Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wicked Wednesday -- Space Age Witch

For the last Wicked Wednesday of the year, we have one of the centerpieces of my vintage Halloween collection*...

This little beauty was a gift from my friend Denis, who has a similar hankering for mid-Century Halloween goodies.  Given that she has forsaken her broom and is instead astride a jet (or rocket?), I assume she's from the late 50s or early 60s (maybe later, although I don't remember her from my 70s childhood).
Denis actually found 2 of these at a yard sale or estate sale for something less than a dollar (I think).  Being such a good friend, he gave me the one in better shape with all three yellow wheels intact; the one he kept has missing nosegear.   This is amazing for a few reasons:  (1) my guess is that she originally retailed for about 29 cents, (2) I'm not sure I would have been as selfless in sharing, and (3) you would not believe what these go for up here in the northeast at antique shops.
Sometime after receiving my gift, I tripped across one of her crone sisters at an antique mall in Adamstown, PA.  Check out the price tag!!
Wow!  I checked again this year and didn't see her, so I guess someone insane bought her, or they had a hell of a sale!
She holds a place of honor on my Halloween mantle.
*Unfortunately, I was such a slacker over the past couple weeks, I failed to post any of my vintage Halloween masks -- oh well, there's always next year's Countdown....

Monday, October 28, 2013

Petrifying Puzzles!

Tonight a quartet of Universal Monster puzzles I've picked up over the years....

All from the early 90's I think.  These used to show up pretty regularly at Toy Liquidators.  As you can see, I don't have a Wolfman.  I also have never seen any evidence of a Bride of Frankenstein or Invisible Man (neither of which were licensed nearly as much as the other five).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

TV flashback --- October 27, 1972

Airing 41 years ago tonight.... The Brady boys try to scare the girls, leading to a scarefest free-for-all that ends with ---spoiler!---- Alice bashing in Mr. Brady's skull....

Brady fright night

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ghoulish Game Night --- Which Witch?

Tonight we pulled out one of my favorite childhood games...

Originally produced by Milton Bradley in 1970, it's a simple roll and move game, made even better by its three dimensional setup and ingenious booby traps.
You pick your mover (red and blue are the boys, yellow and green are the girls), and start your journey through this haunted house in The Broom Room.
After each roll, you pick a card adorned by one of the three witches -- Wanda the Wicked will turn you into a mouse, rendering you immobile until you get a Glenda the Good card.
The Ghoulish Gerty card sends the "whammy ball (bearing)" down the chimney which triggers one of the booby traps (in this case a propped up broom) and can send anyone in the "Danger Zone" back to the last blue X.
Stupid and silly, but fast-moving and fun as each player encounters a series of predicaments.  The "whammy ball" has a tendency to send those kids flying!
Here's the Witchin' Kitchen and Spell Cell:
The final room is the Bat's Ballroom, where you must ascend the stairs (where the whammy ball may roll down any minute).
With it's many plastic pieces and cardboard walls, this is a hard game to find in complete, undamaged condition.  My original copy was long since scattered to the winds, and I had looked on Ebay many times over the past several years (but those prices are ridiculous!).
Then, two years ago I tripped across this copy (in a smaller box than I had -- this gameboard/floor folds in the center) for only $7.00!  All it was missing was a single die.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Forgotten Halloween Special -- October 31, 1979

Halloween was on a Wednesday night in 1979.  That's a pretty blah night for Halloween; it's a school night and it's only halfway through the week.

It seems somewhat counterintuitive to program a children's Halloween special on Halloween night, especially when your target audience might be out trick-or-treating.

But that's what CBS did on October 31, 1979, when they premiered "Raggedy Ann and Andy and The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile".

Hat tip to my good friend Denis who pointed me toward this little-known special this past week.  He figured I would really like the art design, which he aptly described as a "nifty autumnal vibe".

He's right -- it has a great color palette and is spooky in a melancholy way.

I suspect there may have been an additional motive, since after watching it, I realized how I MAY have had a tendency to act a little like the glum pumpkin in the past.

I had no recollection of this at all, even though I watched a LOT of TV in those days.  Of course, by Halloween night 1979, I was a 15 year old sophomore and little interested in cartoons (that would eventually change), while Denis was firmly in the intended demographic -- a wee lad of 8.

Most likely I was watching Eight is Enough over on ABC.  Real People was on NBC, but I wasn't a big fan of that.

It's an interesting special, but it's kinda weird too -- and I suspect that even though it was written and directed by Chuck Jones, it never became a perennial favorite because of this weirdness.

First of all, why have Raggedy Ann and Andy as the stars?   As I see it, they could have substituted virtually any other characters, like say, Casper and Wendy.  There's no clear reason why these two dolls are there -- whose are they, anyway?   They don't appear to belong to the little boy, and there's no sister in evidence.

