Monday, June 16, 2008

The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries: Halloween Hassle at Dracula’s Castle - review


Directors: Oscar Dufau & Rudy Zamora

First Aired: 1984

Contains spoilers

We have looked at Scooby-Doo (Don Messick) before but this episode, from the New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, had two distinct elements. Firstly, the monsters are real – rather than the rubbery mask wearing villain – though this is neatly parodied a couple of times – and secondly the presence of Scrappy-Doo (also Don Messick).

Now, let us not beat around the bush. Scooby-Doo was great – the show deserves its cult status as many of us who grew up with it would attest to. Scrappy-Doo was a travesty, a dumming down and all I can ask is – Hannah-Barbera what were you thinking?

Never-the-less a promise of vampires – not only that but of Dracula himself – forced me to ignore the presence of the annoying one and sit and re-live childhood.

aliensThe show starts with Scooby, Scrappy, Shaggy (Casey Kasem) and Daphne (Heather North) in town looking for costumes on Halloween night. There is a quick greed gag – with Scooby eating all the treats they’d bought, before they find what they assume to be a costume shop – the Tiny Shop of Terror. Unbeknown to them aliens are tracking them.

In the shop they meet the proprietor and his aid – obviously Dracula and Igor. Their presence freaks Scooby and Shaggy, though Daphne insists that they are in costume, and they try to leave. The aliens are at the door, enter the shop and Shaggy and Scooby hide. The aliens are actually Fred and Velma – revealed as they remove their own masks – who have come to spend Halloween with the rest of the gang.

driving to partyScooby is wearing a table-cloth that he believes looks like a ghost costume. He asks to buy/hire it and Dracula, who has overheard that the gang are ghost busters, says he is the millionth customer and so has won an invitation to an exclusive party. They drive up to the spooky castle – all in costume – and can I just say, I know she is just a cartoon but Daphne in a cat woman suit… meow…

welcomed by the Count and CountessThey are invited in by Dracula and his bride and Shaggy and Scooby believe something strange is going on when Daphne’s cloak is eaten by a chest. The rest of the gang think it is a groovy costume party. There is the invisible man, the creature from the black lagoon, the wolf man, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy and a magician called Chandra.

the gang in costumeAnyway (slapstick) gags aplenty, including Velma and a real magic broomstick, plus the sight of Scrappy-Doo in a bunny outfit (fitting in so many ways and long before Buffy established bunny outfits as a thing of fear). There are food gags with the chicken and octopus dishes still alive. We also discover that Daphne is wearing an amulet identical to a talisman called the moonstone medalian.

the ghost of Van HelsingOrder is broken down when a ghost appears – the ghost of Van Helsing – who is after the monsters and uses garlic gas. It becomes apparent to the gang that the monsters are real, they have abandoned their monstrous ways but Van Helsing is haunting them – hence the ruse to get them there.

vampires go monstrousInterestingly it is by encouraging the monsters to be monstrous again that they manage to stop the events. It is also interesting that Van Helsing is someone in a rubber mask – a nice move given that the monsters are actually real. There are plenty of gags but they are not always of the highest calibre and, of course, we have to deal with Scrappy-Doo.

a real monster mashLuckily he is somewhat sidelined as a character as they had to concentrate on so many characters in the episode. This doesn’t stop my skin crawling every time the character has a line of dialogue but it does make the episode liveable. I like it when Scooby-Doo abandons the rubber mask premise and goes for real monsters – something they have done in many of the more recent features. In this case, however, the monster mash format dilutes the effect. Then again it is worth seeing as a fan of the cartoon, worth, even, sitting through Scrappy-Doo in this case. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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