Category Archives: Branded in the 80s

Craig Nelson’s Mt. Rushmore of Monsters

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nThe first time I saw the main US poster for The Monster Squad it was in the small black and white ad in the Arts & Entertainment Movie section of the Orlando Sentinel just over 27 years ago.  Even in that tiny format I was excited by the design and the artwork, and it wouldn’t be until almost 20 years later when I realized who was responsible for designing and painting the image.  Craig Nelson is a prolific poster artist have painted works for movies like Slapshot, Homeward Bound, Moscow on the Hudson, John Wayne’s The Cowboys, and Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie, but his work I am the most familiar with is obviously The Monster Squad.

US Poster

The idea of working all of the monsters into the night sky framing the Squad as they loiter on Dracula’s hearse is such a cool idea.  It’s almost literally the Mt. Rushmore of monsters.  But this poster wasn’t the only idea Nelson had as there were a couple of earlier concept roughs that illustrate the range that the studio was looking for.  First up, let’s take a look at another variation on the same basic idea, except instead of arranging the monster’s visages as a giant cloud mountain, they were more general floating otherworldly heads in the storm behind the kids…

Craig Nelson Alternate Comp 2

The same basic gist is there, but it’s not nearly as effective at conveying the epic nature of the movie that the finished piece achieves. Even still, it’s really cool to get to see a rough variation that would lead to the final piece.  This second concept was a much more tongue in cheek pass at the poster featuring a rubber dart and a completely different tagline…

Craig Nelson Alternate Comp 1

Honestly, the concept isn’t horrible, I actually think it’s cute, but it would have probably hurt the film even more than the unfortunate marketing already did. Again, it’s awesome to get a chance to see what was being kicked around before the final version was approved and painted.  I wonder how many other ideas were bandied about?

Also, since I just realized today that Mr. Nelson also did the fantastic painting for the Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie poster, here’s that work as well.  I totally saw these two flicks as a double bill of sorts on August 22nd, 1987.  I had no idea Nelson did both posters!

Cover Small

So, on to today’s Monster Squad 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 #15, The Monster Squad Clubhouse!

15 Clubhouse F-B

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Design Squad: The Stan Winston Creature Concepts for The Monster Squad

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nWhen it came to breathing life into the monsters, Fred Dekker and the production sought out one of the masters in the field of special effects makeup and design, the legendary Stan Winston.  Having just come of work on films like The Thing, Terminator and Aliens, Winston and his stable of artists were taking Hollywood by storm.  With The Monster Squad, Winston left most of the heavy lifting up to his studio, in particular artists such as Steve Wang and Matt Rose who handled the Gillman, Tom Woodruff Jr. who took on Frankenstein’s Monster, Alec Gillis who took the reigns on Dracula’s bat transformations, contacts and fangs, Shane Mahan who worked on the Mummy, and John Rosengrant and Shannon Shea who handled the Wolfman…

effects artists

Matt and Steve

But Stan was far from hands off on the project.  Like the director on a movie set he was providing direction, guidance and conceptual design.  Here’s a look at some of his sketches for the monsters, starting with his ideas for the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster…

Wolfman and Frank

Part of what Winston was trying to achieve was to modernize the look of the creatures, but he also wanted to distance these designs from those of the classic Universal monsters since those likenesses were copyrighted.  So with Frankenstein’s monster the flat top head and features that resemble Boris Karloff and Jack Pierce’s design had to be avoided.  So he rounded the head and made the sutures on the forehead more prominent.  Later, when Woodruff started sculpting and augmenting Winston’s concept he’d make the monster look more natural and would shift the neck bolts to the temples.

With the Wolfman Winston wanted to avoid making the character into an outright werewolf, still retaining the feel of a man, yet bringing more of the wolf into the design of the face, straying from the Pierce Lon Chaney Jr. look.  He did this by adding a small snout and making the eyes more wide set.  He also shifted the ears to the top of the head.  In the end the design sit on the line in between Universal’s incarnation and the designs in the Joe Dante Howling film.

For his Mummy design, Winston made the creature more decrepit than Karloff and Pierce’s incarnation by accentuating the sunken features to an extent where the face is almost a living skull.  He also upped the gore/decay factor a bit by having the lips shrunken and drawn back from the teeth on his left side giving the impression of a seriously old, dried up monster.  Mahan would again take this design even further and make the mummy a true ancient walking corpse…

Stan Winston Mummy Concept Drawing

Probably the most drastically altered character in the group would be the Gillman.  Winston’s initial pass at the creature was very alien and way more toned down then the character’s design would become…

Stan Winston Creature Concept Drawing

On his second pass he accentuated the amphibian features, added prominent top and side head fins, and he gave the creature fangs.

