Category Archives: Overdue Books

The Official Unofficial Visionaries Collectors Guide & Contest!

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**CONTEST UPDATE**  And the winner of the Visionaries Collector’s Guide is… Ryan, @no_thriller!  Congrats Ryan!

For fans of 80s era cartoons and toys it’s hard to argue that we’re truly living in a Renaissance that is seeing so many of our beloved properties being celebrated.  Not only are a lot of these brands being re-envisioned with upgraded “classics” style product launches like the new Mattel Masters of the Universe figures, Transformers Classics, and the recent 25th anniversary G.I. Joe line of action figures, but there are also a lot of outlets focusing on the original toys and animation who are producing some amazing stuff like the 3D-Joes Carded Figure prints or the recent Masters of the Universe and Transformers art books.  If you’re a fan there are literally thousands of cool and eclectic collectibles on the market to quench your nostalgic thirst.

Sometimes it even feels like there may be too much new stuff, like there’s a tidal wave of products about to come crashing down on the fandom, drowning us all in an ocean of cool stuff.  I know that probably sounds a little dark, but it’s honestly how I feel at times while trying to keep up.  That’s why I often find myself tuning out and just try and focus on one interest at a time.  It’s why I was never all that interested in treating Branded as a hub for 80s fan news as it’s just too much work for one person to stay on top of everything.  Hell, even focused sites (like the ones concentrating on singular 80s era brands like YoJoe.com or or any of the million Star Wars sites) must have a hell of a time keeping up.  Luckily though I’ve met a lot of amazing people over the years through Branded, and they’ve been super cool tipping me off to cool new relaunches and products.  One of these folks has always gone above and beyond, the witty, kind and super gracious HooveR, and I feel lucky to call him a friend.

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Hoov recently sent me a couple copies of the official, unofficial Visionaries Collectors Guide that was published this past April by Punch Party Press, a small two-man outfit out of the UK.  Though I was a huge fan of the cartoon as a kid I only manged to get my hands on a single action figure, Witterquick (I wrote a piece about re-acquiring him after 25+ years), and I’ve always been a little surprised that the Visionaries seemed like they didn’t have the same sort of fan love that other similar b-level properties have (like the ThunderCats and the Silverhawks.)  So when Hoov told me that there was a small press company working on a collector’s guide I was pretty darn excited.

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The book was crowdfunded on Kickstarter this past year and somewhere along the way Hasbro (who produced the original toy line and own the rights to the property) stepped in and sort of changed the focus of the book in terms of how it would be marketed and released after publication.  Christopher Ibbit and Gemma Tovee came to an agreement with Hasbro that would let them print and distribute the book, but they were only allowed to sell it for 1¢.  I don’t know the specifics of the deal, but I’d have to assume that they were allowed to keep and use the money raised on Kickstarter to fund the bulk printing and shipping of the books to the backers.  Since the books were also available for a time after the crowdfunding ended, I’m also assuming that the pair had more books printed than were needed to fulfill the backer pledges.

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The volume itself is really cool and focuses strictly on the 2 waves of the original toy line, the 1st originally released in 1987, and a second that was designed and marketed but ultimately never released.  Clocking in at 54 pages, the full color guide is printed on heavy matte cardstock and is about the size of a standard DVD case, almost like a pocket guide.  The book also features a couple of cool single-color neon ink cover illustrations by Bob Hall, that are really bright and vibrant.  All of the action figure photography in the book is excellent with a mixture of views for each figure including action poses as well as front and back shots with the accessories.  The pages are also complete with all of the bio and flavor text from the back of the toys, which was a really nice addition.

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For me the book works as a collector’s guide (as intended), but it’s also sort of an unofficial art book as well as Ibbit and Tovee took pains to find unaltered versions of the packaging artwork for the majority of the toys in the book, even the unreleased second wave of figures.  I have to wonder if they had access to this via the connection to Hasbro or if there were other sources for the action figure card art.  They even managed to devote a two-page spread to the original hologram illustrations for this second series as well, which was a really awesome added bonus.  There’s even a scan of a later comic book-style ad featuring some of the unproduced toys as well.

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Though I would have loved to see the book be a little more comprehensive and also tackle other Visionaries merchandise like the short-lived Star comics series or the Marvel Big Looker Storybooks, I know that for a small press run of books like this that was probably impossible.

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In fact my only real gripe would be that there are a couple of major pieces of card art missing from the first series of toys.  I’m not sure if this was a mistake or if it was a challenge to nail down nice artwork, but the cards for Leoric & Darkstorm are missing.  Considering they were able to provide nice imagery for the rest of the line (including vehicles and the second unreleased wave), these missing pieces stand out and keep this volume from being a perfect guide for the line.

All in all, considering the issues with Hasbro limiting their ability to sell the book, and the relatively obscure nature of the line it’s simply amazing to see a book this nice being released.  For Visionaries fans this is a must have collectible and unfortunately if you didn’t manage to get a hold of one via the Kickstarter or through their site after the campaign, it’s now out of print.  Well, as I mentioned above, my good buddy HooveR was super awesome for sending me not one, but TWO copies of the book!  So I’m going to give away my extra copy to one lucky Visionaries fan.

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So, what do you have to do to win this awesome book?  Well, for starters it would be really cool if you follow me on twitter (@smurfwreck), like the Branded Facebook page, and follow me on Instragram (@smurfwreck), but I’m not going to make those mandatory.  Instead let’s make this a fun exercise.  Below I’m going to post a very cool piece of Masters of the Universe artwork by the amazing Earl Norem (who sadly, just recently passed away.)  This painting was featured as a puzzle in an issue of the Masters of the Universe magazine and contains 16 intentional errors in the artwork (in the original magazine there were 17 errors, but one of them is kind of ridiculous so I’ll use it as an example below that doesn’t count.)

