Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween 2014!


We made it! As quickly as it arrived, the 2014 Countdown to Halloween comes to a close. I want to thank everyone who stopped by my blog this month, and I hope you enjoyed everything I shared. But if you didn't, please let me know! The only way to improve the blog is for you to let me know what you like and don't like. Please leave comments whenever possible, or shoot me an email at phillyradiogeek@gmail.com

I've also loved what you guys have shared. Your hard work and dedication to your blogs is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

You may feel sad to see the season go, but don't be! You can celebrate Halloween any day of the year you choose! And before you know it, that October wind will blow by and bring all the thrills and chills you love all over again. Besides, with Halloween a Friday night this year, I'm sure the celebration will last through the weekend as well. With All Saints Day being tomorrow, and Dios de Los Muertos on Sunday, it's entirely appropriate!

Before Mr. Manilow sings our love song to October to bring the Countdown to a close once again, I leave you with my usual ending treats as I've done in years past.

Stay safe, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!




Thursday, October 30, 2014

October's Underappreciated Music: Halloween Songs


Since I've been doing the Countdown back in 2009, I've sharply increased my time spent listening to Halloween music. Of course, there's not much music out there specifically written about and for Halloween itself, but there certainly is if you expand the definition of the term to mean any music that is spooky, horror-themed, or monster-themed. Once you do that, you can have yourself a full-on Halloween hootenany! Here are some of a few of my favorites, not including the usual suspects such as "Monster Mash" and "Ghostbusters."

Bert Convy, "The Monster Hop"

I loved this song the first time I heard it. The music is fun and makes you move, but still has a touch of thrill and urgency to it. The late Bert Convy, most famous for his hosting duties on various game shows such as Win, Lose, or Draw, takes this novelty song and adds real drama to it, selling the sizzle. What a fun record!



Dave Gardner, "Mad Witch"

Before he became better known as Southern comedian Brother Dave Gardner, Gardner recorded a couple of obscure vocal records, one of which is this unusual song, describing a victim's experience at the hands of "the Devil's wife." It's a rhythmic, bass-driven song that grabs your attention right away and never lets go.



Kip Tyler, "She's My Witch"

A slow, sultry rockabilly tune. Any strip club not using this song in their October performances is doing it wrong.



The Ran-Dells, "The Martian Hop"

This is a fun, all-ages novelty tune perfect for any grade schooler's Halloween party.



Speak Low, "Thriller"

Finally, here is an awesome cover of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" by Spanish funk band Speak Low. It has a funky retro-70s feel to it that adds a whole new dimension to the familiar song. Put on your leisure suit and medallion before dancing to this one!



Well, tomorrow's the big day! Get ready!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Images and Gifs


One of the joys of surfing the Web during Halloween season is coming across some awesome artwork, images, and animated gif files. I've amassed a nice collection over the years, and I add to it all the time. Here is just a small sample of what I have!

















Many of these can be found at my (relatively) new Tumblr site, Me and You Too.  Give it a try. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Haunted Castle


Today features the last Tuesday's Overlooked Film in this year's Countdown, and it may also be the shortest I've ever posted--a mere three minutes! But what happens in those three minutes is pretty cool, especially since it was made in 1896!

The Haunted Castle (also known by several other names) was made by Frenchman Georges Melies, creator of the famous A Trip to the Moon, and features a nobleman being tricked and toyed with by the Devil in a, well, a haunted castle. There are many instances of people and props appearing and disappearing instantly, much to the nobleman's chagrin. It's intended to be funny rather than scary, but it definitely fits the Halloween spirit. It's interesting to see these kinds of special effects this early in the history of film.

Enjoy!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Three Stooges, "If A Body Meets A Body"


Five days left! I hope I've been keeping you in the spirit of Halloween this month. If not, perhaps some high culture will amuse you. Culture that can only be brought to you by The Three Stooges!

In "If A Body Meets a Body," the boys go to a will reading for a departed rich relative of Curly in the hopes of amassing a fortune. However, they must spend the night in the relative's spooky mansion with a host of murder suspects! Comedy ensures. Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2014

BJ and the Bear, "BJ and the Witch"


It's the last weekend before Halloween! Time's a wastin' if you want to get your hayrides and pumpkin carving in before the big day. And what better way to give yourself a kick in the pants than with an episode of BJ and the Bear?

For those who aren't familiar with it (which means everyone under 40 years old), BJ and the Bear was a show from the late 70s about a freelance truck driver and his pet chimpanzee. It was the 70s, what can I say? In this episode, BJ's truck breaks down in a conservative Christian town looking to throw out a woman who practices witchcraft. BJ, of course, falls for the woman and does his best to protect her.

