Friday, October 29, 2010

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't

So we try not to give in to nostalgia too much here on the Dork Forty. Nostalgia's dangerous for a dork. The entertainments of our childhood were really no better than the entertainments of today; in many cases, in fact, they were worse. It's just that our enjoyment of them may have been greater because our childhood tastes weren't as refined. But dorks too often get caught up in the idea that they don't enjoy things as much as they used to, and it turns them bitter. And there's nothing more tiresome than a bitter dork.

So when we're cultivating our nerd crops around here, we tend to treat nostaliga as a weed. We rip that shit out by the roots, poison it with the new and different, whatever it takes. We want to judge all the great dork stuff out there by its own merits. Some of it stands the test of time, some of it we love because of its flaws, and some of it just needs to be tossed in the dustbin of dork history and forgotten. And then there's stuff like what we're about to show you tonight...

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't was a comedy special done for ABC in 1979. The premise is simple, and pretty cool: Dracula (in his capacity as King of the Monsters) calls all his horrific subjects to his castle to lay down the law. People aren't afraid of them anymore, and that's gotta stop. The monsters (by which this special seems to mean, mostly, the monsters Universal Studios made movies about) have got to start being scary again, or Drac will lay the hammer down. The Witch refuses, and the show then breaks down into a power game between her and Dracula, with the fate of Halloween itself on the line. And then there is disco dancing.

Sounds like pretty good children's Halloween fare, and it is exactly that: pretty good. There are some decent gags, the show creates a pretty entertaining Halloween mythology, and the execution isn't entirely embarrassing. But then you toss in this tidbit: the special stars Judd Hirsch and Mariette Hartley. Fresh off their success on Taxi, a (for the period) rather sophisticated sitcom for adults, these two are for some ungodly reason cast in a kids' Halloween special. And they're fantastic in it. Or rather, he is. Hartley's good as the Witch, but it's Hirsch's performance as Dracula that steals the show.

An awful lot of actors have done comical Bela Lugosi impersonations over the years, and as a big Lugosi fan I'm pretty picky about them. Some I've liked. Some I've hated. But I hold no love for any of them. Except for Hirsch. He's genius at it. He understands that what he's doing is comedy, but he never winks. He plays it completely straight, never making Lugosi look like a buffoon, and he's ten times funnier because of it. He's even a tiny bit scary in the role. It's an amazing performance, and the only thing that makes The Halloween That Almost Wasn't worth remembering.

At least, you know, in the nostalgia-hating eyes of the Dork Forty nerd wranglers...

Hope you enjoy.


  1. Holy crap, I remember this now and I'd totally forgotten about it. Now to watch...

  2. Yeah, I loved this thing when I saw it as a kid. Glad to see that it holds up at least in part.