What I would like you to do is to send me an e-mail listing all 16 errors, your name and the name of  your favorite Visionaries character.  The contest will end on 8/2/2015 at Midnight est, and I’ll pick a winner at random on August 3rd and notify them via e-mail.

So the example of an error in this painting (that doesn’t count for this contest), the Land Shark is literally depicted as being in the water (and we all know it’s an evil land vehicle.)  So, find the other 16 things wrong with this picture and win a copy of the Visionaries Collectors Guide!

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Click on the image to make it bigger!

Lost in the wonderful world of Mr. Product

4461391534_02cce86892_oAs a kid I spent a disproportionate amount of time wandering around supermarkets and discount outlets every weekend with my mother.  Like most kids my mom would drag me out to the store to do the weekly grocery shopping, but unlike most (I think) my mother usually went out close to midnight and would spent hours picking through the aisles looking for new products and browsing endlessly for stuff.  Since I knew she was going to be awhile, it was pretty common for me to wander off, lost in my own head and making up stories as I let my eyes scan across the thousands of boxes, cans, jars, bottles and packaging. Much later I’d come to the realization that this time was her precious escape from the isolation of being a homemaker, her chance to get out and just not be cooped up in the house and the routine.

For me, it was the beginning of what would become a life-long obsession with branding, packaging, and art.  Every product on those shelves had a story, many of which even had convenient main stars right there on the box.  Tony the Tiger, Cap’n Crunch, the Kool-Aid Man, Big John (he of the beans & fixin’s fame), Mr, Clean, Chef Boyardee,Mr. Bubble, the old timey lady on the raisins box, all of these characters, all of this art and branding was swimming around my head as I tried to keep myself entertained and sane while wandering the aisles, lost in the supermarket.

From the collection of Jason Liebig, CollectingCandy.com

This love of branding, product mascots and art was reinforced in my teens and early 20s after I got a job stocking grocery store shelves on the night crew of my local Kroger.  Again, to keep myself sane I’d lose myself in the various labels and boxes, making sure all the packaging was upright and facing front at the end of the night.  It was very centering in a weirdly zen way, being a sort of shepherd for products, making sure they were presented as they were designed.  Again, this just reinforced my love of branding, and has informed my taste when it came to doing my own freelance design and artwork.

Recently my friend Belle Dee had shared a picture of some books she’d just bought, a couple volumes called Meet Mr. Product and simply Mr. Product, Vol.2, and they really caught my eye.  Written and compiled by Warren Dotz and designed by Masud Husain, this two volume set features the graphic art of advertising characters and mascots covering a plethora of brands over the majority of the 20th century.  Well, I got my hands on a copy of the second volume and I am in love…

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This volume’s 272 pages are crammed full of hundreds of mascot illustrations and paintings mainly covering the years 1960-1985.  The book is broken into two halves, the first deals with short essays and examinations centering on the design trends of those two and a half decades.  Transitioning away from the Googie futurism of the late forties and fifties, the book chronicles the tumultuous era of design that saw America through the ultra-hip beatniks, flower-power psychedelia, anthropomorphic machines and electronics, the surf, mod, and monster cultures and on to the ultra-weird Sid & Marty Kroft-inspired McDonalndland gang, the salacious playboy and disco era, and eventually to the height of product merchandising in the Regan era. I really enjoyed reading through these micro-chapters.  They’re not only fun and conversational, making connections between mascots and trends, but they lay the groundwork for really appreciating the second, larger half of the book which focuses solely on on the advertising mascot artwork.

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As much as I enjoyed the first 80 or so pages of examinations, it’s in the last couple hundred pages where I fell in love with this volume.  The artwork is broken down into 7 sections, Food & Drinks, Kids are King, Fast Food Franchises, Car Culture, Modern Life, Travel and Amusement, and Public Services and Safety.  Inside these chapters each two page spread is a curated collection of similar mascots, be it because of design or sub category.  For example, in the Fast Food section there’s the wonderful couple of pages that feature early illustrations of the Chuck E. Cheese and Showbiz characters (in this case using imagery from various promo buttons as seen above.)

The pages above also underline another aspect that I really love about his book which is that there was a lot of time and care taken with the artwork to showcase the actual illustrations as they were originally designed.  At first this might seem like a pretty simple thing, but I know from 10 years of sharing ephemera on this site that it requires a lot more than just snapping pictures or scanning old packaging or items.  There was a tremendous amount of care taken with cleaning up the artwork so that it could be presented in a very crisp and clean fashion enabling the reader to fully appreciated the design which I love.  It’s this attention to detail in the presentation that makes this book an indispensable resource for graphic designers, both for inspiration and research.

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Another aspect that I was very pleasantly surprised by was the sheer volume of mascots and characters presented.  Being a collector myself and having been steeping in this world for over 30 years you get to a point where it feels like you’ve seen it all.  Even though I was born around the middle of the period this book covers, I’ve spent years thumbing through old magazines, deconstructing the products found in the backgrounds of old movies and television shows, and scouring the internet for examples of product packaging and I still was only familiar with about half of what’s presented in Mr. Product.  Flipping through the book I noticed a mascot I that looked sort of like the Fruit Stripes Gum Zebra, Yipes, but was instead the Beech-Nut Gum-Fetti Giraffe.  Turns out the two were both offshoots of the same company and might be representing the same gum, but this is something I never stumbled across in 30 years of paying attention to this kind of stuff.

