We're in the double digit December dates. Time to get serious about Christmas! To help you with that, here is my 2016 Christmas music playlist, courtesy of Spotify! There are currently 26 tracks, but I may add more as the month progresses. Enjoy!
Monday, December 12, 2016
Friday, December 2, 2016
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All The Way...
This. Is. MY TIME! Christmastime. I LIVE for this time of year. The rest of the year--just biding my time for Christmas. And every year, I do by best to "suck the very marrow" from the holidays, to paraphrase Thoreau. A great way to do that early in the season--like now--is to enjoy the best Christmas TV commercials ever created!
Here I've embedded my own curated playlist of some of the greatest yuletide commercials TV has had to offer through the years. These are just what I could think of off the top of my head. If you think I'm missing one or two, please let me know in the comments and I may update the playlist. Then you can come back and enjoy the list as it grows.
Thanks! Have a great first weekend of December! Shop! Sing Christmas carols! Ride a sleigh! Drink hot cocoa! Bake Christmas cookies! Decorate your house! Help me decorate mine (I could use the assist)! Happy Holidays!
Monday, November 28, 2016
Ho Ho Ho! Happy Holidays one and all! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and kick-off to the holiday season! I'm psyched up and ready to go with all the holiday proceedings. I start at the blog this year with a classic cartoon featuring Herman the Mouse and Katnip the Cat.
Herman and Katnip made many appearances in Harveytoons cartoons preceding Paramount Pictures movies in the 40s and 50s. Here is a Christmas-themed one entitled "Mice Meeting You." Katnip kicks some mice out of their cozy Christmas house, and it's up to tough guy Herman to show Katnip the true meaning of Christmas--or at least get him out of the house. Enjoy!
Friday, November 18, 2016
This is the last non-holiday season weekend of the year. Jingle bells and mistletoe are almost here! But before we stuff our stocking, we stuff our faces at the Thanksgiving table, most likely after taking in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. That's where today's subject comes in--sort of.
In 1965, the Underdog balloon made it's debut in the parade, and to celebrate it, this special Thanksgiving-themed episode aired on NBC TV immediately after the parade. Simon Bar Sinister has yet another overly complicated plan to take over the city, including ruining Thanksgiving! Leave it to Underdog to save the day. Enjoy! And please excuse the racism of the Goofy Gophers.
Unfortunately, parts 3 and 4 have the embed feature disabled, so please see the direct link for the rest of the episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OauSu_7dV34.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
With Thanksgiving just a little more than a week away, I'm happy to present this week's Tuesday's Overlooked TV-Movie, the 1986 Disney production "The Thanksgiving Promise."
"Promise," which aired as an installment of the anthology series Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, stars the late Lloyd Bridges, as well as sons Beau and Jeff (in an uncredited minor role). In this story, a young boy is conflicted when he becomes emotionally attached to an injured Canadian goose that he has promised to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner.
And well--that's it! There's little information about the plot on the Internet, which I find strange as it has majors stars and was produced by Disney. For all the details, we'll just have to sit down and give the movie a--gander. GANDER! GOOSE! GET IT? HOW DO I DO IT? HOW DO I DO IT?
Coincidentally, next Wednesday, November 23rd is the 30th anniversary of the movie's original airing on ABC. I'm featuring it this week instead because, with the actual holiday next week, you might not have time to see it then. Enjoy!
Monday, November 7, 2016
Months after it was announced, the Nintendo NES Classic Edition will finally be available this Friday, November 11th. It is a small replica of the original Nintendo Entertainment System pre-loaded with 30 classic Nintendo games such as Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Kirby's Adventure, and Castlevania, among others. With this momentous occasion almost upon us, I thought it appropriate to take a look at Nintendo's most iconic character, Mario.
Debuting in 1981 as the protagonist in the classic game Donkey Kong, Mario has evolved in ways no one could have imagined back then. When a property as popular as Mario is hugely successful, it's only natural to see him appear in multiple forms of media. Here are just a few.
