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:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wicked Wednesday -- Hop on the Vroom Broom with Witchiepoo........ (and Mama Cass?!?)

Oh, Witchiepoo, no one under 30 knows who you are....

But for those of us that fall into the late Baby Boom/early Gen X age group, Witchiepoo remains an indelible part of our psychedelic 1970s childhood. 
Hitting the scene in 1969 with the premiere of H.R. Pufnstuf, Witchiepoo set her sights on young boy Jimmy and his (ahem) magic flute.  For the next 17 episodes, all of her attempts at kidnapping and flute abuse are foiled by Mayor H.R. Pufnstuf and the other freaky denizens of Living Island.
Entire treatises have been written on whether the series was a thinly veiled lsd trip shown to impressionable youth.
But in retrospect, it's interesting that although Jimmy is supposed to be the main character for kids to identify with, and Pufnstuf to be the hero/protector, Witchiepoo is actually the most relatable character.  Jimmy is somewhat of a sap, and Pufnstuf, well -- he's kinda creepy (what kind of creature is he? and what is up with those white go-go cowboy boots?)
With Witchiepoo, we immediately understand her motivations -- she's selfish, vain, and gleefully single-minded in her pursuit of what she wants --- just like kids are.  
And she has lives in a really cool anthropomorphic castle...
And what kid wouldn't have wanted to take a ride on the Vroom Broom?!?

Those 17 episodes ran on Saturday mornings and in syndication for YEARS.... it's one of those shows that is so ingrained in our psyches, it's surprising when you find out it only lasted one season.

But much less well-known is the 1970 theatrical release Pufnstuf, which (I believe) filmed after the series wrapped production. 

In the little seen movie (really, I would have known if this EVER played on tv during the 70s or 80s), Witchiepoo takes center stage even more, attending a Witches' Convention -- a coven of hippie-era crones that has to be seen to be believed. 

And then, if it was hysterical enough, breaking into a perfect early 70s soft-rock anthem of individuality, we have (of all people) Mama Cass Elliot!  

So, while I originally thought I would post the nostalgic classic "Oranges, Poranges" number from the series, once I discovered this clip, there was no question of where this post was headed.

I give you..... Different

Take that, Elphaba!
And yes, that's Martha Raye, movie-star/denture-wearer as Boss Witch.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

House Afire! -- Universal Studios Tour 1973

I picked up this postcard last winter for 50 cents at an antique mall in Maryland.  I love how random it is to see Frankenstein's monster in front of this burning colonial in Southern California. 

This was obviously a stop on the famous Universal Studios tram tour.  I'm guessing that it's no longer there.

Although I have visited Southern California several times to visit my brother Chris, I have never gotten past the Citywalk area and actually gone into the park.  I would love to do so, just to see Hill Valley.   But the timing has never worked out, mainly because my brother Chris likes to take naps and we have invariably ended up in the Universal City area sometime around naptime, when he says we really should be getting back to San Diego.

Here's the back of the card, so you can read about the awesome trip Janet Lee had back in July 1973.  (wouldn't it have been cool if it was signed by Janet Leigh instead?!?)

I would not have guessed that they filmed the Lucy show (really, Here's Lucy by this time) on the Universal lot -- I figured either Desilu still had a studio or it would have been at CBS Television City.

I wonder if there are any old home movies of this scene -- I just can't imagine how they played it out... Did he just stand there, growling "Fire!!.... BAD!!" or did he chase the tram?  It's so goofy, I love it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Munster Munday -- Have a snack cake!

I want to go back to October 1992 and have one of these delicious Munster Pack snack cakes...


As I recall, these whipped through town pretty quickly.... this was the only box I snagged, so as a result, I only got the Grandpa mask version

I presume there were masks for all four characters.

Interestingly, I think the artwork for Lily Munster has more of a Lee Meriwether vibe to it.  Lee had just wrapped up the syndicated "Munsters Today" in 1991, but I'm sure it was still (re)running somewhere in 1992.
Here's Lee in her Munsters drag...

And here's the original, sultry Yvonne De Carlo...
Now, if you wanted to be really classy, you could take your individually wrapped Munster snack cakes out of the box, and serve them on your Herman Munster head tray....
Unfortunately, my Herman tray is a little worse for wear.  I bought him sometime in the late 80's at Waccamaw Pottery for $3.00.  As you can see, somewhere along the line, he got stepped on (Christopher), and I could never get him flat again.
This tray carries the original copyright info (1964 Kayro-Vue Productions), so as a result, I have seen this tray at antique stores labeled (and priced!) as if it was a vintage item from the original run.  Buyer beware, this Herman was produced sometime in the 80's (which is now vintage, but still...)


Sunday, October 6, 2013

From the Haunted Library....