In the photo above you can also see a really cool piece of artwork for Count Cola.  Again, longtime readers of this site know that I adore Halloween and monster branding, and I hard never stumbled across that particular brand of cola or its awesome cartoon vampire mascot.  I even Googled it, looking for pictures or info about Count Cola and was only able to find one tiny pixelated illustration, so this book has some really great obscure artwork from Dotz’s collection.

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If you’re a fan of design, product branding or artwork, the Mr. Product books should be mandatory purchases.  Not only will they provide a wealth of inspiration, but for those that think they’ve seen it all, I’m pretty sure this book will prove otherwise and be a very welcome addition to your collection.  Dotz and Husain have really outdone themselves with this volume and as soon as I started flipping through the book I immediately logged into Amazon and ordered the first one as well.  My hope is that sometime soon the duo will reconvene and put together a third volume that covers the latter half of the 80s and the 90s to finish off the archive of a century of advertising mascots.

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Investigating the Young Sherlock Holmes novelization…

4461391534_02cce86892_oThis past month it was my turn to pick the movie up for discussion on the Cult Film Club podcast (the show I co-host with my buds Paxton Holley and Jaime Hood), and since we’re in the dead of winter and I just moved up to Maryland and am experiencing boatloads of snow firsthand I wanted to choose something that was sufficiently wintery. I landed on the 1986 flick Young Sherlock Holmes which fit the bill weather-wise and also is a hugely nostalgic classic to me which is a lot like curling up in a blanket with a warm bowl of soup. I had a lot of fun chatting about the film on the show and digging through my Starlog archives to find a couple of vintage articles on the film that I shared over at the CFC website. This reminded me that I have one other Young Sherlock Holmes collectible, the novelization by Alan Arnold.

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I’ve been meaning to crack the cover on this book for a while since it felt a bit heftier than your typical movie novelization which usually means that there are a few deleted or alternate scenes included. So this past weekend I finally curled up in bed and read the book cover to cover. First and foremost, much like the movie itself, the novelization is a love letter to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in both style and tone. The whole Young Sherlock Holmes project was an interesting exercise in that everyone involved, from the actors and set designers to the writers and director, took pains to create a piece of fiction that felt like it was ripped straight out of the Holmes cannon. There are a lot of subtle details in the story that point to classic aspects of the character (both Doyle’s version as well as the many film and television adaptations that preceded this new story), none of which I feel beat the viewer over the head or effect the plot.

So the first thing you notice about the novelization is that it’s narrated in the voice of John Watson; just as all but four of the original Holmes stories were. The movie is also framed with an older Watson’s narration, but it’s used sparingly, mostly during scene transitions and never framing scenes where the main characters aren’t present. The book on the other hand is completely in the voice of Watson which can be a bit old when you consider that there are a handful of scenes where neither Watson, Holmes nor any living witnesses were present to see the events firsthand (such as the case of Bently Bobster’s unfortunate freak-out and eventual suicide that opens the story.) So it leaves the reader to assume that those segments are reconstructed or “fabricated” to fill in the blanks for the sake of the narrative.

That small gripe aside, Watson’s narration in the novelization is so rich with detail and anecdotal asides that it becomes a wholly different experience than a simple adaptation of the Chris Columbus script. In fact, the book is so densely packed that if one was compelled to research every anecdote Arnold mentions in the narration it might take you a couple years to finish the book. All in all, the majority of the differences between the novel and the film lay in these random observations and intensified descriptions of the locales and character backgrounds. Again, going back to the Bobster sequence there is a lot more detail into that character’s background, how he became so well off and a rather lengthy bit about his love of fine dining (and why he ultimately chose the restaurant where the film opens and he suffers from his first trippy hallucination where his pheasant dinner comes alive and attacks him.)

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But there are some fun little deleted bits, stuff that feels very much in line with showcasing Holmes as a junior detective in training. We get a bit of this in the final film with stuff like the ongoing bear riddle between Holmes and Watson and the missing fencing trophy challenge between Holmes and Dudley, but there were more little brain teasers peppered in. For instance, when Watson and Holmes are in Chemistry class and Elizabeth taps on the schoolroom window and hands Sherlock a note. In the film we see her hand the note to Holmes and we watch as he reads it, but the contents of the note aren’t revealed. In the novelization (and I’m assuming the script as well) we find out that the note is actually a puzzle that reveals a meeting place for Sherlock to find Elizabeth later. It reads:

“Two brains merge into one,
Where the leaves of knowledge are stored
Near the men of dancing words
When the clock becomes a perfect L.”

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After Holmes explains that the note means for him to meet her for a study session (brains merging) in the library (leaves of knowledge = books) poetry sections (dancing words) at 3:00pm (hands of the clock forming an “L”), he then proceeds to take a vial of chemicals that Watson was working with, adds some more stuff to the mixture and creates a dazzling fireworks display in the classroom to liven it up (if you remember from the film that professor is rather dull and sort of senile.) Again, nothing essential or earth shattering, just little bits that make the story way richer and fun to read. In fact, there’s another throwaway line in this segment that I found pretty awesome. So after Holmes lights up the chemistry class he and Watson make their way to the Library to meet up with Elizabeth. But Watson notes that they make a quick stop to pick up a newspaper and a bottle of cough syrup (which Holmes takes a large swig of) at the apothecary. For those versed in the lore of Holmes you’ll note that the character was an addict, and the fact that Arnold has him as a young lad starting down that road already drinking cough syrup is sort of fascinating. I highly doubt it that this made it into Columbus’ script, though now that I think about it there was that weird sexual moment in the Goonies novelization where Andy has an orgasm at an odd time. I attributed that bit of insanity to the author of that book, James Kahn, but maybe I’m not giving Chris Columbus’ scripts enough credit in the weird adult content department. Guess I need to track down copies of both of the scripts (Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes) and find out for sure. To round out these small differences in the novelization, in the scene where Holmes meets up with Elizabeth he starts to explain why he was late and she stops him and then using the skills Holmes evidently already taught her she proceeds to retrace his exact steps much in the same manner that Holmes first guessed Watson’s name and attributes when they first met. Arnold and Columbus were definitely building up Elizabeth as Holmes’ equal which makes his admiration for her and the effect of her ultimate fate that much more poignant.