Here is Mario in his original glory in the 1981 version of Donkey Kong!
Here is Mario in his first ever animated version with the CBS Saturday Morning animated series Saturday Supercade. I ate this up as a kid, but I have to say, it has not aged well.
This is the first live action appearance of Mario's brother Luigi in a commercial for the Atari 2600 version of the first Mario Brothers game. They didn't start out Super; that game would come later (and wipe out everyone's memory of the Super-less Mario Brothers game that preceded it).
Here is a playthrough of the home version of Super Mario Brothers that came with every unit of the first Nintendo Video Game System that was introduced in 1985; i wouldn't get it until 1987. I couldn't wait to play this every day after school when I was in 8th grade! This video is over a half hour long, so I don't expect you to watch the whole thing, but it does bring back memories.
Here is a commercial for Hostess Snack Cakes and a Nintendo-related promotion they were running. Here, an animated Mario teams up with the Hostess Munchies characters (of whom I have no recollection whatsoever) bringing news of the contest to viewers.
Here is the intro for the beloved late-80s series The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. The series featured former professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano as Mario in the live action intro and interstitial segments that were interspersed with cartoon versions of the characters, for which Albano voiced Mario. This show never appealed to me--I was getting older and was in high school during this show's debut--but many people on the 'Net have touted their love for it!
And then, of course, there is the live action theatrical movie starring the late Bob Hoskins as Mario, with John Leguizamo as Luigi. Yeah, I know. *sigh*
Finally, here is a commercial from just a couple of years ago for Mercedes Benz, featuring both the video game version and a jacked live action version of Mario enjoying a sweet Mercedes ride. Of course, even a jacked Mario has to look out for evil mushrooms!
Get in line at the electronics retailer of your choice now, or place your order online!
Monday, October 31, 2016
IT'S HERE! IT'S FINALLY HERE!
The big night is upon us, and what fun we've had getting here! I hope you've enjoyed this year's Countdown to Halloween, both at my blogs and all the blogs that have participated this year. Special thanks once again go out to John Rozum for orchestrating this magnificent event! He's the true Pumpkin King!
If, like me, you're upset you haven't done all the groovy things you wanted to do this season, you can always stop by here and check out the archives for whenever you need a shot of spookiness. In this way, it can be Halloween whenever you want it to be.
Have a great night, stay safe, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Friday, October 28, 2016
Guys. Halloween is, like...a few days away.
This is the last weekend before the big day! There's no time to waste. It's right now or wait 11 long months. Put the petal to the metal of your Dragula and get in gear!
But before I get to today's topic, some sad news.
Zacherley has died. If you're a fan of Halloween at all, you probably already know who Zacherley is, so I won't get into his life and history. As sad as this news is, you can't deny he's lead a long and fulfilling life, passing at a staggering 98 years old. He's so associated with his character, you almost expect him to keep on being Zacherley, as what is death to the undead? It seems kind of fitting that he would go at this time of year. Goodnight Zacherley, wherever you are!
We now return you to our regularly scheduled program.
With Halloween being this Monday, most Halloween parties will take place tonight and tomorrow night. If you're stuck on exactly what to wear and how to behave, simply take a few cues from the following footage of Halloween parties from the past. There's also a parade!
The first party is from 1956, and the second party and parade footage are from 1969. I don't know who any of these people are, but it's a lot of fun to see them having fun. I love old footage like this. It takes one back to a (supposedly) simpler time. It just give me the feels for so many reasons I don't have the time or words to expound upon now.
Enjoy! Please have a great and safe weekend! Party hardy! And I'll see you Monday for--*sniff*--the final post of this year's Countdown to Halloween!
Thursday, October 27, 2016
The last Thursday of each month at the blog brings us that month's Underappreciated Music to spotlight, well--underappreciated music. For the Countdown to Halloween, boy do I have a good one!
