Friday, October 11, 2019

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't/Garfield’s Halloween Adventure

The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (aka The Night Dracula Saved the World) (TV Special)
Bruce Bilson

The Halloween that Almost Wasn’t (and let’s be the fair, the VHS re-title, The Night Dracula Saved the World is much better), is aimed squarely at younger kids. It isn’t the least bit frightening and although Dracula might make the occasional joke about being dead, none of the other monsters are threatening. The story is smart enough to make a point of this as Dracula grouses that his fellow monsters have sold out and are no longer scary. This interesting element is dropped in favor of a plot about the Witch’s demands for a bigger role and more authority, lest she not fly over the moon and begin Halloween. This too could be pretty interesting, the one woman in the bunch fighting for recognition could be a fun stab at old-world monsters running up against more modern thought. The Halloween that Almost Wasn’t doesn’t really explore this story much either and instead just milks it for some physical comedy and a finale set at the disco.

"Is that a broomstick or are you just happy to see me? Blah."

The Witch is seemingly unwilling to budge on having her various demands met at least until two children come by and tell her that she is their favorite monster. She immediately acquiesces. I guess the moral here is ‘who cares if you’re treated unfairly as long as you make someone happy?’ Maybe I’m expecting too much out of 25 minute Halloween time-filler designed to take up space in between local drug store commercials.

"Spell it right, two v's at the beginning."

This is a TV movie from the late 1970s and looks like it. The sets feel cheap, most of the monster costuming is acceptable but only just so. Judd Hirsch actually makes a fun Dracula, constantly put-upon and stubborn. He wields a Lugosi accent without overdoing it. Mariette Hartley as the witch turns in a fun no-nonsense performance as she proves to be more than a match for Dracula. The rest of the monster cast is woefully underused, especially Henry Gibson as Igor who is a delight for the few scenes he’s allowed to command.

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (TV Special)
Phil Roman

Garfield now exists in the popular consciousness as almost more meme than character, so it is strange to go back to a time when the franchise was a cultural landmark, and it's even stranger to see it possessing actual quality. A warm Halloween spirit fills this cartoon through some better than average animation and lovely watercolor backgrounds. There is a distinct feeling of effort being put forth there, something that seems lacking in any modern incarnation.

Extreme gore.
Lorenzo Music does some great work here making Garfield sardonic without making him cruel, and even letting him loosen up to have some fun during the holiday. There are some odd musical numbers by Lou Rawls that I assume only exist because a certain strain of people think all children’s cartoons need musical numbers.

Yeah, that's not terrifying.

The story starts out with some typical comedic moments as Garfield and Odie picking out their costumes and going trick-or-treating, Things take a sinister turn in the second half, as they end up in an isolated house, meet a creepy old man, and some eerie spectral skeletons appear. The old man is much more realistic looking than the main characters and the skeletons are animated in a fluid haunting way that is played for scares. It’s a surprising and refreshing reminder that kids can and do like to be scared a little. I was surprised as hell to see a Garfield cartoon treat its young audience with some respect. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure isn’t held in as high regard as many kids’ Halloween specials but it deserves to be.

Nope, not terrifying at all.

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