As far as other differences that I found interesting, there was one that I was surprised did not make the translations from script/film to novelization. This one is a rather larger spoiler, so if you haven’t seen the film, read at your own risk. In a very cool example of an after credits stinger scene, at the end of the film we see that the main villain of the story, Professor Rathe, didn’t perish in the icy river after the duel with Holmes. He made it out somehow and after a long carriage ride through the snowy woods he happens upon a rustic inn and rents a room. As he signs in on the ledger he uses a new name, Moriarty.

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This whole segment is not included in the novelization which makes me wonder if the idea to include this was made during filming. Maybe the director, Barry Levinson, or the producer, Steven Spielberg, was really happy with how the filming was going and they decided to create the stinger to point to a potential sequel (something that would unfortunately never come to pass.)

All in all Alan Arnold’s adaptation of Young Sherlock Holmes is another shining example of how cool these 80s era film novelizations can be. For folks who love movies to death and who cherish finding all sorts of little obscure odds and ends that enrich the experience of watching their favorite flicks, novelizations are a freaking goldmine.

Monster Squad in Print, part 2…

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nEarlier in the month I shared a series of Monster Squad articles and interviews that appeared in the pages of Fangoria and Starlog magazine back in 1987, and as an addendum to that post I wanted to share a couple more vintage magazine articles that debuted after the film had already been released in the US.  As much as I love reading “lead-up” articles and interviews it next to impossible to avoid that pervasive sense of optimism and awe that comes with what basically amounts to PR and publicity (both from the perspective of the interviewer and interviewee. ” Of course <insert current film> is the best work I’ve <insert director> ever done.”  “Of course I loved ever second working with the actors, studio, marketing department, etc, etc, etc…”  It’s the nature of the game.

The best thoughts on a film come later, after it’s been digested by the audience and there is some distance to reflect and see how things fit into the bigger picture.  Unfortunately it’s rare that we get to see articles written from this perspective that aren’t 20 or 30 years or more out from the events; we hardly ever get articles written a year or two later that reflect on the success or failure, and if we do it’s usually only a postscript to the artist’s newest work.  That’s why this Starburst Magazine article from volume 10, issue 12 published in 1988 is fascinating.  Though the article is written to support the ’88 release of the film in the UK and Europe, Dekker has already felt the brunt of the US box office failure and is living in that moment of clarity with some distance and lessons learned.  It doesn’t hurt that the magazine is mainly a UK publication because that probably freed him up a bit to air some grievances…

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I also included a review there at the end that was originally published in Starburst Magazine vol. 10, issue 10 that is way more favorable than the critical reviews in the US.

I thought I’d also take a moment to share the cover article from Scary Monsters Magazine, issue 2 which was still being printed as a zine back in 1992.  There’s not a lot to the article except some straight forward clinical listing of plot and who the cast and crew are, but it’s still a fun bit of Monster Squad ephemera…

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The only other 80s era magazine that I am aware of that definitely had a Monster Squad article was issue 10 of Samhian (again, I think this was out of the UK), but I have yet to snag a copy for my collection.  Are there any other articles from the 80s that you folks are aware of?

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Now for today’s trading card…

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Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #5, Phoebe “The Pheb” Crenshaw!

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The Writing Squad, taking a look at the Script for The Monster Squad

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nOne of the pieces of my Monster Squad collection that I love the most is a copy of the script that Fred Dekker and Shane Black wrote back in 1986.  I love digging into novelizations and scripts to see what differences there were between the initial idea and the final films, and since MS never had a novelization (a crime!), the script is the best source for variation and deleted scenes.  The copy I have is dated July 30th, ’86 and is marked as the third draft…

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From what I have pieced together via old Fangoria interviews, commentaries and DVD featurettes, the initial idea Dekker had was to pit the Little Rascals versus the Universal Monsters a la Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.  When he came up with the idea he was hip deep working on both Night of the Creeps and writing a script that would eventually become If Looks Could Kill, so even though he had studio interest in the concept, he took the ideas he’d written and handed them off to his college buddy Shane Black to take a stab at writing the script…

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Black had been bombing out in his attempts to start his acting career, and he’s just sold a script about a phantom platoon in Vietnam, so he thought, what the hell and decided to sit down and write The Monster Squad.  As an exercise he decided to write the script in the same voice and style as Dekker who had a unique outlook on scriptwriting that is very unconventional in the industry…

Shane BlackBasically Dekker liked to address “the audience” and producers in his scripts, including a ton of asides that not only describe the tone and setting, but give back-story and also predict the way people should react to the scenes.  So reading a Dekker script is anything but dry!  Here’s some examples of how he would do that..