[In my best Count Floyd voice] "Ooooh, scary, kids!"

Enjoy!

One more thing: please enjoy my new Tumblr site Me and You Too, which has plenty of cool Halloween images for your liking. Thanks!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Interview: James Cross, Co-founder of Cross/Rogers, on Witch's Night Out and The Gift of Winter



Earlier this week I mentioned that the awesome holiday TV specials Witch's Night Out and The Gift of Winter are now available on their first official DVD releases. This news was brought to my attention by one of the partners of the production company that owns the specials, Cross/Rogers Productions. Cross/Rogers co-founder James Cross was nice enough to allow me to ask him a few questions about the specials, how they came to DVD after so many years, and what fans can expect in the future from Bazooey, Small, Tender, and the rest of the gang.

Brian: Witch's Night Out and The Gift of Winter have only been available previously on VHS for a brief time. What were the hurdles keeping it from release on DVD before and what led to their long-awaited release now?

James: To answer your first question was Jonathan himself.  He just simply stopped and moved on to other expressions of art. He's a true evolving artist. Never knowing the cult following these cartoons had and the impact that it had on people that had seen them, me being one of those kids in 1978.

Brian:  How did you become involved with the creators of the specials, Jonathan Rogers and Jean Rankin?

James: It all started when I was 7 back in 1978, when I turned the family TV on and saw the cartoon Witch's Night Out for the first time. It changed my life forever, and at that moment I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to become an animator and make cartoons just like this. I drew all my life, but at that moment sitting on our living room floor eating a Swanson TV dinner ( YUK!),  it was very clear.  Over the years I did searches on John trying to get a lead but I was always one step behind.  It was simply to thank him for making this little cartoon that I watched at least 10,000 times since the tape came out in 1986 that I still have but is worn out.




Finally, he showed up under another name online (Jonathan Rogers), and I was able to contact him and thank him for being a help in my 20-plus years in animation. At this time I was a director and had worked on many shows, Web sites, and games.  Surprisingly, he emailed me back and over months we talked almost everyday and a partnership was formed based on my enthusiasm and drive to make things happen. The man just simply believed in me and I believed in him.  Jonathan is one of the most colorful and real people I have ever met. What you see is what you get. Hard work was quickly coming ahead as I, with help from great friends, was able to restore the films from the original stock while finding distribution for both specials.  It was clearly one of the hardest but rewarding quests I've ever had to this day. I became a detective, putting all the pieces together to bring these classics back to the world where they belong.

While doing this, Jonathan and I started coming up with new stories and ideas for more stuff, as well as a plan to make these cartoons into a franchise for viewers to enjoy for years to come. Cross/Rogers was born.

Brian: The official Web sites for the specials have development images for a possible new sequel. Is there any news you can share about this?

James: Just that things are about to get pretty lively around the Cross/Rogers camp.  We are taking steps very lightly and putting all of our ingredients into the pot to make great food for viewers. Stories and ideas that have meaning and getting back to family entertainment the way it was back in the day. The Gift of Winter and Witch's Night Out have deep meaning of the holidays.  We are taking that same formula into the new projects we are creating but pulling forward the characters, making them living breathing people.

Brian: The Gift of Winter first aired in 1974 and Witch's Night Out in 1978. What is it about these specials that can appeal to audiences today?

James: They are very honest films. They are us. Whereas you have projects today that center around a popular character from a movie, these people are your next door neighbors or family members.  Everyone has that Aunt Malicious in their family--I know I did, two of them (LOL)! The animation is real. I say that because it was animated straight ahead not using in-betweens. Just free expression of the artist. Animation back then and still today, in some films, you do the first drawing, then the last, and one in between, and then you fill in all the others drawings. That didn't appeal to John, who was and still is an expressive artist.  And to top that off, they animated straight to cels, no rough (WOW!). There are guys today that would pass out if they had to do that. Very hard to do while keeping the expression of the character going.  Raw honest animation and the brilliant writing from Jean and John made these shows timeless. The voice talents and the music have a rhythm to it. The voices almost sing to you when they talk.. The jokes are not dated, and the human emotions are understood to kids and adults, making these classics perfect family films.  




Brian: Animation has changed dramatically since the 1970s. How would a new special take advantage of these advances, or would a new special stick to more traditional methods of animation?

