Mystery in Dracula’s Castle (1973)

MysteryInDracula'sCastleTitleThere’s really no mystery here. There isn’t any castle. And while you do get two Draculas, one is an actor in a cheesy horror movie and one is little kid with fake teeth, cape, and dog sidekick named Watson. So why didn’t I care that nothing remotely promised by its sexy title was actually delivered?

What if I told you that instead of a mystery, we had a case of stolen jewels? And if I said that while we couldn’t rent Dracula’s castle for this movie, we got a lighthouse sitting atop a rocky cliff?

And if instead of the terror of Dracula himself, we had the terror of not only Clu Gulager’s crazy silver mane of hair, but also Johnny Whitaker’s three-story high red perm? And when I tell you that Watson is a dog who steals stuff, you’ll immediately realize that we’re watching a very special two-part episode of That 70s Disney!

That 70s Disney was all about obscure made-for-TV adventures with such chubby-inducing names as Bayou Boy, The Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove. A few of these have been available on home video, but for the most part That 70s Disney remains an untapped treasure trove and fans must be content to get by solely on their fuzzy memories of the shows from their original airings.

The Mystery in Dracula’s Castle initially focuses on Alfie Booth’s (Whitaker) irritating obsession with making a terrible movie about Dracula. His little brother, Leonard, and his mom (Polaroid commercial hottie Mariette Hartley) are spending the summer at the beach so that mom can work on her book.

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Though Alfie is peeved that he has to leave his best friend back in the city, once he’s at the beach getting mixed up with jewel thieves, a klepto dog, and a nubile teenage babysitter, you can damn sure bet that once summer is over, he’s counting the days until the next summer and the onset of puberty!

It’s Alfie’s pathetic attempts at being a budding Roger Corman that bring him to the lighthouse that is serving as the hideout for a pair of crooks who are holding a necklace worth $100,000.

Alfie demonstrates a low budget filmmaker’s opportunistic, if not entirely artistic, eye by declaring that the lighthouse would be the perfect location for Dracula’s castle. (You can’t help but feel though that there’s just something about a structure whose purpose is to house a mammoth light in a room of glass that doesn’t seem like it would have the proper atmosphere for a vampire. Clu Gulager and his ugly partner? Yes. A skulking Bela Lugosi? Not so much.)

Clu is not too amused that these brats are shooting their summer blockbuster inside his lair and does what any self-respecting criminal would do in That 70s Disney – he drives them back to their mom and complains about their lack of supervision!

This leads to the best development in the movie, the hiring of the sheriff’s teenage daughter, Jean, to babysit the boys for the rest of the summer. Alfie is a bit irritated by this as he feels this could put a crimp in his directing chores, but is quickly sold on it once it becomes apparent that Jean has no problem slipping into a bathing suit for a location shoot at the lighthouse of all places!

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The movie switches focus from Alfie to his brother once Watson manages to steal the necklace from the original thieves! Leonard develops a disturbing obsession with the necklace and refuses to trade it with the local jeweler/fence for a ring that Alfie wants to use in his film.

The pouty looks whenever anyone suggests he part with it and his insistence on wearing the woman’s necklace while shooting his remaining scenes as Dracula suggest it may be a good idea for Mariette to hire a babysitter for her dresses, too.

The suspense and drama only ratchet up when during filming at the lighthouse, Clu’s partner manages to replace Leonard’s precious necklace with a fake and then “accidentally” drops it over the edge of the rocky cliff the lighthouse sits on. Leonard has such a fixation on this hideous piece of junk that he risks his life by scuttling down the cliff to get it back!

Realizing it’s a fake, Leonard launches an investigation into who could have stolen the real necklace and it culminates on the night of the premiere of Alfie’s criminally underrated film, Dracula And The Sheriff’s Daughter!

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It was a night to remember as the jewel thieves, the sheriff and his daughter (thoughtfully dressed to the nines in hotpants and go go boots), mom and Alfie all watch his movie while Leonard and Watson sneak back to the lighthouse to rescue his necklace.

Things come to an explosive finale as all the kids somehow manage to get themselves captured and locked in the lighthouse! You’ll barely be able to breathe when the fireworks they were using to attack the thieves accidentally light up all the dynamite also in the lighthouse!

The Mystery in Dracula’s Castle hits all the right notes for this sort of thing and there’s even plenty of dog thrills for all the goobers that like to see dogs get chased by incompetent humans.

Fans of model lighthouses getting blown sky high are well served as are aficionados of safecrackers almost getting blown up while trying to open a safe. Simply the very best title of any That 70s Disney episode of the 1973 season.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

One thought on “Mystery in Dracula’s Castle (1973)

  1. Laura Brown

    I’m so happy to find this! I was in 3rd grade and had just gotten a German Shepherd puppy, which I promptly named “Watson.” Nobody else in the family remembered the movie, and they have told me for years that it was a figment of my imagination.

    Duh. Why else would a 3rd grade girl name a dog “Watson?”
    I AM AVENGED!!!

    Reply

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