Example of the Script addressing the Audience 1

Example of the Script addressing the Audience 2

Example of the Script addressing the Audience 3

I love how the duo describe EJ & Derek as kids who will grow up, get ugly and sell shitty used cars, or the way they invoke the popcorn munching excitement of the finale…

Anyway, Black’s first draft of the script was apparently amazingly ambitious where he threw in everything he and Dekker would want to see in an Our Gang Vs. Monsters movie regardless of the potential budget to bring these ideas to fruition.  So for instance, in the opening of the movie when Van Helsing comes to vanquish Dracula he’s sailing in on zeppelins with an army of torch wielding villagers assaulting the castle.  I’d love to get my hands on a copy of that original draft.  The two then compared notes and then Dekker took a another pass at editing down and tightening the script and eventually the two agreed on the draft that I was able to procure.

At the end of the day what ended up in this third draft is very much what ends up on film, though there are a handful of deleted and alternate scenes that are pretty darn cool.  Today I want to focus on some of the alternate versions of scenes and I’ll come back tomorrow and share a bunch of the cool deleted segments.  So, in terms of alternate, I guess what I’m getting at is that some scenes played slightly different from script to film and were either slightly more intense or there were characters that end up slightly different from page to screen.  For instance, Eugene was envisioned as a much more timid character, one that has “no business” being in a monster club as we see in the descriptive text from this deleted scene (alright, I’m including one deleted scene, but not because it’s particularly as a scene, it’s the descriptive stuff about Eugene that stuck out to me…)

Eugene is the character most different from the movie

So, as Sean alludes in the final film, the rest of the Squad ends up actually going to see Groundhog Day Part 12 at the drive-in and we get this short joky bit with the kids in Eugene’s father’s car.  He’s described as wearing cutesy Pooh Bear PJs and is scared to death, which is not how he ultimately ends up coming across in the final film.  From the Bedroom breakdown I did we can fully see that he’s a fan of some violent comic book characters (Dreadstar, the Punisher and Wolverine), and instead of Pooh Bear he prefers Robotech PJs.  Not only that but nothing really seems to phase the kid outside of an actual monster hanging out in his closet or all hell breaking loose in the final sequence.  I love how he dead pans to Sean that the “Creature stole my Twinkie…” or that “Mummy came in my house…”  The Eugene described in the script would have tendered his resignation to the club as soon as the Mummy shuffled out of his window that night…

Another deviation from script to screen was the whole naked photo of Patrick’s sister business.  In the film, aside from Rudy ogling her through a camera set up in the clubhouse, the whole thing plays off as a perfect accident as Frankenstein’s Monster accidentally snaps a photo of her undressing that Rudy later has processed and they use it to eventually blackmail her into being their virginal incantation reader for the final showdown.  In the script there is no accident about acquiring that photo.  In fact, it’s all part of the plan…

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This stuff plays way more into the Our Gang origins of the Squad as they try their damnedest to get a photo of Patrick’s sister naked…

Alternate sequence of the naked photo 2

It’s eventually Horace that snaps the picture as the rest of the gang has to literally drag a horny monster away from Patrick’s house!

There are also a lot of sequences in the script that are way more intense than they would eventually end up in the finished film, particularly during the final fight in the town square.  For instance, in the bit where Horace faces off against the Gillman, in the final film he gets trapped between the monster and the locked door of the town magazine shop (where EJ & Derek are hiding.)  Horace of course realizes he can’t run and blows the creature away.  But in the script this plays out a bit different as he uses the shotgun to first decimate the glass door of the shop in one last ditch effort to get away, and also to take his anger out on the bullies…

More Intense Scene Hoarce Final Battle

I get why this was toned down, I mean the idea of one kid holding a shotgun on another is a little crazy, but man would I have loved to see EJ pee his pants…

A lot of the sequences involving Dracula in that final fight play out more intensely too, including the face-off between him and the Monster…

More Intense Scene Frankenstein and Dracula Final Battle

This sequence not only has Dracula hit so hard that he flies up and impales himself on a large cross (instead of an iron fence spear), but it also reveals that the Monster was more mortally wounded (is that possible?) in the old house explosion.  It describes him as having his face caved in!  Ouch!  Bo-gus, indeed.

Lastly today I wanted to point to just how brutal the final fight between Sean and Dracula was scripted…

More Intense Scene Sean and Dracula Final

I mean holy crap!  That is a fight.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with a look at a bunch of deleted scenes from the script, but until then, here’s today’s trading card!

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Today’s card is #7, Frankenstein’s Monster!

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Fangoria Interviews The Monster Squad!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nShortly after I first saw The Monster Squad I discovered one of the magazine staples of my youth, Fangoria.  At the time, around 1987-88, there were no shops around me that carried magazine back issues and my parents weren’t keen on me ordering from the Fangoria back issue catalog, so I never got a chance to get a hold of any of the ones that had Monster Squad articles.  It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s and I managed to procure a rather large collection of the periodical that I finally got to sink my teeth into a handful of issues that covered my favorite film.  I thought it would be fun to share those articles today.  Also, this is the perfect opportunity to point to my friend Paxton’s Countdown this year as he’s spending the entire month celebrating that glorious horror magazine.  So head on over to the Cavalcade of Awesome and check out what Pax has in store.

First up today I have issue number 61 from February 1987 that features an interview with Fred Dekker on the set of Night of the Creeps.  Though the majority of the article focuses on Creeps, there are a couple of early tidbits about The Monster Squad and Dekker always makes for a great interview subject because of his no nonsense attitude and honesty.

Fangoria 61 Cover

Next up is issue number 66 from August of 1987, the month that Monster Squad hit theater screens.  This issue features another interview with Dekker and has some fun promotional and deleted scene stills.  You can also clearly see that Dekker was very unhappy with the management of Creeps by the production company and is so much happier now that he’s on the MS set and things seems to be going much better.