James: Well as you know, animation is ever evolving. I see nothing wrong with that whatsoever. It has kept me in the game for over a decade. It is the artist behind the technology that makes a film good. John and Jean had limitations and were able to make a masterpiece.  Even Gift was brilliant in the execution. We will stay within the boundaries making it the Cross/Rogers style, but of course using today's methods to push the creativity forward. Our worlds will be deeper, but the stamp of Witch's will be there 100 percent.

Brian: Are there any plans to release any other previous Rogers/Rankin projects on DVD in the future?

James: Yes!  We are building a empire that our families will be able to pass down for years to come. We both are 100 percent family men. Things will come out over the years, but building a strong foundation is the main focus right now. Putting the classics out was a big leap in the right direction. People are getting familiar with the cast and fans are passing the word.  It is no longer a cartoon that fans remember back in the day, but here, in your face!  The next step is to carefully push things out that keep the feel and growth of the franchise giving people food for thought.  We have lifetimes.

Brian: Finally, each of the characters has their own unique personality. Do you have a favorite?

James: I love them all. They remind me of people I knew all my life. If you think about it, we are all of them. That's what John and Jeans attempted to do.  Sometimes I have my Rotten days and most of the time my Bazooey days.  I always liked Small. I drew him all the time as a kid.

James: Thank you very much.  This would never have happened if it wasn't for the fans. We all kept these cartoons alive.  I love the fact that people pour their hearts out every time they talk about these cartoons online.  They remember exactly where they were when they watched it.  It made all the hills and valleys I went through bringing them back with Jon worth it. This by far was a perfect storm to make this happen.  It is all about the fans. If you have a strong fan base, you will automatically pull others in. You can't push aside that foundation to try and get new ones. But if you honestly express yourself, fans old and new will know it's the same formula.   Cross/Roger is for the family, by the family, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.    

Thanks to James for taking time to share this wonderful news about these beloved specials. I can't wait to see what Cross/Rogers has in store!

You can purchase Witch's Night Out here and The Gift of Winter here. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Snagglepuss, "Fraidy Cat Lion"


Today at the Countdown, I present a 60s-era Hanna-Barbera cartoon featuring Snagglepuss called "Fraidy Cat Lion."

Snagglepuss has the misfortune to run into HB's Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist and their miscievious boy, who are in the vein of the Munsters and the Addams Family. The properly-named family is enough to make the demure cat say "exit, stage left!" Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: The Twilight Zone (1985), "Dealer's Choice"


This week's Tuesday's Overlooked TV is an episode of the 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone titled "Dealer's Choice."

Four male buddies are having their usual weekly poker game with one unusual circumstance--their normal fifth player is absent, replaced by a supposed friend of his. But, this being The Twilight Zone, it turns out that the mysterious "friend" is in fact Satan, who has come to play for one of the men's souls (I have when that happens). The other four do their best to outplay Lucifer, but the fate of the unlucky one rests in the hands of the most unlikely of the gentlemen.

Although the poker game is being played for very high stakes, the tone of the episode is much lighter than the description I'm giving it would imply. It's a fun installment, especially due to the actors involved--Dan Hedaya (as Satan), Garrett Morris, M. Emmet Walsh, Barney Martin (Jerry's dad on Seinfeld), and some guy named Morgan Freeman. Oh, and the episode was directed by Wes Craven.

Here for your enjoyment is the episode. Thanks! For more Tuesday's Overlooked goodness (Halloween related or not), check out Sweet Freedom by Todd Mason!

Monday, October 20, 2014

You Guys! Witch's Night Out and The Gift of Winter Are Out on DVD!


Holy Hanna! I received some great news this morning. I received a comment on my old post about the Christmas TV Special The Gift of Winter that the special and it's sequel, the Halloween special Witch's Night Out, are out on official DVD releases! Witch's Night Out was released back on September 16th, and Winter drops tomorrow, October 21st. Bonus features include 10 public domain spooky-themed short cartoons on Witch's and a making of featurette on Winter.

I received this comment directly from the creators of the specials, Cross/Rogers Productions. Thanks for finding my blog, guys!

For more information, you can check out the Web sites for both specials, www.witchsnightout.com and www.thegiftofwinter.com.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Halloween: Resurgence Fan Film


And so closes out week 2.5 of the Countdown to Halloween. For this weekend, I offer a fan-made take on a sequel to John Carpenter's Halloween.

Halloween: Resurgence was made by a group of novice filmmakers for a film festival that never took place. Thanks to the Internet, however, it's available on YouTube for us to enjoy. I've featured fan films for other franchises on the blog before, and they always intrigue me.

