Main cast: Malcolm McDowell (Donald Longtooth), Sandra Searles Dickinson (Sally), George Wendt (Mr Crosswhite), Michael Berryman (Rupert Van Helsing), Paul Gleason (Detective Robinson), and John Kassir (The Crypt Keeper)
Director: Elliot Silverstein
It takes seven episode before an actual spook shows up in the third season of Tales from the Crypt, and it just have to be in a comedic episode. Don’t worry, though, this one is so much fun and is worth the wait.
The ever adorable Malcolm McDowell is Donald Longtooth, a vampire who is estranged from the rest of his people because he doesn’t have the heart to hunt down people for food. Mind you, the glee he displays when he gets to chow on people here makes me wonder whether there is another reason why he’s a fangface pariah – body odour, perhaps? At any rate, Donald lives with his rat Leopold in an appropriately mausoleum-like apartment, works as nighttime security guard at the blood bank which doubles as his place of work and food bank, and has a crush on the clerk Sally. Unfortunately, his stealing of the blood supply leads to their supervisor Mr Crosswhite declaring that the blood bank is not making enough profits and layoffs are imminent. The horrible man tells Sally that he’d spare her if she’d do a more thorough accounting of his person, if you know what I mean, and poor Sally really needs the job.
Consequently, poor Donald now has to quietly comb for victims to replenish the blood supply at the blood bank. Of course, this means that he leaves behind a trail of bodies, drawing vampire hunter Rupert Van Helsing to the neighborhood. Poor Van Helsing has become a punchline in nighttime talk shows, so he’s chomping at the reins to prove that he’s the real deal and that vampires really do exist. Will poor Donald survive this episode without a stake through his heart?
This episode is more comedy than scary, with zero naked bits or gory elements, which makes it a stark contrast to the previous episode Dead Wait, which has nudity and gore galore. However, this isn’t a bad thing at all.
Donald is both a homage and a parody to Anne Rice’s vampires – he wears dentures to hide his fangs, indulges in long-winded soliloquy about human nature and what not, and has a sense of misplaced nobility. The Reluctant Vampire is also a subversive homage B-grade movies – even as it pays tribute to the tropes of the genre, it lampoons them. Donald’s fangs extend when he gets too excited in Sally’s company, for example, and this makes for a fun kind of double entendre. Our hero is also a cultured gentleman, he adds some lime into the the blood he steals and sips from a martini glass.
Both Donald and Sally are played by actors who are not, shall we say, the typical pretty people that usually plays vampires. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to subversion. Donald is not entirely selfless – his glee at killing people for blood, for example, and how he’s willing to do bad things to ensure that his blood bank stays accessible all point to a steely ruthlessness underneath his pleasant demeanor. When he decides he’d start feeding on criminals – “take a bite out of crime” – heh, why not? And Sally may seem like a damsel in distress at first, but she soon turns out to be… something else, heh.
And George Wendt is appropriately fun as the dastardly, nasty Mr Crosswhite, while Michael Barryman makes the most of his comparatively less screen time to turn his character into a foreboding old man in oversized glasses, bent on vampire homicide but is frustrated by how little people take him seriously. Don’t call Van Helsing “Dracula chaser”, heh, it really gets to him. The plot is also fun – it’s simple but good, and wraps things up in an adorably hilarious manner.
All in all, it is very easy to love The Reluctant Vampire, with a winning cast and wicked fun story line.