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The follow up issue, number 67 from September of 87 features another Squad article, though this one is a feature interview with Dekker’s co-writer on the film Shane Black.  There’s some fun insight into the writing process between the two of them in this article, and an explanation of the tone and presentation that their script takes (which is really fun to read and very unconventional.)  I also made the connection that the character of Detective Sapir is a reference to one of Black’s writing heroes Richard Sapir who co-created and wrote the Destroyer series of novels (with the character Remo Williams.)

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The last Fangoria article I have is from issue number 70 from January of 1988 and features and interview with Stan Winston’s crew of special effects artists.  The article is half about their work on Pumpkinhead, but the other half delves into their work on The Monster Squad.  Kinda fun to meet the guys behind the art…

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As a special bonus I also have an article from the September 1987 issue of Starlog (#122), which features an interview with Dracula himself, Duncan Regehr…

122 Starlog 1

Now for today’s trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Since there was never any MS merchandise produced, specifically a Topps trading card set, I thought it would be fun to make a mini set of 80s-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time. So come back each evening for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #19, The Amulet!

19 Amulet F-B

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Wait, there are four Ghostbusters?!?

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Poor Winston Zeddmore and Ernie Hudson, it seems like outside of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon and the various comic book series Winston/Hudson is always getting the shaft.  Whether it’s being dropped from 95% of the merchandising of the first film not appearing on the posters or on some of the home video releases over the years, the fact that Hudson is snubbed for most of the film’s original trailer (there’s even a montage of everyone who is starring in the film and when it gets to Hudson, the footage is there but only silence from the announcer), or the fact that Hudson was even passed over when he auditioned to reprise the character in the cartoon for crying out loud.  Both the character and the actor can not catch a break.  I’m surprised they didn’t put William Atherton on the poster just to rub it in a little more…

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Well, I’ve been aware of these slights for awhile, but I never realized just how deep this snubbing went.  Last week I found that copy of Starlog (issue 98 from September of 1985) and while flipping through it there was a spotlight on Ernie Hudson, specifically in reference to his recent stint as one of the Ghostbusters.  At first I was just skimming the article because I thought it was probably a fluff piece, but the more I read the more I realized that even though he was overjoyed to work on the film and is happy with the final result, the Ghostbusters he helped make was not the one he signed on to star in.  In fact, if the version of the script that swayed Hudson to sign on had been filmed things would be a lot different!

Starlog 98

Sigh, Hudson doesn’t even get a blurb on the cover…

First of all, the way Hudson frames it in this article the character of Winston was in the film longer, originally hired at the outset with Janene when the trio of Stanz, Spengler, and Venkman open the business.  But aside from that there was originally a much richer back story for the character including the fact that he was ex-military, and not just some random guy off the street looking for a job.  He always felt like the odd man out in the films since he wasn’t a scientist like the other three (well Venkman is debatable.)  On top of those slights, some of his bits from the original script were dished out to other characters during filming.  For instance Winston was originally the character that was to be cornered by Slimer in the hotel hallway, which of course went to Bill Murray.  Then later in the film it was Zeddmore that had the Stay Pufy brain fart that brings the Destroyer in the form of a giant marshmallow man!  Well, at least he still gets the “big Twinkie” line…

You can read the article for yourself below…

So, what do you think, has Winston been getting the shaft?

I’m basically still Chunk at heart

For the majority of my life I was, well, let’s say pretty husky.  As a very young kid I was actually pretty skinny, say up until I was six or seven, but starting with my family’s first big move across state, and then all over the east coast things got a little difficult for me and well for a bunch of reasons food became my comfort.  But I’m not really sitting down to write about that as much as describing an aspect that contributed to my personality as a kid.  Moving around a lot, overweight, and to be quite honest I was one hell of a weird kid.  My mom has always kept an unusual schedule, sleeping during the day when my sister and I were at school and my dad at work, and then staying up till all hours of the morning watching late night cable.  When she would go grocery shopping it was usually at one of the stores in the area that was open 24 hours and she liked to hit them up between 10:00pm to 12:00am to avoid a bunch of other customers and to basically have a stress free experience.  When she went on the weekends I’d tag along and wander around the vast empty store, browsing the toy aisle for 45 minutes talking to myself out loud and making mental lists of all the stuff I would ask for on my upcoming birthdays and Christmas.  From the outside I’m sure I appeared pretty damn weird, but I was fully aware of it and for the most part didn’t care how I looked or seemed to others.  I was entertaining myself and that’s all that mattered.

So when relating to characters from pop culture, it should come as no surprise that I’ve always felt that Chunk (Jeff Cohen) from the Goonies is more or less my spirit animal…

Goonies

I was never great at making friends though I always managed to, and when I did I tended to over compensate, exaggerate and be kind of a handful just like the loveable Lawrence.  In my defense Michael Jackson, nor his sister, ever came to my house to use the bathroom…but I saw Stephen King in a Maine bookstore once on vacation (sure I did…)  I wouldn’t say I was using the character as a role model, but I sure did feel his pain whenever he’d spaz out or make a fool of himself…

Chunk a Mess in ActionTruffle Shuffle

I also had a weird habit of wearing Halloween costumes was past the point of being “acceptable” for normal attire.  I mean I’d be hanging out in the house dressed up in my sweet ninja gear during Christmas or I’d be tooling around the neighborhood in my “G.I. Joe fatigues” and beret for instance…

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…so later on in life when I found out about Jeff Cohen’s penchant for waring weird and wacky headgear both on and off the set of Goonies, I totally related.  Part of it was that need to perform, part just trying to over compensate.