Gillman

As a small bit of trivia, it’s said that John Rosengrant sculpted the Wolfman’s face to resemble that of Winston.  I don’t know, what do you guys think?

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Now for today’s card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #17, Wolfman’s got Nards

17 Nards F-B

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My name is Robare, Shawn Robare Advertising Detective…

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nThis past Friday a super cool Branded in the 80s reader from Spain (Emilio D.) sent me a bunch of pictures of cool Spanish VHS and DVD releases of The Monster Squad in response to my Dead Media Library article showcasing a bunch of the home video releases of the film.  Included in the batch of pictures was also an interesting Spanish newspaper advertisement from 1988 (that he found here) for the movie that was a little “mixed up”.  I wanted to take a second and examine it for a bit because there’s some really fun aspects going on in this 26 year old piece of amazing ephemera…

Spain-Monster-Squad-Ad

So first and foremost, the Spanish title of the film is Una Pandilla Alucinante (also the title used in Latin America), which roughly translates to An Amazing Gang (squad is Escuadrón, which we’ll see in some other posters later in the week by the way.)  Right off the bat (pun fully intended) Monster Squad super fans will notice the font in the title is the same for the North American release, but if you scroll down to the bottom you can also see the credits are clearly in English (well, mostly) and are for MS.

Now, the artwork.  So, that’s clearly a painting of Vincent Price on the left there, and as any fans of his later work will know this artwork comes from the poster for his 1981 anthology horror comedy The Monster Club (directed by Roy Ward Baker and also starring John Carridine and Donald Pleasence.)

TheMonsterClub_quad_UK_GrahamHumphreys-1

So, weighing this, The Monster Squad/The Monster Club, I can see how this goof up happened, especially when you consider it was in another country where they might not be as versed in our films, etc.  In fact, for years before Monster Squad was available to purchase to the public on VHS (or more importantly DVD) my mom would always try and hunt it down for me as a birthday gift.  Being on top of the scuttlebutt of the film’s release I would always tell her not to bother, that it wasn’t available, but she was adamant and would call every Suncoast, Best Buy and Media Play in town and try and order me a copy.  Of course she wasn’t quite sure what it was she wanted, so aside from being super caring and sweet she would always inadvertently order copies of The Monster Club (or Little Monsters on occasion)  as it was all these folks could order from their distributors!  So I kind of have a strange affinity for this foreign newspaper editorial mix up!

But wait, look more closely at the ad, because this is just where it starts getting interesting (I say realizing that I’m quite possibly the only one who actually finds this interesting…)

Spain-Monster-Squad-Ad

Is that Herman Munster off to the right?!?  Why yes, yes it is!  He is very obviously missing from the original Monster Club artwork.  Now aside from it being a cool little addition (I do so love that TV series), it kind of becomes clear that the reason he was added into the art is so that all five Monster Squad monsters are present and accounted for!  So this wasn’t actually a mix up per se, but intentional.  Weird.

HermanBut wait, there’s more changes.  The Mummy and the Creature?  Though they look really neat, they were also NOT in the original artwork!

Mummy Creature

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There was a weird four-eyed beast, and, well, I think that might actually be a Frankenstein-esque monster that they changed into a mummy.  My head is spinning.  At this point I’m wondering what actually happened that lead them down this convoluted path to get to the final advertisement?!?  Why didn’t they just use the Craig Nelson artwork like 90% of the other countries in the world?  So.  Weird.

Then there is the tagline/artwork text which reads…

El Conde Dracula
Frankenstein
El Hombre Lobo
La Momia…
Nos visitan juntos por primere vez.

Which roughly translates to: Count Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy… Visit us for the first time.  The Creature (or Gillman) totally gets the shaft.

Well, there you have it.  This is the kind of stuff that both excites me and makes me wonder if I chose the wrong career path in life.  How can I make a living out of staring at 30 year-old ephemera to figure out mysteries that absolutely no one on Earth cares about?  My name is Robare, Shawn Robare Ephemera Detective…

 Well, now for today’s trading card…

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #3, My name…IS HORACE!