Thirty years ago, Michael Jackson's Thriller created a surge in popularity of traditional monsters.  Universal Studios Monsters items had waned in the late 70's, but began to crop up more and more frequently on licensed merchandise (some more unusual than others).

And then there's this gem, published that same year:

There are a few more spreads I left out, including Costume Party, Unholy Matrimony, Showtime, and Happy Holidays (where -- I kid you not -- Frankie is the Easter Bunny and his Bride is a pinup Uncle Sam).  But I should really save some things for next year.

I picked this up for $5.00 at a flea market --- money well-spent I should say...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Rockin' Saturday Morning -- Kids WB Terrifying Tower Takeover 1998

Remember Kids WB?  It was the WB Network's 1990's revival of the Saturday morning cartoon block concept that had died out in the mid to late 80's.  Populated by now-classic cartoons like Batman:  The Animated Series, Animaniacs, and Pinky and the Brain, it ran from 1995 to 2008 (crossing over to The CW network in the 2000's).

In 1998 as Halloween approached, the Backstreet Boys "took over" the Saturday morning broadcast to premiere their video for "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)".  That morning's broadcast became the Terrifying Tower Takeover.  I'm fairly certain it only aired once (at least in its original format).

First up, a big fan on Youtube has helpfully spliced together all the interstitial promos that aired that morning, where the Boys give you Exclusive (!) behind the scenes looks at the upcoming video, interact with the animated Kids WB stars, and generally act like idiots. 

Once again, in this age of constant infomercials and news break-ins, you never see any network (especially cable!) giving up precious airtime to goofy promo spots like this:

Then at the end, they showed the complete video that had been teased all morning.

Okay, so it's not Thriller....
The song peaked at #4 on Billboard's Hot 100 in May 1998.
The video won Best Group Video at that year's MTV's VMAs.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Romeo and Juliet are Together in Eternity

For the first Jukebox Friday Night 45 of October, we have this melancholy/creepy classic from July 1976:

It peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1976, but eventually became a (pun intended ) Cult Classic. 
In 1978, it was playing on radio when Jamie Lee Curtis and her doomed friend were driving to their babysitting gig in Halloween, but they mostly talked (and toked) over it.
It was used more effectively in this USA Network promo for a showing of Halloween in October 1996:

This promo shows several shots that only exist in the TV version of Halloween.  Can you pick them out?  You hardly ever see well-produced promos like this anymore.

Two years earlier, it provided the opening theme to Stephen King's The Stand miniseries.   This recording is clearly different than the studio/single version, but is still attributed to Blue Oyster Cult.  Along with the great steadicam shots, it sets the mood perfectly for this series.

The band members say the song is not a romanticized ode to teenage suicide, but rather a musing on the inevitability of death....
I don't believe them....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Heroes on the (Haunted) Half-Shell

Tonight another trip back 20 years to 1993 and the release of Playmates' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- Universal Studios Monsters editions...

Standing menacingly above are 3 of the first series figures (released in 1993) and two of the second series (from 1994).  From left to right (ours, not theirs!) we have:
Don as Dracula
Invisible Man Michelangelo
Raph as The Mummy
Creature from the Black Lagoon Leonardo
Mike as Frankenstein
        (technically incorrect since he is Frankenstein's Monster -- oy, I sound like Ted Mosby!)
Missing from this Monster Party are:
Leo as The Wolfman -- I know I had Leo.  I remember buying all four of the first series figures in an impulse buy at Walmart (which was brand new here in Northern Virginia in 1993).  I suspect Leo may still be residing in his blister pack with the other empty packages in the tinder-box that is the attic over the garage.
Mutant Raphael -- From the 2nd series... I didn't buy him, because I didn't consider him a "true" Universal Monster, even though he was branded that way.
And finally, still encased in her plastic tomb:  April O'Neil as The Bride of Frankenstein!
I originally had another April Bride that was removed from the package.  I always tried to carefully remove action figures from their packages so that the boys could play with them -- it was too cruel to just keep everything up for display with young boys in the house.   I then put the empty blister packs (typically still containing the accessories and in this case, collector cards) in cardboard boxes, that are now stacked in the garage and attic.
But, like many a figure back then, April went missing at some point.  Alex was typically the culprit, especially when it came to the female figures.  April disappeared just like Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Phantasm from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm -- he always had the knack for losing the most rare ones!
So, a few years ago, I came across this April in her original package for only $5.00 so it was a no-brainer.   
Here's April's cardback from 1994.  You'll notice by this time, the original first four monster figures had already been removed from the assortment.  That seems odd to me, since I would think that by releasing these 2nd tier monsters would only encourage kids to look for the originals to complete the set.
I will probably take April out of her package once there are grandchildren running about the place.  But that will be awhile, and regardless, she will have to be off-limits to Alex!