After learning that Halloween is in jeopardy, Count Dracula (Judd Hirsch) calls upon his fellow monsters to step up their game and make Halloween what it once was: scary. Not all of the monsters are interested in cooperating, however, putting Dracula in a position where he must do whatever he can to change their mind and, in turn, save Halloween for all of mankind.
Originally premiering on ABC, The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (AKA The Night Dracula Saved the World) is a 30-minute, Emmy Award-winning made for TV film that regularly aired on Disney Channel through the late 1990s. The film opens with Dracula watching a news report claiming that he, as in Dracula, has invited a number of his monster friends over to his castle for a conference the day before Halloween. According to an unnamed source, the purpose of this conference is the eradication of Halloween as we know it.
As it turns out, this news report is part of a smear campaign meant to make Dracula look like the bad guy in the event that Halloween is indeed cancelled, which greatly angers Dracula. As a result, he calls upon all of the other monsters, which include everything and everyone from a Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and a werewolf to a zombie and a witch. Eventually, Dracula learns that the person causing all the trouble is actually one of his compatriots, and someone who's very important to Halloween and horror in general: Winnie the Witch.
Winnie the Witch is not only tired of being the ugly duckling and the butt of jokes, she's also jealous of Dracula for being the face of the holiday, while she's relegated to being nothing more than a background character. As a result, Winnie demands some changes, and if these changes aren’t met, there will be no Halloween, as Halloween cannot begin until Winnie flies passed the moon. This leaves Dracula and the rest of the monsters in a position where they must do what they can to get Winnie back on board, or forever lose Halloween.
The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t is notable for a number of reasons, one of the biggest ones being the impressive cast, which includes Judd Hirsch as Dracula, Henry Gibson as Igor, Mariette Hartley as Winnie the Witch, Jack Riley as Warren the Werewolf, and John Schuck as Frankenstein’s Monster. Interestingly, Schuck would later play Herman Munster in a reboot of the beloved TV comedy The Munsters titled The Munsters Today.
Seeing as The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t is a children’s special, the monster featured are on the fun/safe side, but not in a way that betrays the monsters. In fact, they’re presented in a fashion that makes them accessible, which is great for young budding horror fans, or at least adult horror fans who have children they are looking introduce to horror. Being mainly set in Dracula’s Castle, the special does a nice job of creating atmosphere with the use set design, sound design and fog, all of which make for the perfect gateway to the Universal Films and even some of the Hammer productions..
Adding to the kid-friendly element, the special also takes some time to explain the history of Halloween. This mostly consists of the typical stuff we, as adults, have all heard before, with a parent telling their child that people would dress up to ward off the demons and spirits as well as explaining the origins of the name Halloween. it's a nice touch, and certainly a good way to introduce younger kids to the history of Halloween.
When it comes to retro Halloween-themed television specials, The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t is right at the top of the heap. It hits all right notes, being fun and kid friendly while also being the perfect gateway for kids to be introduced to horror and Halloween in a fashion that’s more than just costumes and candy. It’s a monster mash-up worthy of being rediscovered.