3 Horace F-B

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Monster Squad Art, Part 4!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nFor part 4 of the Monster Squad art showcase I wanted to share something a little different today, a custom piece of action figure art!  I found this artist who called himself G.I. Joseph on the Hisstank.com forums.  He made this totally rad Rudy figure using 25th anniversary G.I. Joe figure parts…

RUDY0RUDY1RUDY5

He also provides the “recipe” on how to construct your own!

head – Fred/Crimson Guard
torso/belt – Breaker
arms – Cobra Officer
hands – Resolute Duke
jacket – Mutt/Indiana Jones
legs – Pit Commando
bow & arrows -POC Spirit
gun – Tunnel Rat

Next up is this fun conceptual guide on how to kill the monsters by Dave Perillo

Dave Perillo

Now for another Monster Squad 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 #26, The Crenshaws stick together!

26 The Crenshaws F-B

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Monster Squad Art, Part 3

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nFor part 3 of the Monster Squad art showcase I wanted to feature a few great artists.  First up this piece by Ryan Wheaton that I have hanging in Bradned HQ.  You can pick this up at his etsy shop!

Ryan Wheaton

Next up is the super cool dude, Travis Falligant who was the talented individual who provided all of the artwork scene in the Monster Squad Forever documentary for the 20th anniversary release of the film on DVD & Blu-Ray.  Travis has been doing a series of super awesome alternate universe Scooby Doo mashups where he’s creating episode of the series where Mystery Inc. runs into a bunch of modern era horror icons.  It’s a really great concept and he just recently illustrated his Monster Squad episode that he calls “The Mighty Monster Mashup!”

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Check out more of his work at his neat website!

Last up today is another piece that I have hanging in Branded HQ that was illustrated by a supremely awesome individual that I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with, Justin Stewart.  Justin is not only a great artist, but his penchant for live art and illustrating in varying media makes me super envious.  I’ve seen him cover a 3′x4′ area on a wall with Sharpies and paint in just over an hour with zero pre-planning.  Insane.

Justin Stewart Mummy

Take a look at Justin’s work at his website!

Now for today’s Trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #16, Rudy, know any virgins?

16 Know any Virgins F-B

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Monster Squad: Dead Media Library!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nOn February 10, 1988 The Monster Squad was released for the first time on home video, a mere five months after it was released in theaters.  There were two types of films that were released this fast back in the 80s, humongous blockbusters like Batman and those flicks that, lets just say “didn’t quite meet performance expectations”.  Obviously MS wasn’t a blockbuster, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great film, and over the course of the next year it would be widely seen on home video globally.  Today I thought it would be fun to take a look at a bunch of these releases over three separate formats, VHS, Beta, and Laser Disc.

Of course we have my favorite release, the US VHS…

Untitled

MS VHS 3

This is very close in appearance to the US Betamax release as well…

ms beta

There were a couple of UK releases, this first was by Woldvision in 1988 and is very much in line with the UK ad campaign in design complete with Craig Nelson poster artwork embellishments (which I’ll talk about more next week) and the rad alternate logo…

VHS UK Worldvision Release 1988

There was also a re-release almost a decade later in 1997 by Force Video right at the tail end of VHS’s reign…

VHS UK Force Video Release 1997

Going back to the 80s we have the 1988 German VHS release by VPS…

VHS German VPS Video Release 1988 1

Again, this one features the German poster artwork (that I’ll take a closer look at next week.)

Over in the Netherlands CNR’s 1988 release borrowed the US Nelson poster artwork…

VHS Netherlands CNR Video Release 1988

In the same-ish region is this release from Denmark where the film title translates more roughly to The Monster Club (Monster Klubben…)  This copy looks like it wasn’t released there until almost 2000 based on the “From the Producers of U.S. Marshalls…” line at the bottom of the VHS box.

monster_club_vhs

Brazil’s 1988 Trans Video release made strong use of the various Promo images from the official press kit…

VHS Brazil Trans Video Release 1988

The last VHS release that I have an example of is the 1988 Hearld Videogram release from Japan…

VHS Japan Hearld Videogram Release 1988

I love that the back cover features an out take from the montage sequence with Phoebe and the Monster before she’s dressed him up in the pretty lady clothes.  Again, proof that there’s way more footage out there besides the deleted scenes on the DVDs and the extended sequences that made their way into the 2004 TNT broadcast cut of the film.

