It’s the final days of July, and nothing says “dog days of summer” like talking about Halloween TV specials from 1979. Word broke today that Judd Hirsch was joining the cast of the new Steven Spielberg movie, and while some people probably immediately associate Hirsch with Taxi or Independence Day, the first thing I think of is The Night Dracula Saved the World, AKA The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t. The half-hour TV special, which first aired on ABC on October 28, 1979, features Hirsch as a groovy Count Dracula, and honestly, you have to respect that.
The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t
Did you know that Dracula himself saved the world in 1979? It’s true, I wouldn’t lie about Dracula. Because 1979 was the year ABC premiered The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t, a half-hour special that had its title changed to The Night Dracula Saved the World when it was later released on VHS. And honestly, that’s for the best, because The Night Dracula Saved the World is a much, much better title.
When I was a kid, I was very into monsters, especially the Universal Monsters. I mean, technically, I’m still very into them, but the years have dulled my capacity for excitement and enjoyment, so I can now only muster up a faint trace of enthusiasm. But back in the early ’90s, monsters were one of the few things I cared about (the other things I cared about were ghosts, Goosebumps and Stephen King books, McDonald’s fries, and having absolutely no friends). I consumed every and any bit of monster/horror-related media I could get my hands on, and if that media was also about Halloween in some way, I was in heaven.
So when I spotted a copy of the Halloween special The Night Dracula Saved the World on the shelf at my local video store, I turned into the human version of that emoji with hearts for eyes. I don’t remember the name of the video store – it wasn’t a Blockbuster or a Hollywood Video. Hell, it wasn’t even a West Coast Video. It was just some cheapo place that specialized in renting out porn movies with titles like Ass to the Future Part 3. But I was too young to care about porn, and besides, I couldn’t get to it – it was behind an impenetrable fortress, AKA a ratty-looking curtain. I guess I could have pulled back that curtain if I wanted to, but the sound it would’ve made against the metal curtain rod surely would’ve alerted everyone in the store, and a siren would probably start going off, and I would immediately be strapped into an electric chair for my crimes.
But none of that was on my mind. Instead, I cared more about the non-porn titles, which were scant but present just to keep up appearances. And one of those titles was The Night Dracula Saved the World. Just the name “Dracula” was enough to rev up my little fat boy heart, so I insisted on renting what was sure to be a masterpiece.
The Night Dracula Saved the World
The Night Dracula Saved the World has your standard premise: it’s Halloween, and Dracula and all his monster buddies want to boogie on down – you’ve seen that shit before, am I right? Typical! But wait, there’s a twist. While Drac’s BFFs the Frankenstein Monster (John Schuck), The Wolfman (Jack Riley), The Mummy (Robert Fitch), Zabaar the Zombie (who???) (Josip Elic), and Igor (Henry Gibson), who is kind of like Dracula’s live-in abused boyfriend here, are all very pro-Halloween, there’s a rumor going around that Halloween may end forever. Dracula learns of this rumor from the local news, because I guess it was a very slow news day.
Drac is outraged when he hears that he’s being blamed for the approaching end of Halloween. So he summons all his monster friends over, and they all show up and have their own little comedic introductions. Everyone is clueless about what’s going on – except one lone figure. That would be The Witch (Mariette Hartley), who reveals that it was she who has been spreading rumors about Halloween being canceled forever.
Why? Because she’s fed up, god damn it! The Witch says she’s tired of being mocked for her ugly looks, and she’s had enough of this whole damn spooky holiday. This is a big problem, because if The Witch doesn’t fly her broom over the moon, Halloween can’t officially happen (look it up, it’s in The Bible). The Witch goes on the run, and Dracula and his bumbling monster boys have to convince her to change her mind. Spoiler-alert: The Witch eventually relents when two whiny kids tell her about the true meaning of Halloween or some such bullshit.
But that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the movie wraps up with everyone getting what they want. At that point, Dracula suddenly pulls off his cape to reveal he’s dressed exactly like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. The Witch then transforms from a generic ugly witch into a hot dame, and she and Dracula disco dance the night away. And really, isn’t that what Halloween is all about? Yes, yes it is.
Judd Hirsch: The Best Dracula Ever?
Judd Hirsch may not be your typical Dracula actor, but boy does he relish the part. With his huge collared cape, his shoe polish widow’s peak, and his questionable Bela Lugosi accent, Hirsch makes for a fine Drac. He may not be Lugosi, or Christopher Lee, or Frank Langella, or the greatest Dracula of them all, Gerard Butler. But he’s having fun, damn it! And so was I.
I ate every last frame of The Night Dracula Saved the World up. I loved it so much that I told my parents I had “lost” the VHS tape, when really I just stashed it under my bed. My parents were then forced to buy the tape from the sleazy video store, and since this was the 1990s, the cost of the tape was somewhere around $100. But honestly, it was worth it. Probably not for my parents, who were not exactly flush with money. But it was definitely worth it for me, because I didn’t have to pay a dime and I got to keep the tape.
The Night Dracula Saved the World isn’t legally streaming anywhere at the moment. You can buy a $95 VHS tape on Amazon if you want, or you can watch a poor-quality bootleg on YouTube. I would probably go with the latter option, but don’t let me tell you how to live your life.
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