Second Union

Second Union

VINTAGE OCTOBER: Once Bitten (1985)

“I’m the owner of the pants you’ve been trying to get into for the past four years.”

Once Bitten, 1985 (Lauren Hutton) The Samuel Goldwyn Company

It’s weird getting into Once Bitten after so many years of jaded and cynical “entertainment.” Regardless of the movie’s content and/or quality, there’s a charming air of innocence in a story about an ages-old vampiress seeking the blood of a virgin male. You certainly get the idea without seeing anything more explicit than a couple of naked guys in a shower attempting to get a look at Jim Carrey’s inner thighs. They’re checking for vampire bites. We know this halfway through the movie.

This was an early PG-13 movie, which meant the movie was rated for sexual (not violent) content. It’s interesting. If the movie were released two years earlier, it would have been rated PG. The commercials on television made the movie look like a reverse Love at First Bite. The “Hands Off” dance sequence (the best scene in the movie) at the high school Halloween party is a variation of the “I Love the Nightlife (Disco ‘Round)” bit in that movie. It was a cute, harmless diversion, except possibly for the brief bits of homophobia.

Lauren Hutton is a beautiful 390-year-old vampire who must consume the blood of virgins (preferably men, but she’s not orthodox considering her ensemble) in order to remain immortal. We’re heading toward some kind of vampire equinox, so she’s on the prowl for a new virgin to keep her alive. She chooses amiable Mark Kendall (Jim Carrey) who seems so incredibly shy and threatened by females, you’d think he wasn’t necessarily a virgin, but asexual. He’s not, though. This is the mid-’80s. He has a girlfriend: the perfect, pretty Robin (Karen Kopins), but all he can manage with her is some very intense hand-holding.

Lauren picks up Carrey at a singles bar, takes him back to her palatial Beverly Hills estate, unzips his pants, and starts feeding on him. This causes him to develop a pale complexion, dress in black, drink blood, and generally freak out his loved ones. Once Bitten is a peculiar variation of the misogyny seen in most teen sex comedies of the time period. We have a literal bloodsucker in the visage of the older countess, and then we have the figurative bloodsucker in the form of the girlfriend who refuses his pleas for sex, and both women fight for possession of Mark’s soul. Granted, I don’t think the movie was meant to be interpreted that way.

Indeed the only reason to watch the movie is to see a young Jim Carrey in a leading role with only a couple of credits to his name. It would take a few more years before audiences accepted his unusual talents, but a few of them are on display here. Even watching the movie in 1986 on cable television, I knew that if he could keep it together, he would become a big star.

Wasted in the role of Hutton’s contemporary “Renfield” is Cleavon Little. I don’t understand how the iconic Little could be cast and given nothing interesting to do. Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally has a brief bit at the high school costume ball. Director Howard Storm was known primarily for directing sitcoms in the ’70s and ’80s, which explains the “wacky misunderstanding” quality of the movie’s story.

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