**UPDATE**  Super cool reader Emilio D. from Spain scanned in his personal copy of the Pal format VHS released by Record Pictures in 1988!

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So awesome!

The last format I wanted to cover tonight are the two laser disc releases.  Now, it has to be stated that all of the above releases were in the standard pan and scan 4:3 aspect ratio.  That would change with one of the laser discs below…

First, the US release…

Laser Disc US Vestron Video Release 1989

This US release is a pain the butt to try and get a hold of.  Just by the nature of the format it’s much rarer than the VHS, and so many collectors hang on to laser discs because the cover art is easy to frame and display.  From what I understand though, this release is also in the pan and scan format, and even though the transfer is so much nicer than the VHS, it was never widely used for bootleg DVDs before the film was officially released on that format in 2007.  Nope, up until 2007 the bootleg market sought out the Japanese laser disc because it was the first release of the film since its theatrical run that was available in the original widescreen aspect ratio…

Laser Disc Japan Hearld Video Release 1989 1

Laser Disc Japan Hearld Video Release 1989 2

That plus the even nicer cover artwork makes the one of the most valuable and rare Monster Squad home video releases…

As a little bit of a bonus, here are some other home video Monster Squad artifacts that were released directly to video stores in 1988.  To help get folks to rent the film, some shops received these pinback buttons…

There were also tiny cardboard die-cut standees that were meant to be placed on the counter near the checkout…

US Home Video Release Mini Standee

Next up, today’s Monster Squad trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #6, Eugene & Pete!

6 Eugene and Pete F-B

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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.

fan66001

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.)

fan67001

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…

fan70001

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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Trivia Squad: 10 Fun Facts About The Monster Squad

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nThere are a lot of top 10 Monster Squad trivia lists online so when I was prepping for the countdown this month I initially scratched that idea from the list of topics to cover.  But the more I dug into the film and the more research I did I found some things that don’t seem to be making any of the lists.  So today I’m gonna run down 10 fun bits of trivia for the flick.

1). The Gillman and (potentially) the Frankenstein’s Monster creature suits appear as part of Mel’s (Jon Lovtiz) nerdy pop culture collection in the 2006 film The Benchwarmers.

The Benchwarmers 1

I love that the character has the Gillman propped up next to his entertainment center.  I have no clue who made the decision to include this piece, but for those who are unfamiliar with the movie, the plot centers around a bunch of adults who were heavily bullied as kids finally getting some self respect by playing little league baseball against kids.  Lovitz plays what equates to an adult version of Horace, so the idea of putting the creature in his collection is kind of genius.  Similarly, Lovitz has no friends for the most part, so when I spied this Frankenstein’s Monster for a split second I have to assume it’s again a nod to Monster Squad and the fact that the monster is fully willing to look past all outer aspects to be friends with the Squad and that seems like something Mel would embrace.

The Benchwarmers 2

Also, as an aside, Lovitz’s Mel also dresses up like Michael Knight and owns K.I.T.T. in the film.  I only bring this up because the movie is pretty terrible and the scenes with K.I.T.T. are the best in the film and now that I’ve mentioned it I never have to talk about it on Branded ever again.  Here’s the scene on youtube, do yourself a favor and watch it and skip the rest of the movie.  You’re welcome.

The Benchwarmers 3

2). When the Vampire Brides are stalking Sean, Eugene and Horace in the old creepy house their reflection can be seen in a mirror in the hallway. 

Untitled-2

Chalk this up as a goof, but considering the fact that the movie deals with monsters, and more specifically the rules surrounding their existence (like whether or not vampires can be seen in mirrors), it’s kind of a neat goof.

3). According to the script and a snippet in a Night of the Creeps article in Fangoria (issue 61) the movie takes place in the bayous of Baton Rouge, LA.

Monster Squad TidbitSo for everyone wondering why there was a decrepit antebellum mansion out in the swamp right next to suburbia (and the Warner Bros. back lot town square), there you go.

4). The film makes a fun reference to Todd Browning the director of the 1931 Dracula film.

