1979: The Halloween that Almost Wasn't (AKA The Night Dracula Saved the World)

This live action special from 1979 was a Disney Channel staple for most of the 80s and a chunk of the 90s, but is mostly forgotten today. I remember seeing it in first grade and loving it so much that I immediately started working on staging a theatrical version in my backyard, starring my friends from the neighborhood. The play never materialized, but what a bunch of roles we had to pick from! This has a Wolf-Man, Zoltar the Zombie, a tap-dancing Frankenstein's Monster, Igor, a Mummy, Dracula, AND a witch.

Seeing Judd Hirsch as Dracula is great - he disappears into the role (and away from his normal persona) so completely that I didn't even realize it was him for years (even seeing his name on the screen didn't help - I didn't recognize him at all).
The plot revolves around Dracula taking the other monsters to task for being more funny than scary - a worthy enough cause by the late 1970s - but the witch gives him some friction. She's tired of being feared instead of loved, and has a few demands. She has quite a bargaining chip, too: in this little corner of reality, Halloween can only happen if the witch flies over the moon on her broomstick. Poor Dracula never realized that the witch controlled the means of production.

After a few failed attempts on the part of the monsters, she's persuaded to take the ride by a couple of kids who've just been given a basic lesson on the history of Halloween (one of the more accurate ones ever put on television, in fact). She agrees to maker her flight, but, since she still has Dracula right where she wants him, she gets him to throw in a percentage of the t-shirt sales and promise to take her disco dancing.

Yep. Disco dancing.

The special then ends in a disco scene, with the witch turning into a disco queen and Dracula tossing off his vampire gear for a Saturday Night Fever get-up.

Quite a few specials from this era - and for the next few years - ended with a disco. This one features the song "Keep on Thinkin,'" which has exatly zero to do with Halloween, but is pretty catchy, and, since I only heard it around Halloween, always does, in fact, make me think of the season. For a better disco song, though, dig "Witch Magic" from the end of Witch's Night Out.

This was aired under the name "The Halloween That Almost Wasn't," but sold on video as "The Night Dracula Saved the World." The makeup job earned it an emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement - Children's Program," and it was nominated for three more (editing, outstanding program, and outstanding achievement for Mariette Hartley's performance as the witch).
Every Halloween fan should track down a copy - it's one of the rare specials that stands up on its own even if it doesn't make you nostalgic. The plot is a bit random, but the writing is sharp and funny, and the performances are dynamite. A deserving classic. And, though it's never been released on DVD (the dvds going around are bootlegs of a VHS rip) you can watch it right here.





Anonymous said...

wow, I just spent hours searching for this movie because I remember how much I loved it when I was a kid, but couldn't remember what it was called.... This was a classic!

Thanks for posting this and ending my search!!! It also helped me to remember other movies that I forgot about... like Witch's Night Out!

Anonymous said...

I loved this special and tried for years to find it. I bought a bootleg version on DVD that came from a Japanese distribution company.

Andre said...

Thank you sooo much. I've had vague memories of this since I was a kid. I saw it in 1979, but I've had no idea what it was called. I've been telling my wife about it for years so we'll definitely be watching it tonight w/ the kids.

Chic Silber said...

Hi all

My name is Chic Silber and I did

the Special Effects on this epic

I had easily forgotten it but a

friend sent me this link

We all had agreat time working

on it especially on location in

Tarrytown at Lyndhurst Castle

In retrospect it is ironic that

I had designed the effects for

Dracula on Broadway in 77 and

in 03 I designed the effects

for Wicked (still running on

Broadway & 7 other cities)

so this silly show seemed to

combine elements from both

Somewhere I have a few reels

of outakes that are terrific

I wish there was a way of

sharing them


Adam Selzer said...

Thanks for commenting Chic - this made my day! It'd be AWESOME if you could get the outtakes up someplace; I'd LOVE to see them!

Unknown said...

The Halloween that Almost Wasn't has been my favorite Halloween movie since I was a kid. I grew up watching this with my brother and sister, and about a year ago we were able to find a copy on dvd, I think it came from Japan. We don't live far from the castle where it was filmed in Tarrytown, NY, and we actually went to visit it last year! Thanks for this website, it's great!

Belle Dee said...

I only saw this for the first time when I was in High School & it's been a Halloween staple ever since. So funny!
Wow, Chic I would love to see those outtakes!!

GaryBoz said...

I like this one too. I remember seeing it for the first time and saying "Isn't Dracula that dude from Taxi?"

C-Man said...

Happy Halloween!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ha! I love this movie. I watched it when I was a child and every single year for halloween, it's become a tradition to watch this. It never gets old!

MichelleMarie said...

This is seriously my favorite Halloween movie of all time! As a child I compiled my own Halloween Tape, including this and Disney's Halloween Treat (as well as others I no longer remember). You've inspired me to dig it up and convert it to DVD to save for my future kids! (Who will of course have nothing but crap to watch.) Thanks for this wealth of Halloween specials info!

Unknown said...

This and disney Halloween treat was awesome. Why can't they play this at least along with what they put out now. This used to scare me now I can laugh and get some of the humor I didn't understand as a 8 yr old. Short sweet and entertaining. Everything in a good family vid

Unknown said...

I also bought a copy from Japan...lol. My kids now love this movie too, and we watch it even when it's not Halloween time. We just watched it last night. ::sigh::

Unknown said...

I also bought a copy from Japan...lol. My kids now love this movie too, and we watch it even when it's not Halloween time. We just watched it last night. ::sigh::


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