See that album cover above? Is that not the coolest thing you've ever seen? Until earlier this month, I didn't know it existed. From the first moment I saw it, I had to know everything about it.
Philly Joe Jones was a noted jazz drummer from my hometown of Philadelphia and is most remembered for his work drumming for Miles Davis and Chet Baker, among others. He also led groups of his own, this sextet being one of them. Blues for Dracula was his first release as a leader, and what a way to make a debut!
The titular first track is the only one that ties into the Dracula theme, which is a shame, as that track is joyfully weird, with Jones speaking in character as Dracula over his band's music. I would have loved to have heard an entire album of that. The remainder of the album, however, is straight-ahead jazz, which is in no way a bad thing. It's a solid jazz album, even if not doing the entire album in character seems like a missed opportunity.
Here it is in all its glory. Thanks!
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
I've featured "scary" material from Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and The Muppet Show several times before, and today is another one of those times. Only one of the two clips I have for you this year is actually connected to the Children's Television Workshop, but who's keeping track?
First up from Sesame Street: there are mysterious moans coming from an old deserted house--is it haunted? Billy Joe Jive, super crime fighting ace, and his partner Smart Susie Sunset are on the case!
Next, from Jim Henson's pre-Sesame Street series Sam and Friends, a parody of Edward R. Murrow's celebrity interview series Person to Person, slyly named Poison to Poison. The interview subject is an Alfred Hitchcock spoof. Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Today is the last Tuesday of the Countdown to Halloween, which means today is the last Tuesday's Overlooked Film for the Countdown, and that film is the 1974 Peter Weir-directed film The Cars That Ate Paris.
The story involves the fictional town of Paris, Australia, a rural town set in its old-fashioned ways and insular attitudes. How insular? The town hobby is staging fatal car accidents for outsiders so their cars can be stolen and customized into terror machines. If a person does survive a crash, they are taken to the local hospital to be lobotomized and used for experimentation.
I do NOT want to see the town's ratings on Yelp.
I haven't seen the film, but I've heard much about it and it looks very intriguing. In addition to the carnage, there are also themes of the obsession with cars and the conflicts between older and younger generations. Cars is different from the other "killer car" selections I've written about this month in that these cars aren't possessed by evil spirits or alien gas, but they are in fact possessed by evil human beings--and aren't they the scariest monsters of all?
The film was a big hit at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, but didn't make much of an impact on Australian audiences. It has, however, become a cult classic today. It was released in America in 1976 under the misleading title The Cars That Eat People (wouldn't that be something?). Director Peter Weir would go on to bigger and better things directing films such as Witness, Dead Poets Society, and The Truman Show, among others.
Here is the film's trailer. Enjoy!
Monday, October 24, 2016
HOLY HANNA, HALLOWEEN IS A WEEK FROM TONIGHT! We only have that long to get our Halloween on. "The clock is ticking--it's almost time!"
Today I present an episode of the short-lived animated series Spider-Woman, which aired for one season on ABC's Saturday Morning schedule starting in the fall of 1979. In this episode, Spider-Woman faces off against Dracula himself (a major Marvel Comics villain in the 70s), who has been freed from his tomb by dimwitted villagers. Dracula exacts his titular revenge by turning people into vampires--NOT by biting them, but by shooting lasers from his fingers.
Wait, it gets better.
Later, the Wolfman appears and turns people into werewolves--by shooting lasers from his eyes.
Wait, it gets better.
Frankenstein's monster also appears and turns people into monsters just like him--by shooting lasers from his neck bolts.
It doesn't get better than that!
The episode is as ridiculous as it sounds, and that makes it well worth the 20 minutes. Enjoy!
Friday, October 21, 2016
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
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
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!
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
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
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.
Friday, October 14, 2016
What better way to kick off a Halloween weekend than with a cheesy horror movie? Today I offer the 1966 film The Frozen Dead. In this one, a mad scientist is keeping the bodies of Nazi soldiers frozen alive so he can revive them to strong young soldiers who can resurrect the Nazi movement to take over the world.