Todd Browning Reference

It’s either that or a nod to Rico Browning the stuntman/actor inside the original Creature From the Black Lagoon suit during all the underwater segments in the ’54 film.  Or both.  Yeah, let’s go with both!  Actually, in a deleted scene that’s available on the 20th anniversary DVD & Blu-Ray featuring Emily Crenshaw sitting in bed watching the news there are a lot more Universal Monster references.  The three girls that are kidnapped and eventually turned into the Vampire brides attended St. Whale Academy (a reference to Frankenstein and Bride of director James Whale).  It also mentioned that they were taken in the bayou country south of “Dwight Frye” (a reference to the actor who portrayed Fritz the hunchback in Frankenstein.)

5). Monster Squad was heralded in a scene in writer/director Fred Dekker’s previous film Night of the Creeps.

Night of the creeps MS reference

In a segment in one of the college bathrooms about halfway through the film the phrase “Go Monster Squad” is scrawled on a wall.  Dekker already had the go-ahead to make the film while shooting Creeps and added it as a fun way to point to his next project.

Similarly, there’s a reference in Monster Squad to the film that Dekker wanted to make next, though it unfortunately didn’t come to pass.  In Eugene’s bedroom Dekker has the production design team source and hang a poster for Jonny Quest, a dream project that he wanted to tackle.

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But don’t just take my word for it…

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6). There are two homages to E.T. and at least overt reference to the 1931 Frankenstein in the film.

ET Homage

ET

In the segment when the kids are making friends with the Monster there’s a bit where they’re walking in almost silhouette away from the camera with the orange sun setting.  This is paying homage to a similar shot in the Trick or Treating scene in E.T.

ET Homage 2

ET 2

In both films the young girls dress up the fantastical friends in lady’s clothes.

Frankenstein Homage

Frankenstein Homage 2

The Frankenstein reference is more overt as Phoebe is a modern interpretation of Maria from the 1931 James Whale film, though Phoebe spins the original on it’s head in terms of friend-making outcomes…

7). The Gillman has an image of the original ’54 Creature from the Black Lagoon sculpted into the suit by artist Steve Wang.

creature has the original created sculpted mini size on his neck

Though it’s not clearly visible in the film, the homage/artistic flourish that Wang etched into the Gillman’s suit is located on one of the scales on the creature’s neck.  Wang is on record saying that the original Creature is his favorite piece of monster special effects art, so it’s not surprising that he would give a tip of the hat to that incarnation in his own work.  I pinpointed my guess as to which exact scale in the image above, the one in blue.

8). Dracula’s Hearse has teeth molded onto the grill!

Teeth in the Grill

This was a little but  fun flourish that I didn’t take notice of until this past year, but I freaking love that detail…

9). In the script and in deleted scenes in the movie it’s evident that Emily Crenshaw is going to leave her husband Del. 

Mom leaving the Dad

Though they are fighting throughout the film and are evidently seeing a marriage counselor, it’s not really addressed just to what extent the mother is unhappy.  This script was much more clear though, and in  a number of deleted segments you can see the evidence, as well as in the scene where Del is running through the house at the end looking for Sean and Phoebe.  You can clearly see Emily has packed her bags and planing the split.

Deleted segment where Emily wishes there was more sex in the house…

Mom leaving the Dad 1

Mom leaving the Dad 2

10). In the script there is a small joke where the creature darts his tongue out and eats a fly. A special animatronic head was built by Stan Winston Studio to accommodate this shot.

The creature was going to eat a lot more... 2

The creature was going to eat a lot more...

So, how about a couple more bonus bits of trivia?  The first is one that I think most folks already know?

11). When Rudy flashes the picture of Patrick’s Sister as blackmail, the photo he holds up is actually of  actress Lisa Fuller, fully dressed and standing by a pool.

The Real Picture

I fixed that for everyone…

The Real Picture Fixed

You’re welcome.

And finally, with the addition of the original deleted opening sequence Dracula is staked or impaled three times during the film!  Once by Van Helsing, once while landing on an iron fence spike after being bitch-slapped by Frankenstein’s Monster, and once by Sean.  That might be a record number of times that a vampire was staked in a single film :p

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Now it’s trading card time!

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 #25, Sculpting the Gillman!

25 Sculpting the Creature F-B

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Monster Squad: Crappy Review Magnet

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nOne of the things I was looking forward to investigating about The Monster Squad was why it seemed to fail to capture the theater audience when it was originally released in mid-August, 1987.  I mean I saw it in the theater and LOVED every single frame, so it confused me years later when it seemed like no one even knew the film existed.  Certainly there were other kids like me who really dug the crap out of it, I mean so many of the other things I loved from the decade are kind of universally praised (Goonies, the Exlporers, The Last Star Fighter, Labyrinth, etc.)  Since 2007 it seems like long-time fans have been coming out of the woodwork, which is awesome, but where was this love in 1987?

