Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Les Charlots contre Dracula (1980)

My notes on Les Charlots contre Dracula (1980)

Les Charlots are a French knockabout comedy troupe who also do burbly music, and they’ve been around since the ‘60s.  This entry in their long-running film series is one of the milder vampire movie parodies, with a slender plot that often stops to make room for comedy non sequiturs like a moment when the three main Charlots – Phil (Gérard Filipelli), Gerard (Gérard Rinaldi) and Jean (Jean Sarrus) – are lost in some Romanian woods and pray for food only to have a glowing presence hand them a bowl of frites which prompts them to conclude in amazement that God is Belgian.

In a prologue, the child Count Dracula – son of the famous one – sulks in a cape and whines to his mother (Amélie Prévost) that he wants to drink the elixir which gave his father vampire powers, but she refuses and it seems anyone who isn’t Dracula’s mother (or a lookalike) who touches the elixir vial is turned to stone.  Thirty-five years later, the Lulu-wigged, bearded, cloaked, George Hamilton-dressed Dracula (Andréas Voutsinas, the bearded camp guy from The Producers) has detectives combing the world for a mother substitute.  It makes a change from seeking out the reincarnation of a lost love interest.

Trenchcoated, moustached, bald PI Gaston Lepope (Gérard Jugnot) locates Ariane (Prevost), a lookalike, working in an antiques shop run by the Charlots in Paris and engaged to Phil.  Lepope abducts Ariane and boards a train for Romania, with the Charlots in hot pursuit.  There are a lot of jokes involving food being abused by being dumped on people or having faces fall in it – few are amusing.  Everyone ends up at a castle near Bistritz where Dracula and comedy servant Igor (Vincent Martin) hang out, and about an hour into the film Ariane unfussily enables Dracula to become a vampire, with fangs and a whitish face.

Then it’s all oompah-scored running about the castle until a stern communist comissar (Dora Doll) arrives and shouts at everyone to behave – which turns Dracula from a dom to a sub and they get married.  The Charlots get the girl back and the frame freezes as insanely irritating music continues over the end credits.  I saw it in unsubtitled French, so may have missed some nuances – and I presume these apparently interchangeable blokes are comedy legends in France on a level with the Carry On team rather than their version of the Hudson Brothers (who met Dracula in Hysterical) but their humour doesn’t exactly travel well, which is why this may be one of the most obscure Dracula films.  It’s weak next to Dracula et Fils, for instance.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Dessagnat, who made one of the OSS 117 films before they were comedies and came to this after a TV Arsène Lupin.  Though unknown in the UK, the Charlots were exported to India and Pakistan, where they were called the Crazy Boys, so apparently an English dub entitled The Crazy Boys vs Dracula was prepared for export in that direction.


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