributes I missed the first time. Although my own vampire novels are intended as serious works, I do throw in some light moments. You can learn more about them at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order