On the Nancy Drew side of the equation, lovely Pamela Sue Martin portrayed the dedicated part-time sleuth. At least that was the case for the first two seasons of The Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Then she permanently exited the series, breaking the hearts of pre-adolescent boys across the nation. Concurrent with her departure, Pamela Sue Martin shed her "good girl" image forever by posing nude in Playboy.
In most of my reviews, I prefer not to use descriptors such as cheesy or camp -- because in time, all programming turns to cheese or camp -- but this series is indeed a very cheesy. It's also rather charming...and innocent. In other words: perfect stuff for kids. Even better: it's perfect stuff for kids with a burgeoning interest in the horror genre.
So, in this particular tale, hapless Hardy Senior -- Fenton Hardy (Ed Gilbert) -- disappears at Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania (on June 4th, 1977...). Weeks later, Joe and Frank go in search of him...in Paris. Then, they run into the lovely Nancy Drew in Munich, and learn more about their father's unusual disappearance. Fenton and Nancy were "comparing notes" on a mystery involving international art thefts. Many of the world's most valuable paintings have disappeared, and Fenton was on the case.
The three amateur detectives concur that all roads lead to Transylvania, where a Dracula Festival is being held at Vlad The Impaler's historic castle. Shooting a rock concert there for ABC is the rock sensation Allison Troy...really the incomparable Paul Williams (who appeared EVERYWHERE in the 1970s, including in Battle for the Planet of the Apes...).
And here (in Part I), Williams performs a great song from one of my favorite movies of all time (and one by Brian De Palma, no less...), 1974's Phantom of the Paradise.
Anyway, the Hardy Boys go undercover as members of a band called "Circus"....which is just a transparent excuse for Shaun Cassidy to sing "That's Rock'N'Roll" ("Come on Everybody, get down, get with it, come on everybody get down, get with it...")
While Joe sings his heart out for costumed revelers, Frank and Nancy Drew separately investigate the creepy caverns underneath the castle; a locale they have been warned about repeatedly. Before long, Frank ends up locked in a dungeon with the apparent victim of a vampire attack.
Soon vampire bats are attacking a night-gowned Nancy Drew in her hotel bedroom (!) and the Transylvania town elders start panicking. Before long, they are on the receiving end of vampire neck bites. Inspector Stavlin, played by Lorne Greene -- a traditional sort-of-guy -- hints that Dracula may be perturbed that his castle is being used for such crass commercialism (meaning Allison Troy's concert, not this two-part Glen Larson episode...).
But deep in the caverns -- behind the ancient Dracula family crest -- a secret chamber awaits. And there, Frank, Joe and Nancy finally learn the truth about vampires, and international art thieves too.
Directed by Joseph Pevney and written by Glen A. Larson and Michael Sloane, "The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula" is a show I vividly remember from my childhood. I guess I was seven years old when I watched it originally, and, well, what can I say? it had a lasting impression on me.
For instance, I've always recalled the Dracula-"stalking" scenes that dominate this two-part episode. We just see Dracula's stylish boots as the count hunts his prey in the dark caverns. Of course, the villain was filmed in this manner so we couldn't discover Dracula's real identity. But there was always something unsettling (to my young mind, anyway....) about the way those shiny boots came out of the darkness and followed everybody through the catacombs.
And, of course, how can you not love Paul Williams? The performer gets to camp it up here as an egotistical rock star. I love that he sings "The Hell of It" in this episode, because it features nihilistic song lyrics that aren't exactly as kid-friendly as the rest of this landmark Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew endeavor. Anyway, I've embedded the Paul Williams Hardy Boys performance below this review, so you too can share in the joy.
All right, so it''s all too easy to make fun of 1970s costumes and lingo, right... turkey? And vampire bats on visible strings? Han Solo hair cuts? Lorne Greene -- Ben Cartwright -- as the Prince of Darkness, Dracula?
And now, before I sign off, may I present Paul Williams on The Hardy Boys...?