Admittedly I haven't actually watched this yet, so I'll be seeing it fresh right along with you. Halloween is my favorite horror film, so I'm curious to see this.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend! Do Halloween stuff!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stay Indoors

A lot can be said about me, but one thing that can't be said is that I'm an "outdoorsy" guy. My schedule and my physical appearance will prove that. But after seeing today's Countdown offering, that may not be such a bad thing.

The following short film (and I do mean short--a scant two minutes) details one unfortunate young woman's choice of locale for a nature trek. This is likely to keep me homebound for life! Please enjoy Stay Indoors but be warned; although not terribly gory, there is a fair amount of (fake) blood, so this may not be suitable for everyone. This was used as a bumper reel for films exhibited at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. Thanks!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Promos and Deleted Clips


Today is October 15th. Therefore, today is the halfway point of the Countdown to Halloween, and you know what that means--s*** gets real. Time to crank things up, get to the good stuff, and don't hold back!

Today is also the first airing this year of It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (ABC, 8:30pm ET), which is, of course, the finest Halloween TV special ever created. Even though I have it on DVD, I still need to watch it on network TV, as I love the communal aspect of watching the special knowing millions of others are doing the same thing.

In celebration, I'm offering some old promos and clips that you don't see on the special these days. In fact, I never saw some of these even when I was a kid in the late 70s/early 80s.

First, here is a commercial for the special that aired back when it made its debut in 1966. I love it!



Next is the original ending of the opening credits from that first airing, which includes the show's original sponsors, Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison snack cakes, into the animation. This portion was deleted in later airings when the sponsors changed. I always wondered why the credits ended so abruptly after the owl flies away--now I know!



Likewise, here is another deleted sponsorship from the end credits.



Here is a very brief promo for the special from 1978, when I was watching TV (I was four at the time).



Finally, just because it's beautiful, here is The Vince Guaraldi Trio performing "The Great Pumpkin Waltz." What a sweet piece of music!



Thanks, and be sure to watch tonight! I will! I'm as excited as Linus!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Night of the Demons (1988)


The second Tuesday's Overlooked Film of the Countdown this year is the 1988 movie Night of the Demons.

The night is Halloween night, as several offbeat young adults meet at an abandoned mortuary (always a bad idea). Their arrival on Halloween night, a night in which evil spirits can have their way, as we know, gives the damned demons of the place a chance to have some fun with their unsuspecting partygoers. General mayhem and murder ensues.

That's the plot right there, but a lot of entertainment is derived from this simple premise. The special effects are well done, the scares legitimate, and the humor is witty without overwhelming the horror aspects of the film. Night of the Demons is considered a semi-classic, and it's easy to see why.

You can see for yourself, as the film is below for your Halloween amusement. Enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Halloween List O' Links for Friday, October 10th, 2014

And so we conclude the first full week of the Countdown to Halloween! Make sure you soak it all in, because the month will be over before you know it. To help you in your quest for all things orange and black, here are some awesome Halloween haunts available online.

First up, if you visit no other Halloween countdown site (besides ours, of course), you must check out Dinosaur Dracula. Site owner Matt is the biggest Halloween fan you will ever meet, and he celebrates every minute detail of the season from stem to stern, whether it's a new flavor Oreo, a zombie Chia plant, or  the examination of a Halloween photo taken of complete strangers back in 1992. Stop what you're doing, and go there right now. Go ahead. I'll wait...

For a thorough quantification of the enjoyment of each of the Halloween series of horror movies, be they John Carpenter or Rob Zombie, look no further than this article from The Dissolve.

You guys! AMC's The Walking Dead Season 5 premieres this Sunday at 9pm ET! The cable channel has made a full press kit available to the general public on their site, complete with videos, interviews, photos, and more. Check it out!

Southern Tier Brewing Co. creates two different pumpkin beers, the Imperial Pumpking and Warlock stout. Which is the better of the two? Find out what Beer Apostle says.

Finally, this article is over three years old, but still well worth a look if, like me, you are a huge fan of It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The blog The Skull and Pumpkin explores an old picture storybook version of the special in all its glory. Great stuff!

Have a great weekend! Do something Halloweeny! And if you are lucky enough to have the day off from work for it, Happy Columbus Day! And for you Canadians out there, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Halloween Pranks


One way many people celebrate Halloween is with practical jokes and pranks. Of course you don't want such acts to get out of hand, but it doesn't stop people from going to great effort to pull them off. Here are a few examples.

