Friday, June 27, 2014


As a kid I was an inveterate reader of the Hardy Boys novel series. I was aware of the Nancy Drew series, but as it was said to be aimed at female readers, it never occured to me to read one of the Nancy novels. I didn't read widely in the "young detective" subgenre anyway: aside from the Hardys I might have read one "Bobbsey Twins," and that was about it.  Many years later I plowed my way through a Hardy adventure and was amazed at how bad it had become.

Later I would learn that the Hardys and Nancy were linked by their publisher, the Stratemyer syndicate, and that their respective novel-series had debuted within three years of one another. All of which may have caused the characters to become linked in the public mind to some extent.

I don't know what behind-the-scenes deals were made to launch ABC's 1977 "umbrella series," THE HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW MYSTERIES. It was certainly a relatively "hip" take on the syndicate's perpetually goody-good detectives, though as I recall the stories were just as sanitized. I thought Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy were a little overly-groomed to play the Frank and Joe I'd grown up with, though I had to admit these Hardys got more action than their prose progenitors. Pamela Sue Martin, though, made a fine Nancy Drew, perhaps because I had no preconceptions of that character.

The first (and best) crossover of the characters on this series was announced in resonantly cheesy tones: "The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula." It seems that, as happened often in the novels, the boys' investigator father went missing, and they journey to Rumania in search of him. At the same time, Nancy Drew-- who regularly worked as an investigator for her attorney father-- also went to the land of Vlad Dracul to make contact with Fenton Hardy.  The brothers initially clash with Nancy and her girl-buddy Bess, but they eventually make common cause, and their trail eventually leads them to Rumania's signature tourist attraction, Dracula's Castle.

The story works in a rock-band playing at the castle, in part so that Shaun Cassidy has an excuse to warble. On the plus side, guest-star Paul Williams does a cute Halloween-themed vocal for a costume party, though it's not actually Halloween at the time.  Lorne Greene plays Rumanian police inspector Stalvin, who initially appears to be on the side of the angels-- or is he?  A mystery about possible vampire attacks ensues, with the expected rational explanation. However, one of the guest-stars gets made up like a Dracula-type, and without disclosing his identity, he looks pretty damn good in Lugosi-garb.

There's a hint of romance between Frank Hardy and Nancy Drew that pays off in a later episode. But possibly the high point of the episode is a scene in which Williams and Greene are in the midst of a confrontation, and Williams hums something that sounds very much like part of the BONANZA theme.

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