Sound outrageous? It is, and it's why it was chosen for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Here is the movie in its original glory. The star is Dana Andrews, who obviously had fallen on hard times here from his days as a leading man in such high class films like Laura.
Have fun with this one, and have a great Halloween weekend. Enjoy!
Thursday, October 13, 2016
This is a cute school film strip created by Encyclopedia Britannica in 1953 to show school kids the proper way to celebrate Halloween in postwar, pre-rock 'n' roll America. I love stuff like this. It's a window to an America that, for better or worse (or both ways at the same time) doesn't exist anymore, yet you can feel the Halloween in this.
It really emcompasses a children's sense of Halloween, which is more about candy and costumes rather than pumpkin spice lattes and Hellraiser movies--nothing against those things, or course. I love the innocence of this, and it's a feeling that I look for every time Halloween returns. I wasn't around in 1953, but this film strip and things like it are what really tickle my Halloween nostalgia spot.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Today at the Countdown, I present one of many cartoons I have in the queue, this time featuring previous Countdown stars The Mighty Heroes!
Today, the Heroes fight the sinister Scarecrow and his army of straw monsters. As Count Floyd would say, "Scary kids!" Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
The second installment of Tuesday's Overlooked Film in this year's Countdown to Halloween continues the theme of "killer cars" established last week with Christine by featuring the 1977 horror movie The Car.
The plot is pretty straightforward: a mysterious killer car is, well, killing people for no apparent reason in a small Southwestern town, and it's up to the newly installed sheriff (James Brolin) to stop it. End of plot!
The driverless car doesn't have an origin--it kills because it can. The only hint as it its origin is it's unwillingness to drive onto consecrated ground. Apparently, the devil likes to drive a 1971 Lincoln Continental. The car, by the way, was customized for the movie by legendary Hollywood car designer George Barris, who also designed the Batmobile for the 1966 Batman TV series and the Dragula for The Munsters.
Here is the movie's trailer. Seems like a good flick to put on so you can laugh at it for an hour or two. Thanks!
Monday, October 10, 2016
We're already ten days into October, so the Halloween season will be over before we know it. Let's go full steam ahead into the Countdown from here on out.
Today I present my annual collection of Halloween TV commercials. Every commercial is either tied directly to Halloween or is at least in some way spooky, creepy, or even funny (in a spooky way). Roll that beautiful bean footage!
That's a gif of a skeleton juggling Funyuns, by the way.
Snickers has had several fun Halloween commercials in recent years. Here's another example!
In 1986 when this commercial aired, the influence of E.T. on popular culture was still in full force three years after its release. Here, an alien and an Elliot stand-in enjoy a bowl of Campbell's Soup.
Godzilla must be really parched, breathing fire all the time and whatnot. No wonder he wanted a Dr. Pepper so badly.
Back in the 90s, Pizza Hut let its pizza do the talking for itself--literally! Mr. Pizza Head was a staple of Pizza Hut advertising during that decade. Here is a Halloween-themed example.
This next commercial features two things that go perfectly with Halloween--Frankenstein and Reese's Cups.
The creatures in this commercial for Atari's Atlantis game don't play around!
Finally, the best Halloween commercials are often local commercials. They don't usually have the high production values of national commercials, but they more than make up for it in creativity and charm. A perfect example is this commercial for a company called iParty, based in New England. A spoof of old fashioned horror movies with a mad scientist, this commercial is funny and admirable for the length it goes to sell itself on a clearly small budget. I love it!
Friday, October 7, 2016
Welcome to the weekend! Weekends are always awesome, but are even awesomer during the Halloween season, and that's totally a word! I'm kicking this weekend off with the 1977 TV-movie Halloween With the New Addams Family.
This stars most of the cast from the TV show in their old roles celebrating that most Addams of holidays, Halloween. However, Gomez is away on a business trip, and his brother Pancho is visiting the family. Pancho has been jealous of Gomez because Pancho and Morticia once were an item, and...OK, the plot doesn't really matter. It's the Addams Family and Halloween put together, what more is there to say?
