This year, Nickelodeon decided to add some spice to their celebration of Halloween by providing a half hour stop motion special. The folks at Bikini Bottom are celebrating Halloween this time, and rather than the iconic wacky two dimensional style, we’re given a brand new spin, with some hilarious results. The stop motion by Screen Novelties is quite excellent, lending the series a sense of whimsy that you would find in something like “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” There is even a great homage to “The Haunted Mansion” Disney Ride, which is both dazzling and screams Halloween.
In 1993, Monstervision on Turner Network Television in America was mostly a program that aired old horror movies and science fiction with the occasional hosting from magicians Penn and Teller. During the early nineties, many cable channels hadn’t yet solidified their formats, so a lot of the time slots were used on syndicated programs and adult programming, with the occasional time slot devoted to a rare original program here and there. Mainly though, the original appeal of cable television was watching old movies and television shows you couldn’t find on network television. To break up the monotony of airing the same movies over and over, they enlisted hosts to riff during commercial breaks.
It’s tough to find someone like Elvira who can squeeze in so many double entendres in to only a half hour of comedy. “The Elvira Show” was essentially like the movie from the late eighties, but extended in to a sitcom setting. It was “Bewitched” meets “Sabrina” meets “Married with Children” with Elvira dominating the screen as always with her sexuality and sharp delivery of one liners. There are so many great sexual puns squeezed in to the opening scenes of the pilot from replying to hunky officer Chip “I bet you can’t eat just one,” to explaining that she and her family will be like the Cleavers, with she, of course, being “The Beaver.”
Dr. Seuss’s “The Grinch that Stole Christmas” was about the materialism of Christmas, and how it’s the spirit that counts. “Halloween is Grinch Night” is about how you—uh—shouldn’t let… Grinches… ruin Halloween for you. And stuff…? Despite being written by Dr. Seuss, “Halloween is Grinch Night” is a weak prequel that doesn’t quite bind with the “Christmas” exploits of our angry green monster. For one, his dog Max leaves him in the final scene when he fails to hurt Whoville on “Grinch Night,” thus there’s not a lot of explanation when he’s back in the actual short film. Also, the animation compared to the original is so drastic, it’s distracting.
At only twenty four minutes I wouldn’t have minded more of Fred Flintstone adjusting to his new neighbors, but we get much more of the Frankenstone family down the road. One of the later additions to the Flintstones lore, the Frankenstones are an odd new family, but they’re at least funnier than The Great Gazoo. Surprised to learn that a new family is moving in to the neighborhood, Fred is horrified when the family is non-traditional monsters that are menacing, but very sweet, and neighborly. An obvious ode to “The Addams Family,” The Frankenstones seek to make friends with Fred and Wilma and Fred is flabbergasted at the way they live.
It’s a shame that the urban legend of “Cry Baby Lane” is better than the actual movie. “Cry Baby Lane” was originally shown on Nickelodeon in 2000 and aired allegedly only once. It was then banned for over a decade, never airing again, not even during Halloween, or even its teen channels. Many movie lovers spent years circulating boot leg copies of the movie, until it finally re-emerged in 2016 and aired on Nickelodeon’s late night block “Splat.” There are a ton of theories as to why the movie was banned, but frankly were it not for the years of infamy, “Cry Baby Lane” would just be a boring Nickelodeon TV movie, best forgotten.
Even in 1981, “The Munsters” are still so damn funny. “The Munsters’ Revenge” is the monster family once again getting in to a misadventure and learning how to beat the bad guy with the help of their twisted magic and family unity. I laughed a lot during this TV movie featuring most of the brood from the original sitcom. Sure, the original three monsters are showing a bit of their age here, but the movie feels like an extended episode with sharp comic timing, some hilarious gags, and a great supporting cast. Best of all there’s Sid Caesar and Bob Hastings who derived the most laughs out of me. In fact, the latter had me bursting in to hysterics as uncle Phantom of the Opera.
After the sad death of brilliant actor Raul Julia, the “Addams Family” film series was put to rest, despite both films being big commercial hits for their respective years. Almost immediately, Paramount sold the rights to the series to, baffling enough, Saban Entertainment. Saban, of course, is known for producing cheap but popular kids entertainment like “Power Rangers” and “Digimon.” The Saban label at the opening is almost a black mark on the entire movie, as the reboot of the reboot is a bargain basement third entry in to the series with all the cast replaced save for Lurch. The dark and Gothic aesthetic is missing, and comically sinister tone the series perfects is considerably watered down with the film feeling less like Tim Burton, and more like the terrible pilot to a show that never quite took off.