Jeff Cohen Hat Obsession

Anyway, this is all a lot of lead up to the fact that I just found this old back issue of Starlog magazine in a used bookshop this past week and I was overjoyed to see that it included an interview with Jeff Cohen (and Corey Feldman, but Jeff steals the show)!  Usually these articles only focused on the adult actors or crew, so it’s pretty rad to find one that was concentrating on the kids, but wasn’t fluff from an 80s teeny-bop magazine.  Hope everyone enjoys reading this as much as I did…

Starlog 98

Again, from the article Cohen has a quote about his character Chunk that really echos my childhood experience as a pseudo-Chunk…

“Chunk is too much, but he doesn’t care.  He likes it.  He doesn’t like being fat, but he likes having his own personality.  He’s a little bit flashy, wears plaid pants and a big Hawaiian shirt and struts around…he’s a klutz and a liar.  He lies to his friends, but nothing to hurt ‘em.”

Anyway, the interview is all over the place as both Feldman and Cohen are hyped up and excited, but I still think it’s a fun read and a great snapshot of these two actors in the prime of their Goonies experience.  So glad I found this…

This book is, well, RAD!

4461391534_02cce86892_oIn 1986 my family had yet to own a VCR and every weekend we’d trek out to the little mom & pop video rental store next to the Goodings on Red Bud road in Castleberry Florida and we’d rent a machine and each pick out a title to take home. Invariably I would always end up with the same two VHS tapes, one in either hand, trying to decide what flick I was going to re-watch for the hundredth time. In my left hand was Red Dawn, a film I could endlessly watch for C. Thomas Howell alone, and in my right was always Rad. 4 out of 5 times I would walk out of the store with the copy of Rad. I can’t explain exactly why I was drawn to the film so much, but at 10 years-old Rad spoke to me like no other film. I mean the box art alone was always enough to get me excited with the crazy paint-splash font on the logo, to the wild mix of purples, reds, and hot pink that was impossible for the eye to pass up when scanning the video shelves.

RAD VHSI’d usually wait until Saturday morning to watch the flick, right after the cartoon blocks and I’d consumed my weight in Capt’n Crunch. Then I slip it in the hulking rented VCR with the top-loading eject door and wait for those familiar opening keyboard notes and guitar strums from John Farnham’s “Break the Ice” to start up. Then it was and hour and a half of BMX bliss, after which I’d frantically run out of the house, grab my bike and attempt to recreate the freestyle bike tricks in the opening and closing credits (which was a lot harder than it looked not only because I was clumsy, but because I didn’t have a true BMX bike at the time so my handlebars and front wheel could only rotate so far without getting tangled in the handbrake cords.) I imagined I was Cru Jones as I tooled around the neighborhood on my red and white Huffy, racing imaginary cops on motorcycles and speeding down the huge hill in my subdivision as if it was my last shot to qualify for Helltrack.

Fast forward 28 years and I’m still enraptured with the movie Rad, still constantly stick it in the DVD player (I have a cherished bootleg copy that literally stopped playing a couple months back to my shock and horror), and I still want to be Cru Jones on some level. Is Rad the best movie of the 80s? No. Is it one of my personal favorites regardless of the visible goofs and some questionable acting (I’m looking at you Bart Connor – just kidding, well, kind of)? Yeah, yeah it is. One of the things I’ve tried to do since I got online in the late 90s/early 2000s was to check in on the cast members, in particular Bill Allen who played Christopher “Cru-sier” Jones in the flick. At some point about 6-7 years ago I stumbled upon his personal website, which at the time was the one place besides all the bootleggers on ebay that was keeping the flame of Rad lit. So imagine my surprise this past month when I saw that he was getting ready to release his memoir titled My Rad Career. Floored doesn’t begin to describe how excited that bit of news made me, and I was (or imagine I was) one of the first in line to order a copy in mid-May.

Bill Allen MemoirAs soon as I got it in the mail I began to devour it.  It’s a quick and dirty recounting of Mr. Allen’s 30 year career in and outside of Hollywood.  It touches on everything from his time spent guesting on TV from sitcoms like Family Ties to series like Amazing Stories, to the films he’s worked on or starred in like his first role in And They’re Off (where he met a young George Clooney also doing his first film.)  The book features some interesting and hilarious anecdotes about Hollywood’s behind the scenes, including Clooney’s penchant for practical jokes, what Brad Pitt was like when he was first starting out, and the grueling and life-threatening truth behind the whirlwind military training the actors received when preparing for the film Born on the Fourth of July.  The chapters about his friendship with Brandon Lee leading up to Lee’s accidental death on the set of The Crow are especially touching and had me in tears.

My favorite aspects of the memoir center on his time spent filming Rad.  I’ve read a lot about the flick over the years but there were aspects of the film that I never realized like the fact that Bart Connor was in pretty bad shape and in such pain after his gold medal winning Olympic outings that he could barely walk let alone dance very well.  It speaks to why he tended to be shot from the waist up in the film or sitting.  Little details like this really enhance the viewing experience for me as it puts the movie in a whole new context and almost lets me view it with fresh eyes.  So if you were ever curious what it was like to make out with Lori Loughlin, the down side of ass-sliding, or what it was like working with Hal Needham and a bunch of world class BMX riders (like Eddie Fiola, Jose Yanez. and Martin Aparijo), this book is a must read.

Allen’s writing style is very conversational which makes the book a very easy and satisfying experience, and makes it feel like he’s sitting in a recliner across from you sharing his time in the spotlight.  For a life-long fan of Rad like myself, I was very grateful to get a chance to read about Bill Allen and his adventures from the man himself.