I only saw this once as a kid late at night some Halloween season in 1980-something (I don't think I saw it when it debuted on NBC on October 30, 1977), but I enjoyed it then, and I hope I enjoy it now, as I haven't seen it since and only have memories of a couple of scenes here and there. I'll be experiencing this one right along with you.
Enjoy! Have a great weekend! The Countdown to Halloween is just getting started!
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Today at the Countdown, I feature an unusual episode of the 1960s cartoon series Underdog.
In this episode, our fearless hound goes up against the nemesis Batty Man. Not Batman, the duly deputized Caped Crusader--Batty Man, criminal vampire.
That's correct. A criminal vampire. A vampire who doesn't suck victim's blood, no. He steals things. Clothes, fruit, baseballs in play, and police cars.
A creature with the powers of a vampire, and he uses them to steal things. Things that eventually include the gold in Fort Knox, but still.
Enjoy Underdog battle the world's most underachieving vampire now! Thanks!
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
For those new to the blog, I occasionally take part in another multi-blog event called Tuesday's Overlooked, in which blog writers spotlight a movie, TV series, or audio series that may be obscure but nonetheless deserves more love from the public. The feature is curated by my friend Todd Mason at his blog Sweet Freedom. Check it out!
For the Countdown to Halloween, I always devote my Tuesday's Overlooked selections to horror/thriller and similarly related offerings. Last year, I decided to go by a theme, "crawling hand" movies. This year, I've chosen another theme--killer cars! Because--well, why not? For the first Tuesday's Overlooked of the Halloween season, I am going with what is likely the most famous killer car--Stephen King's Christine.
Actually, it's Stephen King's Christine by way of director John Carpenter. The story involves nerdy Arnie Cunningham, your standard bullied geek who has no game with the ladies. One day, he becomes mysteriously enamored with an old 1958 Plymouth Fury nicknamed Christine, which he buys for cheap and refurbishes himself. As he spends more time and effort with Christine, Arnie undergoes a strange personality change--more arrogant, aggressive, and eventually, murderous, all under the influence of Christine.
The movie, an adaptation of King's novel, wasn't a hit with critics--or, reportedly, even Carpenter--but it has a niche following today. Here is the film's trailer. Enjoy!
Monday, October 3, 2016
Hey gang, I hope you had a great first weekend of the Halloween season. You want to make sure to start it off right. A great way to do that is with an awesome Halloween music playlist. If you're in the hunt for just such a playlist, look no further!
Here is my very own Halloween music list for the 2016 season, courtesy of Spotify. With over 100 songs and six hours of music, it's sure to get you toe tappin' and dancing the night away in no time. There are the usual favorites along with what I hope are some surprises. If there is a song not included that you think would add to the fun, please feel free to leave a comment.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Welcome, one and all, to the 2016 Countdown to Halloween! Today through October 31st, this blog will feature nothing but the frightening, the scary, the terrifying, and most importantly, the most fun you'll find anywhere!*
*Your mileage may vary.
If this is your first time here, thank you for trying it out! And if you're a longtime reader, welcome back! I've got some great things lined up: Halloween TV commercials, movies, music, and lots and LOTS of cartoons. Updates will usually be Monday through Friday, with weekends a chance for you to catch up on stuff you may have missed.
Please please leave comments on my posts and let me know what you think. I want to make sure you're having a blast.
Today acts as an introductory warm-up for the not-so-long month ahead. Don't rush it--savor every pumpkin-spiced bite! November will be here before you know it.
Of course, be sure to check out the main Countdown site so you can enjoy all the awesome blogs taking part in this years-long tradition. Special thanks as always to John Rozum for organizing this monster shindig. He continues to do an outstanding job. We are all in his debt.
And with that, let the 2016 Countdown to Halloween begin!