Friday, October 21, 2016

Monsters, Madmen, and Machines

Monsters, Madmen, and Machines is a breezy documentary from 1980 that takes an informal look at the history of science fiction on screen, from the silent era right up to Star Trek and Star Wars. Hosted by Gil Gerard, who starred in NBC's popular Buck Rogers revival at the time, this is a fun, if surface-level, look at the genre as it appeared in movies and TV up until that time.

I don't know the exact origin of this special, but I know it aired on Halloween Night on HBO in 1980 and was released on home video at some point. If you have a fondness for cheesy B-movies of the 50s and 60s, you'll find this special particularly fun.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dracula as Pitchman

As longtime readers of this blog know, TV commercials have been a content staple here since the beginning. I especially love finding disparate commercials and putting them together into a theme. For this year's Countdown, I'm showcasing commercials starring Dracula--or at least vampires in general. I've done this before with Frankenstein and Jaws, so now it's Drac's turn!

Starting off is a famous commercial featuring a toy Dracula that still has "life" in it thanks to Duracell batteries!

Not to be outdone by the competition, Energizer featured its own version of the Count squaring off against the Energizer Bunny. Guess who won?

This next commercial is both long (a good minute and a half) and foreign, promoting Evonik Industries. Here, a young vampire hunter seeks to rid an old castle of its vampire problem, but with one unforeseen complication. I love commercials that hide the product its selling until the end of the commercial, tying in the product with the twist of the story the commercial is telling. You don't see that with American commercials too often, but you do see it with foreign commercials all the time.

I never pictured Dracula being an American suburbanite, yet here he is with family in tow touting the benefits of Nutri Grain Fruit Crunch Bars--benefits which include becoming morning people!

Finally, Dracula is about to claim his next victim when he is distracted by an even better prize--a Hostess Chocolate Cup Cake with cream filling. Or is it?

I hope you found these Dracula commercials worth "sinking your teeth into." Ah ah ah!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" Comic Strips

Tonight at 8pm ET/PT, ABC airs the Halloween TV special to end all specials, It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Of course I'm extremely excited, being a lifelong Peanuts fanatic, but I do wish ABC showed the unedited version. The edited version has awkward cuts and left-out jokes. Fortunately, I have the unedited special on DVD, but I like the communal aspect of watching it live. No matter, The Great Pumpkin is a Halloween must regardless of how you watch it.

Today, I offer you a way to read it, specifically from the comic strip that spawned the special.

Very few if any of the TV specials are comprised of original material; they are almost always adaptations of storylines taken directly from the newspaper comic strip, with just some threadbare wraparound material keeping the story together. This is in no way a criticism, just a statement of how the specials are written.

Here I present some of the comic strips that inspired the TV special. I recommend listening to the beautiful "Great Pumpkin Waltz" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio while you read them to help convey the warmth of the special. Click on the individual strips for greater clarity.  Enjoy!

The first ever Great Pumpkin strip! It's not a part of the special, but I had to include it.

This last one isn't part of the special either, but I needed some closure to the story.

Before you go: in other Great Pumpkin-related news, McDonald's is now offering Great Pumpkin Happy Pails in honor of the special's 50th anniversary! Get yours as soon as you can--I know I will!

Watch The Great Pumpkin tonight!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Film, "Maximum Overdrive"

Tuesday's Overlooked theme of killer cars rolls on (see what I did there?) with the 1986 Stephen King vehicle (I did it again!) Maximum Overdrive.

The movie is about a strange mist (what is it about Stephen King and mists?) that covers the entire planet and grants all forms of electronic technology the ability to think for itself. The machines, of course, opt to be evil and revolt against humanity. No machines get more satisfaction out of this than automobiles, which wreck havoc on the desert town the movie focuses on. It's up to Emilio Estevez and his ragtag band of townsfolk to wrestle control back from the vehicles, most notably a nasty tractor trailer that bears the hideous grin of the Green Goblin from Marvel Comics. Costars include Pat Hingle (Batman) and Yeardley Smith (The Simpsons).

Subtlety goes out the car window with this one, as the cars destroy every human they can as brutally as possible. You can tell King, making his directorial debut here, is having a blast killing off the humans with fiendish glee. If you enjoy  horror that goes straight for the jugular--literally--this will be up your alley.

Here is the film's trailer, which King chews up defiantly. Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bunnicula the Vampire Rabbit (1982)

Starting off Week 3 of this year's Countdown to Halloween is the 1982 animated adaptation of the beloved children's book Bunnicula, The Vampire Rabbit.

Bunnicula is exactly what the title says he is, a vampire rabbit--who sucks the juice out of vegetables. There are worse types of vampires you could run into.

This one is strictly for the kids, or young at heart, so if you have little ones who would love some not-so-scary fun, this is a good bet.



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