Long after Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein and eight years before we learned the ultimate truth that the wolfman did indeed have nards, live-action theatrical gatherings of our beloved undead monsters were far and in between. Up until we hit the twenty first century that is. Nestled in the middle of those two great films lies a little diddy that aired specifically as an ABC Halloween Special Presentation on October 28, 1979: The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t.
And with so many people questioning what Halloween will or won’t be this year, I feel like now is no better time to revisit the nostalgic classic.
Hot off of the hit primetime show Taxi, Judd Hirsh plays his form of Dracula, (which totally serves as a pre-curser to Adam Sandler’s Hotel Transylvania take) and self-proclaimed “King of the Monsters”. We start the program off in Dracula’s castle the night before Halloween where a news break on Drac’s boob tube informs himself and Igor (played by Henry Gibson- Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, voice of Wilber- Charlotte’s Web) that Halloween is in danger of being cancelled; and that Dracula is behind this travesty.
This totally pisses him off.
With malicious rumors swirling, Drac calls upon the rest of the world’s top notch monsters for a meeting of the minds. Well actually, to shame them them as he tells them they are no longer scary due to them exploiting themselves. Such as Frankenstien (played by John Schuck who also played Herman Munster in the 80s’ revival) letting a so-called-movie influence him to tap dance.
Gee I wonder which one, haha!
The werewolf (Jack Riley-The Bob Newhart Show), Zaabar the Zombie (Josip Elic- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and the Mummy (Robert Fitch) fair no better with Hirsh Drac as he pretty much lays right into them for being shit monsters. Then, the almighty Halloween witch (played by Mariette Hartly) shows up late, gives Dracula a pointed boot in the ass (vocally), and admits she is the one who started the vicious rumor as she is dead-tired of being a witch. Tired of being called ugly and taking orders from Dracula. As a woman I can totally relate to this. She puts her witches’ boot down and demands certain actions be taken, such as becoming leader of the monster world, or she refuses to ride over the Halloween moon that night; in which refusing to do so, would therefore cancel Halloween officially.
Well, Drac obviously thinks she’s gone too far and poo poos on her demands; leaving the witch no choice to flee to her castle while Drac and the other monsters hatch a plan to get her to do her Halloween duties.
And that’s where I’ll stop for those of you who have never experienced this little Halloween national treasure. While both light-hearted and humorous, The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t has a pretty serious undertone hidden behind this Primetime holiday special. Our side characters, a young pair of siblings who at the same time see the same newscast as our monster protagonists, help bring the story full-circle with a very special 80s-esque message. You know, the kind that sort of brings a tear to your eye, moral to the story, type malarkey that you almost NEVER see anymore. And it’s a very special message directed toward young girls in particular- one that up until pretty recently, the Disney Princess movies usually failed at.
THAT PEOPLE LOVE YOU FOR EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE.
Should I say it louder for the people in the back?
And honestly, that’s such a beautiful thing. Which for me, makes this special in particular, one of the tip-top best Halloween Special Presentations of the twentieth century. Not to mention the non-sensical disco dance at the end where Dracula is channeling his inner Tony Manero. Look I know we were at the peak end of the disco craze in the late 70s’, but this is just weirdly out of place. You know what tho? I’m on board with it because that’s part of the marvelous phenomena that makes these specials so unique and nostalgically fuzzy.
My other inspiration in writing this- 2020. Being what it is, it doesn’t really matter how you celebrate this Halloween when in actuality, Halloween can NEVER be cancelled. The spirit of Samhain and the holiday lives inside you and not one person, or “invisible enemy” can take that away. What it may be, or may not be depends solely on you. And I truly believe this year in particular, will be a frightfully magikal one- in a good way mind you. At least that’s my own goal anyway!
While The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t eventually made its way to the Disney Trick or Treat Halloween block from 1983-1996; and then to VHS retitled as The Night Dracula Saved The World, it never got a much deserved DVD release. Or hell, in this case a special Blu-Ray is much deserved for this gem. I’m looking at you Arrow Video and Shout Factory. The ball is in your court.
In the meantime, thank disgustingly vile candy corns for the glorious Youtube. Happy Halloween nostalgia nuggets!