Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula – review (TV episodes)

Director: Joseph Pevney

First aired: 1977

Contains spoilers

Now, I must admit I don’t know that much about the Hardy Boys and less about Nancy Drew. Being a Brit, Blyton’s Secret Seven books were the first child detective port of call and then there were some Hardy Boy adventures read but I’m dammed if I can really remember them (though I intend to dip into the Hardy Boys: Danger on Vampire Trail at some point in the future).

This was actually the first two episodes of the second Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and marked the first Hardy/Drew crossover (the first season had alternated between the two franchises).

Ed Gilbert as Fenton Hardy
It begins with Fenton Hardy (Ed Gilbert, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and The Norliss Tapes), the boys' father, being driven up to a castle in Transylvania. The Caretaker ( Norbert Schiller, The Thing From Another World), who drives him there, is clearly terrified of the legendary living dead. Fenton goes round the castle, loses his flashlight and ends up with a torch. We see boots and a cloak and Fenton is attacked.

Lorne Greene as Hans Stavlin
The boys, Frank (Parker Stevenson) and Joe (Shaun Cassidy), have been searching for their father and the Paris police have called them in to view a body. It isn’t him. They go to his hotel and find an intruder within. It turns out that he is Inspector Hans Stavlin (Lorne Greene) of the Romanian police. He too is searching for Fenton as Fenton was working with Interpol to catch an art thief and is incommunicado. They go to a cafe and talk to Stavlin for a moment and, when they return to the room, find their father’s notepad. It has two future dates, a liason in Munich followed by a Dracula festival in Poenari (or so it sounded like and it does seem that Wallachia and Transylvania are merged into one and the same in this).

The Hardy Boys
They decide to go there undercover and approach a band, the circus, and ask whether they can travel/perform with them – they’ll pay for the privilege. As it happens the band don’t have a singer and are travelling to Munich and then the festival, where they are booked to play. They get to the hotel in Munich and we will gloss over the brief but offensive German Nazi stereotype that was added in as a ‘humorous’ aside – such were the 70s, I guess. There is a sequence of mistaken identity with the boys and Nancy Drew (Pamela Sue Martin), who is with Bess (Ruth Cox), until they realise it was Nancy their father was meeting – and the two franchises meet for the first time.

Paul Williams as Allison Troy
Having suggested that Nancy (who is on the trail of missing artwork) leave detective work to the experts the two groups go separately to the festival where American rock star Allison Troy (Paul Williams) is the main attraction. Fenton’s notes show that the robberies round Europe have all occurred when Troy is playing in town. They get to town and meet up with Stavlin, who is pleased to see them but not happy about the festival – the weekend was traditionally a religious festival. However the town council members are happy with the tourists the festival has brought in (Note that this seems to be a Romania where communism never happened).

Nancy Drew and Bess
So Joe has to sing a song as Frank sneaks into the out of bounds area of the castle. At the same time the town council are having a tour of the out of bounds area, conducted by the caretaker, and see a Dracul crest. The crest is on a secret door and the villain, again only protrayed as boots and cloak – with no upper body detail until we get a ring later, starts spooking around. Nancy and Bess go down to the out of bounds area as well.

bite marks
Who is going to get got? Berger (Leon Askin), the innkeeper and town council member, gets momentarily sidetracked and grabbed by the mysterious assailant. Frank then stumbles on him in a cell, goes to help the unconscious man and is locked in. Nancy and Bess come along to see Frank over him and bite marks on his neck. However, sense prevails and Nancy picks the padlock to get him out and help is summoned.

Dracul crest
So, it appears there is a vampire on the loose. Nancy has already found Fenton, unconscious in a monastery (under an alias, hence word not getting out) with similar bite marks and the locals are putting up garlic wreaths. At one point the locals form a mob who wish to burnt he castle down to the ground, until Stavlin talks sense into them. Connection is being made to Vlad Tepes. On the other hand, perhaps it is a hoax being perpetrated by the art thief.

Now, let us talk Crap Bat Syndrome. We get some cracking bats flying around in this episode. Probably the best, however, is the vampire bat – exactly how they describe it – that gets into Nancy’s room and hassles her in her sleep. I mean, this one is a fine example of the crap bat – and Nancy develops the art of throwing bedside lamps at bats to no avail. Strangely, once the Hardy’s break down the door and get her out she is quite happy to go back into the room to get changed.

no reflection
There is a lovely vampire ending to all this as well. When they get their criminal at the end – don’t worry I won’t spoil who it is and a successful ending was never really in doubt – the criminal is arrested. For the world it seems like we have been Scooby-Doo’d, this was a criminal pretending to be a vampire to scare the locals away and keep the detectives off guard. Then Joe catches a glimpse in the mirror and there is no reflection cast by the criminal…

 the right amount of camp
This was great fun, 70s chintz with just the right amount of camp. We have castles, angry mobs, ‘shock rockers’ singing ballads and Bernie Taupin – it’s true. There is Frankenstein’s monster slow dancing and Lorne Greene as well as crap bats and bouffant hair. 7 out of 10 for all the guilty pleasure it summoned.

The imdb page is here.



Christine said...

Sounds indeed great light fun! Castles, peasant mobs, garlic, vampire legends... great!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

and Lorne Greene, we mustn't forget Lorne Greeme :)

Christine said...

And the bat! The bat!

Taliesin_ttlg said...