You can order your copy of My Rad Career directly from Mr. Allen at his site.

Apparently 8 is the magic number…

So, in just a couple of weeks Branded in the 80s will turn 8 years old.  Though it’s kind of arbitrary, we tend to focus on the “big” anniversaries in the five-year increment territory, but I had a couple of milestones I really wanted to hit when I started this project.  The first was making it to the seven year mark because I have a special fondness for that particular digit.  The second is marking the 8th birthday of the site because again, it has a special meaning to me.  I first dreamed of having my own little spot on the internet back around 1998.  I’d been farting around the interwebs via AOL and Compuserve and I really wanted to stake out a small piece of the digital landscape to do something.  My best friend, who was in the midst of getting his computer science degree at the time, had just recently built a website for a class project and he promised me he’d help me build one of my own.  It never materialized, though a lot of that had to do with my not knowing exactly what it was that I wanted to do with a website.  Regardless, that marks the beginning of what would eventually become Branded, and it took me eight long years of brainstorming and procrastinating before I eventually settled on what I wanted to do.  So in the back of my brain I’ve always hoped that I’d be able to keep this thing going at least as long as it took me to get it off the ground.  Well, mission accomplished I guess.  As for my next milestone, well, I don’t really have one I guess.  I’m kind of curious to see what will happen at the eleven year mark considering that will mean that I would have spent slightly more time talking about the 80s than the decade itself lasted.

Anyway, when I look back at where the site started and where it really took off for me the one aspect that kind of changed everything was when I started investing in a pretty stupidly large collection of 80s stickers to scan and share.  Part of this came out of wanting to acquire a bunch of the stickers I had as a kid, but another was that there was a distinct lack of sticker scans floating around on the internet and I felt like it was an opportunity to contribute a small portion to the digital nostalgic pop culture zeitgeist.  One of the aspects I love about the nostalgia-minded community is the eagerness to share the cool junk that we love.  So it was pretty neat timing that while I was thinking back on all of this I was approached by the cool lady behind the rad RainbowBrite.co.uk website with to help share some fun stuff.

cologo01She obviously runs a pretty neat Rainbow Brite fan site, so she acquired a bunch of info and ephemera to post up there.  But in her research and collecting she’s amassed a bunch of other cool non-RB stuff that she felt needed to get out there.  So she graciously offered to send me some scans of a pretty neat 1985 Mattel Events Guide to share here at Branded.  Tying this in a bit more into my silly milestone is that I just happened to turn eight the year this Event guide was published (seriously, there has to be something to this, numerology-wise…)

Mattel Events Guide 1

These event guides were sent out to retailers as a way for Mattel to bolster excitement for their product lines and I’m sure to secure a larger market share of the retail market by encouraging stores to increase orders and devote more shelf and peg space to Mattel stuff.  They did this by helping to host local in-store meet and greet events with some of Mattel’s most popular brands and characters.  So if you were lucky enough to shake hands with Skeletor at a Toys R Us back int he day, most likely this was one of the guides that the store had to help them schedule and promote the event…

Mattel Events Guide 2

It’s really cool to get a glimpse into this aspect of the marketing and promotion of some of our favorite toys from back in the 80s.  Not only is it cool to see some rad artwork that only exists to promote these in-store events (like the neat illustration of the Hot Wheels play area that was shipped to the store), but it’s also awesome to see and read about some of the swag for the event that was either given away (like the Hot Wheels kid’s drivers licenses) or became a “free item with purchase” like the super cool Hot Wheels combination watch/wallet below!

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1985 was also a great year for Mattel toys because they were hip deep in the Marvel Secret Wars toy line…

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What really struck me about this Secret Wars event is that it wasn’t just geared towards boys.  Mattel makes it clear that “boys AND girls” will received a free water color poster.  That kind of inclusion back in the 80s seems pretty rare, but then again, Mattel worked on some pretty progressive toy lines like these two favorites, Princess of Power and Masters of the Universe!  I mean I know most of the boys who were into He-Man were also secretly into She-Ra…

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Man, I feel like I missed out so much on these in-store events.  I never managed to attend one and after reading through this guide I feel like I missed out on some amazing experiences and swag.  So, I wonder if a little boy could have been initiated into the Legion of Good receiving a free golden power ring and poster?  I sure as hell hope so.  Also, holy crap, a 15 foot high replica of the Crystal Castle?!?  How awesome would that have been to see?  I wonder if the stores had to ship them back or of they were ordered to destroy them.  I have to imagine that one of these must have made it into a private collection.  Hell, at that size it would practically be big enough for kids to play in as a fort.  The mid boggles at the possibilities…

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Apparently for ’85 Mattel introduced new full body costumes for He-Man and Skeletor.  I’ve seen photos of buff guys in the He-Man duds before, but never a full body costume like this complete with toy-accurate mask and all.  I like that they even managed to replicate the spiny fin on Skeletor’s wrists (like on the toy…)  Sadly there was no 15 foot Castle Greyskull or Snake Mountain, but there were some pretty rad glow in the dark posters!

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A lot of this stuff has to be pretty rare.  I searched for awhile and couldn’t find and example of the glow in the dark Masters of the Universe poster (not even on He-Man.org!)  So it;s cool at least to get a glimpse into this promotional world to know that this stuff exists.  FYI, there’s a bit more to this Event Guide, specifically the Rainbow Brite section, but if you want to see that head on over to the cool RainbowBrite.co.uk to find out what was in that in-store event.  Thanks again to them for sharing this rad piece of 80s toy ephemera and helping to make the nostalgia community that much richer!

Mattel Events Guide 8