First, the cast of my favorite morning radio show, The Preston and Steve Show on 93.3 WMMR-FM here in Philadelphia, sent actors from a local dark attraction to wake up unsuspecting friends and family of listeners from sound sleep in their "Zombie Wake-Up Call."



Next, another prank set in Philadelphia, as a "vampire" aggressively asks for blood from downtown patrons. He's lucky he didn't wind up in a coffin for real!




Finally, this prank from Brazil features a terrifying little girl and an old elevator. This really is scary!



Stay safe!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Halloween Stand-Up Comedy


All of the effort we put into Halloween we do for one goal--fun! Everything about Halloween--the decorating, horror movies, music--it should all be about having a great time with family and friends. Having a great time also means having some great laughs. Here are two of the most acclaimed comedians giving their humorous takes on Halloween.

First up, here is Jerry Seinfeld's famous Halloween routine.



For an equally hilarious, yet more acerbic, take on the holiday, here is eternal curmudgeon Lewis Black discussing his immense disdain for candy corn. Many of you may take umbrage at Black's condeming of adult celebrants of Halloween, but he's funny nonetheless. LANGUAGE NSFW! DISCRETION ADVISED!



Thanks!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Grave of the Vampire


The first Tuesday's Overlooked Film during this year's Countdown to Halloween is the 1972 horror movie Grave of the Vampire.

Grave of the Vampire stars Michael Pataki as the titular vampire, who was originally of legend centuries ago, yet somehow becomes a rapist and murderer in 20th century America (stay with me). After he is seemingly killed in Boston and buried in California (???), he rises from his grave when disturbed by a couple getting romantic in the cemetery. The vampire kills the man and rapes the woman, who is impregnated by him and raises their son on her own blood.

Please continue to stay with me.

The boy grows into a man on a quest to find and kill his vampire father, who is masquerading as a professor of the occult at a college. The class takes part in a seance, at which Pataki is exposed for the bloodsucker he is and has a final showdown with his son.

This is a lot to take in, I know.

This is an odd story to be sure, but is actually slightly endearing because of it. File this as one of those movies where you can't look away for no other reason than to witness the strange story choices made. When I saw this movie last month, I was surprised to see the screenwriter's name--David Chase.


Not only did he write the screenplay, he adapted it from his own novel The Still Life. Chase would later become a story editor on Kolchak: The Night Stalker, then The Rockford Files, and the rest is history.

If you're intrigued by Grave of the Vampire, here is the film in its entirety. Enjoy! For more Overlooked movies, TV series, and other finds, check out Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom!

Monday, October 6, 2014

DC Nation's Creature Commandos


Welcome to the first full week of the Countdown to Halloween! I hope you kicked off your Halloween season in style this weekend. As for me, I still have decorating to do.

Today, I present a few animated shorts from the DC Nation block of programming from Cartoon Network featuring the Creature Commandos. This is a team of monsters that fought for the Allies in World War II. Yes, that's correct--classic monsters fighting for the Allies in World War II. The team features Frankenstein's monster, a vampire, a werewolf, and a gorgon. The team first debuted in 1980 in DC Comics' Weird War Tales and was created by J.M. DeMatteis.

Enjoy!


Friday, October 3, 2014

A-List Horror Movie Trailers


Hey everybody! The first weekend of the Countdown is upon us, so let's all get out and get our Halloween on! One great way to do that--spend our time catching some of the alltime great horror films. Here are classic trailers from not grindhouse fare (as fun as those trailers are), but from some of the most classic horror films out there. Enjoy, and have a great first weekend of Halloween! My participation in the Countdown will resume Sunday night or Monday. Thanks!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Halloween TV Commercials 2014 Edition

Now that the Opening Ceremonies have taken place, we now go full steam into the Countdown. Today, as I usually do right at the beginning, I'm showcasing some fun Halloween-related TV commercials.

First up--don't forget the Snickers for your trick-or-treaters this year. They'll even help you find some.



Speaking of Snickers, check out this awesome brand new Snickers commercial airing on Spanish language stations now. I love it!



If you're still looking for good candy after that, Verizon Wireless will help you find the best houses to trick or treat!



If things get too intense out there, be sure you're driving a Beemer!



Make sure you stop by Magic Manor in Rockford, Illinois for all your Halloween needs. I love this one--so low budget, so quaint, and best of all, so local!



If you're looking for a "bite," you can try Taco Bell...



...or pour yourself a bowl of Fruity Pebbles.



No one knows how to make a Halloween announcement like Dunkin' Donuts!



Finally, even Crest toothpaste knows that healthy snacks and Halloween just don't mix.



Thanks!

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