AUNTIE SEZ: Kids, your Unkle Lancifer and I are off today (we’re still trying to track down discount Halloween candy), so please clang your juice boxes together and give a warm Kindertrauma welcome to frequent commenter Professor Von Whiskerson who is going to take us back to a gentler time when that plucky PAMELA SUE MARTIN solved mysteries and stubby singer-songwriters dominated popular culture!
This episode of HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW MYSTERIES is a two-parter and despite the title, it is NOT a Halloween episode. It is perfect for Halloween, though, complete with a Count, creepy castles, dungeons, costume parties and musical little people.
In this episode, Frank (the good looking Hardy boy), Joe (the Hardy Boy everyone pretends is a good singer), and Nancy Drew (who is better looking than even Frank and non-singing) journey to Vlad Dracula’s castle in Transylvania to find the boy’s missing father. There is a convenient “rock festival” being held at the castle by PAUL WILLIAMS which gives both he and Joe and excuse to sing (separately and in a duet). Yes, THAT PAUL WILLIAMS. He was all over the place back in the ’70s, so I’m surprised it took him until the second season to show up. More on that later. Also guest starring in this episode are LORNE GREENE and BERNIE TAUPIN.
The story starts out with the boys dad, Fenton Hardy, arriving at Castle Dracula to investigate a string of art thefts occurring throughout Europe. Wait. Let’s rewind a second. The story ACTUALLY starts out with a long shot of the castle, silhouetted against the night sky and the howl of a distant wolf. Remember the sound of that wolf. You will hear it about 10 million times during the next 90 minutes. I expect you to down a shot of your favorite hard liquor every time you hear it.
Not long after Mr. Hardy starts creeping around the castle, you (the viewer, in case you forgot) see that he is not alone. There is also a pair of jackboots that follow and capture him. Remember these boots. If you are brave, or have an especially high tolerance to booze, you will want to incorporate them into the drinking game as well.
Frank and Joe arrive in Eastern Europe to search for their father, who they haven’t heard from in several weeks. The first person they meet is Inspector Hans Stavlin, of the Romanian police. Inspector Stavlin is played by none other than Canadian Battlestar Commander LORNE GREENE. Stavlin was working with Mr. Hardy on the art theft ring investigation. Since this is the boy’s show and they can’t be shown up by some commie thug, they discover evidence overlooked by Stavlin.
This evidence takes them first to Munich in a bus driven by Elton John’s songwriter, BERNIE TAUPIN. The cover of being a member of TAUPIN ‘s band is just what the Boys need to trace their father without raising any suspicions. Unfortunately this bus trip is complete with a sing-along of the BEATLE‘s “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” a song I truly despise. It’s not any better when sung by SHAUN CASSIDY and BERNIE TAUPIN. I really hate that song. I think it’s the “oh blah dees” and “oh blah dahs” that I really hate. That and the association with the eponymous T.V. series…but I digress…again…
In Munich there is some mistaken identity involving a hotel bellman, who is probably a Nazi wanted for war crimes, by the Boys and Nancy Drew. Upon their first meeting, Nancy puts some fancy judo on Frank and flips him flat on his butt. The fear on Joe’s face after seeing that is priceless, as is the fear on Nancy’s when she realizes Frank has had it. I expected him to raise a pimp hand to her, but this was a family T.V. show in the ’70s.
It turns out that Nancy had been working with Mr. Hardy on the investigation (No one ever said Fenton couldn’t pick ‘em). Everyone compares notes then it’s off to Transylvania, and the “Dracula Festival” at the castle. The festival is being televised nightly to television audiences in the U.S. and is the brainchild of “rock star” Allison Troy. I put “rock star” in “quotes” because Troy is being “played” by singer, songwriter, and “actor” PAUL WILLIAMS.
Now a bit about PAUL WILLIAMS. I haven’t done the math, and CASEY KASEM is no longer on American Top 40 for me to write in and ask, but I think PAUL WILLIAMS may have written 40-60% of the songs that came out between 1974 and 1980. He is a very 70’s phenomenon, the likes of which we shall never witness again. He had a major role in DePALMA‘s PHANTOM OF PARADISE, and a song from that movie is featured in this episode. He also wrote “Rainbow Connection” from THE MUPPET MOVIE, one of my favorite songs of all time, and slightly kinder-traumatic with its melancholy undertones.
The rock festival itself is a pretty cool piece of T.V. production. The castle set is convincing, the bands are in continuous rotation, and all the guests wear the kind of really cool costumes that I dreamed I’d be able to wear at a Halloween party one day, but couldn’t because I wore glasses. Those masks at Spencer’s Gifts were almost worth being blind for, but alas, ’twas not to be. Oh yeah, Joe (CASSIDY) sings several songs like “That’s Rock n’ Roll” (no its not, SHAUN!). CASSIDY makes the strangest faces while singing and Frank is ALWAYS quick to come up with an excuse to leave the room before it gets this far.
There’s lots of other cool stuff that I won’t spoil, but some really great scenes are still in store, like:
- The Burgermeister Meisterburger gets attacked in the catacombs!
- Nancy’s battle with a vampire bat, while wearing a nightgown! (Nancy, not the bat)
- Frankenstein’s slow dance with his girlfriend!
- Opening Dracula’s coffin!
- Angry villagers!
- The final showdown with the vampire!
I was just a couple of years too young to get to enjoy this show when it first aired, but with the magic of DVDs and the prompting of Mickster, I’ve become hooked on it. There were several episodes that would be fitting during the Halloween season besides this one. I like the Hardy Boys episodes and the Nancy Drew ones equally, and I just wish that the split between them was equal. The show became more Hardy-centric during the second season and PAMELA SUE MARTIN left halfway through it. Even more changes were in store for Season 3 which is not yet released on DVD. Seasons 1 & 2 are available though. At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical old person, they don’t make shows like this or KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER anymore. Seeing them for the first time as a grown up just reinforces how great they were.