This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't (1979)

"It's one of those days I wish I was dead-and stayed dead!"
-Count Dracula

Like Witch's Night Out, this TV-Halloween special actually made a memorable impression when it was first broadcast (it even won the Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement-Children's Program"), but then, unbelievably, faded from the public mind by the time DVDs and the Internet became commonplace. Equally bizarre is the fact that, as you can see from the picture, it changed its name for its VHS release.
This is like an episode of The Munsters in that it presents everyone's favorite monster characters in a humorous light and in live action (we basically expect Dracula and his monstrous ilk to make us chuckle if they are animated).
Count Dracula (Judd Hirsch) is shocked by rumors that Halloween may come to an end, so he and his servant Igor (Henry Gibson) call the other monsters-the Witch (Mariette Hartley), the Frankenstein Monster (John Schuck), the Mummy (Robert Fitch), the Zombie (Josip Elic), and the Wolf Man (Jack Riley)-to Dracula's castle to discuss the matter.
After the count chastises them for becoming less and less scary over the decades (the Monster has taken up tap dancing, and the Wolf Man shaved to make a razor blade commercial), the Witch reveals that she's the one who started the rumors that Halloween will no longer be celebrated. She states that she hates being a witch because no one views her with anything but revulsion. The witch then gives Dracula the ultimatum of meeting her demands (which include having a line of t-shirts to replace his own) or she won't signal the arrival of the holiday by flying over the moon at midnight on her broom. When the count refuses, she sets off back to her castle and, since the sun is about to come out, Dracula must wait until the next evening (Oct. 30) to act.
The following night, he and the others arrive at the Witch's castle, where their attempts to capture her so Dracula can hypnotize her into doing his bidding meet with hilarious failure. When all seems lost, two young trick-or-treaters arrive, having heard of the holiday's plight by watching the news (hey, this was before the Internet, so they had to get that info somehow), convince the witch that children the world over love her and what she brings to the holiday. Those sweet words, along with Dracula's forced promise to take her dancing, convince her to fly over the moon just as midnight strikes.
The cast is great, especially Hirsch, who was already doing great work on Taxi, giving us, naturally, a game Bela Lugosi impression (I don't want to get too into this just yet, but the reason Lugosi's Dracula became enshrined into the pantheon of great screen villains is that he was a charming, charismatic figure who could destroy you in the blink of an eye).
Interestingly, this show was broadcast the same year that the equally charming vampire comedy Love at First Bite was in theaters.
Hartley's sarcastic witch makes a great foil for Hirsch's egotistical count. She, likewise, was already doing those Poloroid commercials with James Garner, although I'll always remember her as being the only woman who was able to romance both Spock and the Incredible Hulk (on their respective TV shows, that is).

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