Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Horror Of...Halloween Night, The Halloween That Almost Wasn't

There are many specials that come out at Halloween. Or there were. We get some special episodes, and some oddities. But rarely do networks and actors put themselves out in often such an strange manner.

Consider the late 70's, 1979 to be exact. ABC gave us an odd little Halloween treat. The Halloween That Almost Wasn't. It's an odd collection of comedic and not so comedic actors in the role of various classic monsters. You may also know it by the name it picked up in 1992. The Night Dracula Saved the World. Yeah, the first title is more accurate, but the second one makes it clear that you're getting a dose of Dracula. With it's original title, maybe people thought they were seeing a Halloween version of the animated film Twas the Night Before Christmas. This is far goofier.

And that's apt, as the show was for years embraced by Disney and shown at Halloween.

But I have to admit that I can't remember ever seeing it before recently. It clearly slipped by me.

The story is simple, but the opening is a little odd, giving a Santa Claus Conquers the Martians vibe. A news channel in Transylvania has somehow heard a rumor that Dracula is gathering all the great monsters, and will be canceling Halloween. I have no idea where that story started, but we can all make a joke about media vetting hot stories.Enjoy.

Two kids, that are the representation of the kids of the world, are worried, as the dress up as a scarecrow and a witch. What will happen?

And at this point you should guess not a lot of effort is going to be made to sound Hungarian, etc by anyone. Well, Dracula and Igor are making a bit of an effort.

And let's introduce them! Dracula is played by Judd Hirsch, best known at the time for starring in Taxi. Now he's best known for playing the dad who is very much of New York. Igor is played by Henry Gibson, a good comedic character actor. Give him some sound material and he can go. This movie gave him a peasant shirt, wig, and a hump on his back. I could bring up that Igor shouldn't be tied to Dracula...but feh.

We learn in this movie that, apparently Halloween is 2000 years old. Sure. It's a world with Dracula and witches that literally fly over the moon, we can all roll with that.

The rumor that Dracula was cancelling Halloween are false, it's his big holiday. He loves it. (Maybe Buffy was right about that after all.) But the rumor he was gathering all the monsters was true, He has something to yell at them about.

So the monsters arrive. First, the werewolf. He's played by Jack Riley, he's best known for his role on the The Bob Newhart Show. He's bit of a panicky character.

"Hi Bob."
 Next comes Frankenstein's monster. Played by John Schuck, he'll eventually play Herman Munster in a remake of The Munsters. He also played a Klingon ambassador in the Star Trek movies, and appeared in Demon Knights.

He's also really into dancing, for some reason trying to tie the character to Young Frankenstein,

Next we get the king of the zombies...? Zabaar from...Haiti? He doesn't say anything, so...yeah.

And then there's the Mummy. And he's just...bless.

Last in is Winnie the Witch. She's just pissed off. She's played by Mariette Hartley. She's very much of the 80's for me, I was watching her in shows all of the time. Of note, she appeared in the Twilight Zone and classic Star Trek. She was also in The Return of Count Yorga.

"How the hell did Margaret Hamilton get that Paul Lynde Special
over me?"

The reason Dracula is pissed is that the monsters aren't as scary as they used to be. All the monsters have been screwing around and getting into less horrifying popular culture.

Now that he's venting, the witch makes it clear that she isn't interested, and she's started the rumors of Halloween's demise. Dracula balks at that. But she lays out some demands.

She wants to be in charge, or co-in charge. She wants to be on the merchandise (maybe Black Widow should try this), she wants more respect. She's sick of being mocked, and looked down on.

And she has a point. Apparently, Halloween only occurs because she flies on a broom over the moon at midnight on Halloween...Okay. But if that's true, she is kind of the most important one there.

But Dracula isn't interested in giving or sharing power and prestige.

So the witch runs. And we get a screwy hallway chase.

She flees, and Dracula gives chase as a bat.

Then the sun comes up, and he retreats. But before he beds down we get a reoccurring bit where Igor forgets to leaves things open for Dracula to fly through. So he crashes into them. (So this is the source of a lot Dracula: Dead and Loving It's humor.)

The next night the monsters plot how to get at the witch, who is in her own castle. The plan, go to the witches castle, sneak in, force her to fly over the moon, Brilliant!

Just realized they weren't the Groovy Goolies.
Actually, Dracula plans to hypnotize her. So they head out. And stalk her.

They grab her...

And then she pulls figures out of a painting to act them.

And she runs. Behind a door, she is beyond Dracula's reach.

"Shoot! A door. If only I had the power and strength to get through."

Dracula tries to sneak in as a bat, and the witch bashes him.

After another attempt, Dracula decides to just agree to her terms.

She adds terms like Dracula being required to take her to the disco nightly. But he agrees.

Then she decides she just won't do it. She's sick of being a witch. She's also tired of being hated, feared, and unloved.

But then the two kids from the start pop up out of no where. I mean, how did they get there?

Oh, I know this movie. That's a demonic doll!

They beg her to do it, and save Halloween. The witch sees the little girl dressed as a witch, and has a change of heart,

"Well, I don't know. What did the water balloon say when it met the witch?"
So she agrees to make the ride, for the kids. And for all the things Dracula agreed to give her.

And quickly the monsters remembered how tasty kids were, and feasted on
the youthful entrails. It was a wonderful Halloween Feast.
With that done, DISCO! I guess if Paul Lynde gets to do it, so does Judd Hirsch.

The witch arrives, and eyes Dracula. She then does her WonderWoman spin, cause it's the 70's (and Wonder Woman spins are always awesome). She turns into Mariette Hartley.

Seeing her, he turns into...John Travolta? I guess we know who lost in this exchange.

And we dance our way out of this special. Cause, the 70's.

The lesson we learn is that this is actually more embarrassing than The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. AND it's less embarrassing than Hotel Transylvania.

But as much as you might want to mark that statement. This movie won an Emmy. It has an Emmy, The Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement - Children's Program. Was Sesame Street asleep all that year? Mr. Rogers?

The hell? Let that roost in your mind.

Happy Halloween!

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