The first place I decided to look was in various newspaper archives for at-the-time reviews of the movie and what I found is pretty revealing.  I’m not sure if folks were taking more stock in critics back in the day, but if they did I think I know why the movie tanked; everyone who reviewed the movie was apparently a jaded 70 year-old guy who could have easily played the part of the junior high vice principal in the Movie.  In fact, I think this first review was actually written BY Mr. Metzger!

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Spokane Chronicle Review Aug 14 1987

Actually it was written by Richard Freedman of the Spokane Chronicle, but the critic literally embraces a love for the vice principal (played by Gwill Richards), and goes on to say that he’s reasonable for declaring that “Science is Real, monsters are not.”  The review is written from the perspective of someone who thinks monster movies are merit-less (unless they’re the original Universal flicks).  He totally misses the point of practically everything in the film, and again sides with Horace’s lament that the kids should have joined the Math Club instead of battling monsters.  In fact, he lobs a grenade at the film for having the audacity to be a story about kids told from a kid’s perspective saying that the movie is “Hollywood’s conception of kid’s conception of monsters.”  But that is actually the beauty of this film, the fact that Fred Dekker didn’t speak down to kids, but instead had enough of a connection to his inner child that he could make a movie that speaks the truth of the adolescent.  That’s rare.  It’s why Spielberg was so successful with E.T. or Richard Donner with the Goonies.  Those movies are tapping into the imagination and thoughts that kids have.  What if monsters really existed and we had to stop them?  That is literally a thought I had as a kid the The Monster Squad answers that pondering on a pitch perfect note.

Similarly, the Washington Post’s review by Hal Hinson both misses the point and has little respect for the creature show work of Stan Winston’s studio…

“The Monster Squad, a horror comedy spoof about an unspecified town that breaks out in a rash of old movie monsters, was written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker. And I can just hear the story conference jokes now. They’d go something like: “We’ve got a script here from Black and Dekker.” “What is this, a studio or a hardware store?” Or, “You guys are great. When you’re finished with rewrites could you come over and sand my floors?”  Actually, given what’s on the screen, this little fact may explain a great deal — the movie plays like it was written with a power tool. 

The film’s basic premise is that the forces of darkness — represented by the Mummy, the Frankenstein monster, Werewolf, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and, last but not least, Dracula — are threatening to filch an amulet upon which depends the balance of good and evil and forever cast the world in shadow. This crystal, which is concentrated “good,” is located in an abandoned house on the outskirts of town (don’t ask me why), and the only thing standing in the way of this overwhelming awfulness is a gang of profane little brats who call themselves the Monster Squad.  Most of what’s included in this unapologetically scrambled mixture of “Goonies,” Hardy Boys adventures, “Ghostbusters” and Abbott and Costello monster films is bad actors wandering around in bad makeup and rubber masks and two kinds of kids — cute, intolerably noisy, smart-alecky kids and not-so-cute, noisy, smart-alecky kids. I don’t know which kind I liked least.  There are parents in the movie, too. The kind you only find in movies. The kind who look soulfully into the eyes of their progeny and say, “Do me a favor, willya? Put your basic lid on it.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the funniest line in the film.”

Seriously, he has the gall to both waste editorial space by mocking Dekker & Black’s surnames and claim that Winston’s crew was creating bad makeup and rubber masks (of the dime store variety I presume.)  Again, sounds like someone who dismissed the film before he even saw it, if he did at all.

Another review by Vincent Canby, the New York Times long running Chief Film Critic from 1969-2000, again blasts the monster effects for being cheap and rubbery, and he even goes so far as stating that Dekker has “some nerve” pointing to the idea that Leonardo Cimino’s character was a concentration camp survivor!  As if adding depth to a character in a “feature-length commercial for a joke store that sells not-great, rubber monster masks” is tantamount to heresy.

It seems like every review that I track down from 1987 is coming from the typewriter of stodgy old angry men, and if parents were listening closely to them at the time, no wonder they didn’t take their kids to see the flick.

So, onto the card of the day!

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 #18, Scary German Guy!

18 Scary German Guy F-B

countdown button 200 2014 Rozum