Monday, 27 March 2017

THE HARDY BOYS NANCY DREW MYSTERIES

From 1980: the HARDY BOYS NANCY DREW MYSTERIES ANNUAL.

The Nancy Boys and Hardy Drew mysteries, of course, started in print and this late Seventies incarnation, from the Glen Larson TV factory, is certainly not their only screen incarnation.

I've recently been rewatching a few episodes from the second season and - for the most part - they are great fun.  The mysteries are normally straight-forward (it was, after all, pitched at an undemanding family audience) but it's great to see another show from the Universal TV factory at its prime.  Many of the episodes are stacked with familiar faces from the period in guest turns, including numerous members of Larson's stock company... parachuted in to similar roles across numerous shows.

The show also deserves top marks for ambition.  The Hardy Boys are a globetrotting duo... even when the show itself doesn't leave California.  The Universal backlot, especially the 'European town' exterior set is frequently - and rather obviously - redressed to be somewhere else... such as Egypt in an outing I watched recently.  Extensive set dressing and tight camera angles largely worked... although some rather green looking hils did sneak into the back of shot a few times.  But no one would have noticed that way-back-when.

Most fun has to be the two-part MYSTERY OF THE HOLLYWOOD PHANTOM, which doesn't even attempt to hide that the whole show was shot on the Universal Tour... trams and all.  It reheats (not for the first - or last - time) the old PHANTOM OF THE OPERA plot (see also: the excellent teleflick THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD and the KNIGHT RIDER episode Fright Knight) as an excuse to dispatch Nancy and the Boys (in a rare team-up... they initially operated on a rotating basis... until the boys emerged as the more obvious ratings draw and the show's priorities were tweeked accordingly) all around the lot.

Not only is it great to get a sense of what Universal looked like during this period (yup... the Jaws stand-in and trippy 'ice tunnel' are present and correct and there are a few nice overhead shots of the lot... including the infamous 'Black Tower' administration building) but the show gets a bit post-modern by featuring cameos by Dennis Weaver (playing himself playing Larson's McCloud), Jaclyn Smith (playing herself playing Kelly Garrett on CHARLIE'S ANGELS) and Robert Wagner (playing himself playing  Ryan from - shocker - Larson's SWITCH).  Things go completely nuts when Casey (AMERICA'S TOP TEN and a billion voiceovers) Kasem pops up playing bit-part actor Paul Hamilton playing Peter Falk playing Columbo).

The BATTLESTAR GALACTICA attraction was opened when this story was shot and aired (although it is nice to think that somewhere on the lot the show was in frantic pre-production) but it does feature in Universal's (surprise!) GET SMART reboot THE NUDE BOMB, shot on the lot a few years later.  By Your Command.

The show's first two seasons are available on disc.  The third is also apparently released... although judging from the Amazon listings, I have my doubts.




6 comments:

  1. I was just reading an article about this show last week !

    fond memories of watching it on BBC1, usually over a holiday period. Even read a few of the novels.


    ooops slow, you called them the nancy boys.

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    1. I thought that's what everyone called them?

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    2. not to their face surely ?

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  2. In the '70s I was a huge fan of the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Three Investigators novels - I read every one I could find. I only discovered a few years ago that Nancy Drew was meant for girls - I never realized !! And I enjoyed the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew TV series as well.

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    1. P.S. Hey Colin, not seen your comments in a while. Good to know you're still around, hope all is well.

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  3. I liked the Emma Roberts Nancy Drew reboot film a few years back. It wasn't perfect--the general fish-out-of-water tone dated it immediately, but the intro scene showed what we could have had and might have had more longevity for a sequel/series. However, Emma Roberts is a great actress and brought a lot of charm to the film.

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