Saturday, September 05, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: The Ghost Busters (1975): "The Vampire's Apprentice" (November 8, 1975)

Just a few years after the highly-rated Night Stalker movies premiered to high ratings and one year after the Kolchak (1974-1975) TV series, Lou Scheimer’s Filmation created a kind of comedy variation on the premise for Saturday mornings.

The live-action series The Ghost Busters (1975) follows the unusual adventures of three down-on-their-luck paranormal investigators: Spencer (Larry Storch), Kong (Forest Tucker) and the gorilla, Tracy (played, or rather “trained” by Bob Burns.)

The series ran for fifteen episodes, and is most famous, today, because it landed in the pop-culture nearly a full-decade before the similarly-named blockbuster Ivan Reitman movie of 1984.  

Also, The Ghost Busters features a similar concept: a small group of bumbling investigators battling the supernatural with highly-advanced ghost-catching technology.  

After 1984, the two versions of the material duked it out in Saturday morning cartons, one based on the 1970s Filmation program, the other one based on the popular movie.

In the original series, Spencer, Kong, and Tracy receive assignments, Mission: Impossible-style from self-destructing tapes, and then go after various monsters or legends, including the Mummy, the Frankenstein Monster, evil witches, and even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  

In this episode, “The Vampire’s Apprentice,” the triumvirate challenges Countess Dracula (Dena Dietrich) and Count Dracula (Billy Holmes).  In this case, Dracula is portrayed as a senile old bat.  At one point in the episode, his fangs even get corked.

This evil duo masquerades as the Count and Countess of Luxembourg, but the Ghost Busters see through the façade, and confront them at their castle, which is conveniently located next to a creepy (cardboard) grave yard.

The humor in this episode of The Ghost Busters, as in all episodes, feels as antique as Old Dracula himself.

This story labors on the obvious, like “stake (as in wooden…) vs. “steak” (as in to eat) misunderstandings.  At one point, the Countess of Dracula (Dena Deitrich) quips “be subtle.” Unfortunately, that’s advice the episode and the series never take.

Some of the oddities featured in this episode:

Nobody questions the presence of a gorilla in polite society.  Not in town, not in the castle, and not in the office.

It is never clear how the Ghost Busters' unseen task master (or masters) figures out that there's trouble in town. We see Dracula and his countess materialize in the grave-yard, and go to their castle. But how does anyone outside the two of them know of their arrival?

Finally, one bite by a vampire makes you undead, according to this episode.  A second bite, however, returns you to a human state.  

That’s confusing, even to vampires, no?  Now let me see, did I bite you three times or four?

Many folks of my age feel a certain nostalgia for The Ghost Busters, and that’s great.  But the series is damn weird, right down to the theme song, agonizingly sung by Tucker and Storch.


  1. I missed this show as a kid which explains why, as a teenager, the animated revival mystified me what with it being around at the same time on some local channels as the other animated Ghostbusters based on the films. I remember seeing it and wondering why it included a gorilla in a pith helmet.

    I have to admit that when I saw a "Bob Burns" credited as the gorilla in the live action show I had to just go look up if if it was the same comedian whose name for his home made musical instrument was adopted for the Bazooka rocket launcher. I'm kind of disappointed it isn't:-)

  2. Hi JKM;

    To me the show has a lot of charm when seen as a throwback/tribute to old-fashioned Bowery Boys/ Ritz brothers style monster comedies. The humor is about on that level; nowhere near what the 3 Stooges, Bob Hope, or Abbott and Costello did with similar material, but still fun if you're in the right mood. And I love the theme song, too!