Director: Elliot Silverstein
Writer: Terry Black
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Sandra Searles Dickinson, George Wendt, Michael Berryman, Paul Gleason, John Kassir, and Gloria Dawson
Composer: Cliff Eidelman
Air Date: 7/10/1991
In this intelligent spoof on classic vampire lore, a benign bloodsucker known as Donald Longtooth (Malcolm McDowell) works as a night watchman at a blood bank in order to sate his cravings without resorting to murder. A problem arises, however, when Donald’s loathsome boss Mr. Crosswhite (George Wendt) threatens to lay off the majority of his employees to compensate for a mysterious product shortage, thus requiring Longtooth to satisfy his urges by drinking the blood of criminals and other societal dregs. Meanwhile, vampire hunter Rupert Van Helsing (Michael Berryman) and Detective Robinson (Paul Gleason) investigate a string of deaths caused by exsanguination.
While the scare factor in this episode takes a backseat to any comedic aspects present in Terry Black’s script, “The Reluctant Vampire” showcases a unique approach to an oft-parodied subgenre. Tales from the Crypt enthusiasts will therefore enjoy the screwball performances of Malcolm McDowell and his talented costars, whereas those who prefer cute stories over nihilistic horror should view this entry for its positive life lesson.
Although the zany antics of Donald and others may irritate fright fans of a serious inclination, audiences who appreciate this particular brand of humor will immediately fall in love with McDowell’s outrageous portrayal of the protagonist. It should be noted that numerous clichés are invoked while developing the main character; however, Donald is nonetheless presented as a complex individual whose human qualities counterbalance his ridiculous and occasionally questionable behavior.
Black’s depiction of Van Helsing as an incompetent boob also complements the campy tone of “The Reluctant Vampire” quite effectively. Whereas Michael Berryman’s imposing stature at first gives the impression that one would expect of a formidable antagonist to McDowell’s vampire, such a notion is shattered upon witnessing Rupert bumble his way through rigorous detective work; much in contrast to the meticulous nature exemplified by Bram Stoker’s original character of the same last name.
Though lacking a straightforward morality tale, “The Reluctant Vampire” does teach us that first impressions are often a poor indicator of true intentions. In this case, the roles of a traditional vampire narrative are altogether skewed, with human characters serving as malevolent adversaries to a lovable, albeit eccentric, monster. As fantastic as this scenario may be, the above example illustrates that personality judgments should generally be reserved until more thorough assessments can be made.
“The Reluctant Vampire” puts a creative spin on arguably the most iconic facet of the gothic horror genre. Also praiseworthy is a memorable twist ending, which makes for a fine conclusion to a clever, if frequently silly, episode.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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