The scene: a spooky castle in Transylvania, where wolves are howling and creepy music plays in the background. Two gentlemen drive up the hill to the castle. The passenger is perhaps a detective, judging by his trench coat. The driver is a short, older Transylvanian with a muddled German accent. The driver drops off the man in the trench coat, claiming that he is afraid of rain and doesn’t want his car to get stuck on the top of the hill. The man enters the castle, flinching at small noises and bats. Suddenly, a mysterious figure shows up behind the trench coat man, knocking him out, freezing on a shot of his unconscious face. Fade to black. Come up on a group of bats flying past the spooky castle, followed by that famous theme song about the crime solving dog…
Okay, the last part may not have happened, but there is some familiarity with the opening scene of the 1977 blockbuster two-part episode of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, “The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula” and the 1969 cartoon series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Actually, the similarities are more seen with the Scooby spin-off The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972-1973.) The premise of the latter is that the Scooby gang goes off to solve a mystery, and winds up meeting a celebrity (ex. Davy Jones, Cass Elliot, Dick Van Dyke) or a character from another Hanna-Barbera cartoon (ex. Batman, Josie and the Pussycats, The Addams Family.) While the guest star in the New Scooby Doo Movies usually helped the crime solving teenagers, the guest star in The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula happens to be the villain. Other than that, both shows are pretty similar.
After the man in the trench coat gets knocked out, we discover that he is the father of Frank (Parker Stevenson, Kirstie Alley’s ex-husband) and Joe (Shaun Cassidy, half brother of Partridge Family hunk David Cassidy and son of fellow Partridge star Shirley Jones) Hardy, who has been missing for two weeks during a tour of Europe. The brothers are in Paris, where their father was last seen After gaining some clues from an older Frenchman that pin his location to Berlin, they meet up with a group of British traveling musicians headed to the same place, singing the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Ad” on the way. Can’t you just see Scooby barking along to the harmony?
The Hardy Boys and the traveling musicians get to Berlin, where they take the suite where the boys take the suite their father was supposed to stay in. Of course, as the boys are getting situated, Nancy Drew (Pamela Sue Martin) and her friend Bess (Ruth Cox) step out of the elevator, and are surprised to find that there is a mix-up: she was supposed to stay in the suite, not the Hardy Boys! Hilarity ensues as luggage gets removed from the room; the detectives keep missing one another thanks to elevators and restaurant menus until they finally realize they are all connected to Mr. Hardy.
After piecing together some clues that lead to vampire possibly being behind Mr. Hardy’s disappearance, the gang heads off to Transylvania for the Dracula’s Castle festival. The Hardy Boys convince the traveling musicians to perform with Joe as their lead singer, allowing for Frank and Nancy to search for more clues.
Now, without giving anything else away (although it’s not hard to predict how this mystery will end, really) does this show or does this show not follow the model of a Scooby-Doo episode (which in turn borrows from old slapstick films of the thirties and forties?) It could be argued that mystery shows aimed at children are limited as to what they can do, but this episode could easily have a cartoon dog thrown in. Spooky opening? Check. Hijinx involving the other good guys? Check. Creepy people that lead you to think they’re the villains, only it’s someone you would never suspect? Check. Groovy musical number? Check. (Shaun Cassidy also happened to be a singer, having three top ten hits in 1977, including “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (performed in this episode) “Hey Deanie” and “Da Do Ron Ron.” Producers were not going to miss a chance to exploit—er, promote the teen heartthrob.) It could also be noted that the Hardy Boys seem to be Fred times two, while Nancy and Bess are like Daphne and Velma in that they’re the only females and really don’t have much to do besides roll their eyes at the boys and come up with the occasional clue.
The odd thing about The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries as a whole is that this was supposed to contemporize the literary sleuths and make them hip. Although the books had gone through some modifications in the fifties (mostly to eliminate racist elements,) the characters were always a bit square. The television did little to change that—it was as if the characters from the twenties (thirties for Nancy Drew,) were just plopped into seventies clothing, given seventies hairstyles (could Parker Stevenson’s hair be any more feathered?) and taught to speak the slang of the time. However, when the base model seems to be from a cartoon that had its first incarnation eight years earlier, it dates the show even more, and thus, makes it un-cool.
Overall, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula is a great throwback for those who prefer their mysteries with minimal gore and the criminal is just someone wearing a mask and commits the crime because they don’t want to be screwed out of money/land/what have you. It is also great if you’re a fan of “hip” television shows from the late seventies based on book series from the late twenties and early thirties and may possibly have elements from a cartoon from the early seventies, minus a dog with a speech impediment.
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