Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank in to obscurity.
- Aired from 1990 – 1991
- Aired in American and Canadian Syndication
Falling in line with the trend of adult entertainment being transformed into fun for the whole family, Dracula experienced something of a make over in 1990. Airing Saturday afternoons, “Dracula: The Series” was launched as a PG-13 vampire horror series, one that also combined teen comedy, teen romance, adventure, and some good old fashioned family hijinks. “Dracula: The Series” (with a curious TM in the bottom of the logo), was a thirteen episode, half hour series that originally aired in Canada and then America. I vividly remember watching “Dracula: The Series” when it premiered, and I re-discovered it when it was re-aired on the Scifi Channel in 1994.
In the series, single mom Eileen is often traveling on business and decides to go to Europe to visit her eccentric uncle Gustav Helsing, with her two sons Max and Chris. Gustav agrees to care for Max and Chris while Eileen is away, but little do they know that Dracula is also in their town. Disguised as a charming billionaire industrialist known as Alexander Lucard, the brothers quickly learn that he is the one and only Count Dracula. When they fall under his radar, they get help from Gustav who, as it turns out, is a vampire hunter with a long history of battling Dracula and his minions, alongside his young assistant Sophie.
For folks who loved “The Lost Boys,” this is as close to a TV series for it as we’ve ever gotten. There’s a single mom working to make ends meet; a charming man who is a powerful vampire; a town infested with evil; two brothers that realize they have to do battle with vampires (older brother Chris falls for an enigmatic young girl); and the eccentric and weird old relative who turns out to be a very wily and clever hunter who is cognizant of the vampires lurking in the town.
Initially being greeted with a lot of scorn, “Dracula: The Series” is a lot of fun, if you keep your head in the space of “The Lost Boys,” “Monster Squad,” and Saturday morning entertainment. Like all the series from that era, the villain never died, and would always find a way to slither away and fight our heroes another day. The only time “Dracula: The Series” gets even remotely horrifying is in the opening shot of the pilot episode where Dracula feeds on a hapless female police officer who shoos away two lovers on a fog soaked street. The idea of blood drinking and stakes to the heart is mostly side stepped in favor of more menace and suggestive violence.
But despite the injection of a family friendly tone, “Dracula: The Series” thankfully never shies away from how menacing and creepy Dracula can be. Geordie Johnson is a lot of fun as the suave megalomaniacal vampire lord who always has a big scheme at hand for himself or his minions. There’s also Jacob Tierney as young Max, Joe Roncetti as his older brother Chris, Bernard Behrens as the delightfully slick Gustav, and the beautiful Mia Kirshner as Sophie. Kirshner adds a lot of spunk and wisdom to the pair of brothers, who tend to act impulsively most of the time. Later in the season, there’s also the introduction of the villainous Klaus Helsing, the vampiric relative of Gustav Helsing, as played by Geraint Wyn Davies (who’d later go on to play a vampire yet again in the lauded “Forever Knight”).
Most of “Dracula: The Series” involves Lucard coming up with some kind of sinister plot for the world, all the while Max, Chris, Gustav and Sophie spend the entire episode foiling his plans and leaving the fight for later. Meanwhile a lot of the approaches to murdering his vampire minions involve holy water, and other means of non-violent decimation. It’s a lot of fun if you can forgive its derivative premise, as it has a good time devising new ways for the vampire hunting family to take on Dracula.
The series unfortunately ended after one season when France apparently stepped back from the partnership with the production studio, making funds for season two impossible. It’s a shame since the series ends on a big cliff hanger. In the series finale, Max and Chris learn that their mom are taking them back home, all the while Gustav creates a new cross that can act as a weapon against vampires. The team also learns that vampires are able to become immortal because their souls are in a world between ours and their own. The only way to stop Dracula is to go into the mid-realm, but things go awry when Klaus intervenes, as Dracula flees.
When Klaus returns in human form, Gustav’s celebration is short lived when Dracula re-emerges, yanking Klaus back in to the realm. Armed with the cross, he pursues, leaving behind Max, Chris and Sophie. Now with all of Gustav’s cryptic notes, they have to figure out how to get their teammates back home, as the clock is now ticking. The whole series ended on Max vowing to learn Gustav’s notes, dangling a bunch of storylines in the air with zero resolution. Despite the small but loyal fan base, “Dracula: The Series” never returned, leaving a lot of fans to speculate how the arc of the Helsings, and the Townsend’s war with Dracula ultimately fared.
The series is very much of its time, but taken at face value, it’s a fun and episodic horror adventure with some slick effects, engaging storylines, and a kick ass theme song. I highly recommend it if you’re hungry for lighter horror fare.
Is It On DVD/Blu-Ray? The series only has a barebones DVD release from 2005, and garners a pretty hefty price. But if you look hard enough you can find most of the episodes in their uncut form on YouTube.