More importantly, I think, there's no musical number (unless you count the rather halting closing credits).  I think the musical scores go a long way to making Rankin Bass holiday specials so memorable.

But there's plenty to like here -- a couple great Chuck Jones set pieces, and those evocative backgrounds.

Check it out for yourself (and leave a comment on what you think!):

The Pumpkin that Wouldn't Smile

Sorry for the link -- it wouldn't let me embed it for some reason.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wicked Wednesday -- Bewitched and the Mystery of the Odd Line Art

When I both this many years ago at a flea market, I thought it was a coloring book.

I was wrong; it's actually a children's storybook.... printed on coloring book paper..... bound and sized like a coloring book..... with line art illustrations that I suppose you could color.....

Published in 1965, the untitled story is rather innocuous, and has no relation to any episode aired.  In short, some never-to-be-seen-again friend gets Samantha worried that Darrin will lose interest in her if she doesn't get a hobby.... (yeah, like that whole twitching your nose and stuff appears thing is so mundane)

The line art work (by Beverly Edwards) is pretty good (better than the typical coloring book renderings).  However, it's only "on model" for the three main characters. 

Take a look below when Gladys Kravitz does her usual Peeping Tom routine.

Who, or what is that?!?   This hideous Gladys has no resemblance to either of the two actresses that played, and especially not Alice Pearce, who was Gladys in the first three seasons before her death in 1966.  Here's the appropriate pic for comparison:

When Endora shows up, you can see the artist has captured Agnes Moorehead's bemused expression perfectly.

But then, look at poor Aunt Clara and portly Larry Tate!

My only guess is that there was something in the licensing agreement or the actors' contracts that didn't allow the supporting characters to match up. 
A quick Google search shows that Beverly Edwards illustrated other children's books, most notably one of Disney's Mary Poppins Golden Books. 
As for budding author Ellen Lenhart, Amazon only shows that she did Portrait of Skipper (which sounds like an ABC Afterschool Special), and something called Astronut and the Flying Bus.  I'm thinking she may have peaked here with Bewitched.
And -- spoiler -- Samantha decides being a housewife is all she needs....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Road Trip -- Beware of the Blob... Theater....

No blog posts = away on a weekend road trip + spotty wifi

Hit the road last Thursday for the annual (27th) Anniversary trip to Pennsylvania Dutch country.  The first half of the trip, we battled the Nor'easter monsoons and flooded roads.

But then, on Sunday, we ventured further eastward to the little town of Phoenixville, PA.

That's Phoenixville, PA -- where they filmed the horror classic The Blob! in 1957.  The Blob starred Steve McQueen and a pre-Helen Crump Aneta Corsaut as teenagers whose necking is interrupted by a meteor transporting the eponymous monster to earth.  They, along with their goofy friends, try in vain to get the townspeople to believe the Blob is on the loose, devouring anyone in its path. 

Remember the climax of the movie, when The Blob oozes into a movie theater packed with teens (and a cranky creepy old man) at a midnight Spook Show?  Mayhem ensues....

Well, the theater is still there, still operating, and slowly being restored to its mid-Century glory...

I had to crop out the entrance doors (which still have the great circular windows), because of the heavy equipment parked in front.
At 12:30 each Sunday, the volunteer group working the restoration and expansion gives a tour of the theater.  It's free, informative, and a cool chance to wander around into places not normally available to the public -- like the projection room (where The Blob slurped up the projectionist before oozing through the little square windows onto the unsuspecting crowd below).
Here's the Projection room, with its vintage 35mm projectors, and a view out into the theater.
Here's a view back up toward the balcony.  There's a little plaque with a piece of fake blob to the right.
After the tour, they show classic 35mm films at 2:00 each Sunday afternoon.  Last Sunday, as part of their October Halloween filmfest, they showed a double feature of Universal's House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.  Now, I of course have both of these films on DVD, but there's nothing like seeing them in 35mm in a great old theater.
So, my wife and I grabbed some fresh-popped popcorn, two boxes of candy, and a large soda (diet coke, of course!) and headed up to the balcony (dead center, front row) to enjoy the show.
Total Cash outlay -- $28.00 (!!)  ($9.00 each for the tickets, and $10 for the concessions)
Why not show The Blob!, you ask?  Well, the theater hosts an Annual Blobfest each July, so I suppose they want to keep it in reserve only for that.
And to top things off, a local artist created custom posters for the shows.  I had to have these.

The theater also does Saturday matinees for kids (last weekend was The Goonies), and midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I encourage anyone within driving distance to visit Phoenixville and The Colonial Theater and show their support.  There are too few of these theaters around.  Here's the website: