Tag Archives: Halloween Countdown

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…

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MS VHS 3

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

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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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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. 

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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

Monster Squad Art, Part 2!

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nFor Day 2 of the Monster Squad fan art showcase I wanted to highlight a couple of seriously fun concepts.  First is the amazing work of Jason Edmiston who really knocked it out of the park with this Night of the Creeps/Monster Squad mash-up for Fright Rags

Jason Edmiston

Next is this totally rad idea for creating the VHS release advertisement for the “movie within a movie”, Groundhog Day Part 12 by Nathan Thomas Milliner!  I love that he gave this fake move the poster treatment…

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Alright folks, time to rip open that wax wrapper and snag your Monster Squad trading card for today!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #9, The Gillman!

9 Gillman F-B

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Deconstructing the Monster Squad Clubhouse

10710926_10152738966882328_5146327273773526587_nFor this special edition of Awesome 80s Bedrooms I thought I’d change things up a little and try my best to do a breakdown off all the cool stuff in the Monster Squad Clubhouse.  There is so much stuff in there with every flat surface literally wallpapered with movie posters and stills.  I’ll be honest, 60% of it I can’t figure out, or can’t see well enough to make out.  Either way there is still a ton of fun stuff I can identify.  First up, a nice shot of the clubhouse and the description that was in the script to set the mood…

MSClubhouse

Script Description

Let’s start with probably the most famous shot of the Clubhouse which appeared during the scene when the Club was giving Rudy the Monster Test…

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1). Return of the Living Dead movie poster (which is obscured by another poster that’s overlapping it on the bottom that I can’t identify…)

2). Hammer’s Vampire Circus movie poster

3). Movie still of Bela Lugosi as Dracula

4). The Being movie poster

5). Inhumanoids D’Compose action figure

So, technically, this next picture of the clubhouse is a “behind the scenes” photo (which I sourced from an issue of Fangoia), but I wanted to include it for completeness sake because it’s the only shot I know of that includes the ceiling.  This shot isn’t in the movie (that I’m aware of) but it includes some fun stuff like…

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6). Frightmare movie poster

7). Movie still of Jerry (Chris Sarandon) from Fright Night

8). Movie still from Critters (Couldn’t find the exact still for this one, but you get the idea)

Up next I’m gonna jump to a shot inside the clubhouse right after Dracula shows up to blow the thing to smithereens (a single tear just fell down my cheek)…

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9). Dr. Jekyll Aurora Monster Model Kit

10). The Hunchback Aurora Monster Model Kit

11). Famous Monsters of Filmland Issue 28

12). The Mummy Aurora Monster Model Kit

For 13, there are two posters I want to identify.  On the left is…

13a). Zombie (Zombi 2) movie poster

Then to the right of that in the shadows is one that I had a terrible time trying to figure out.  I reached out to the horror community, even to Fred Dekker (who was super kind with his time to answer, though he was stumped too.)  But my good buddy Ben Rollier of BatFan.com stepped up, tapped into his well of Batman detecting skills and solved the mystery!  Man I love the community on the internet…

13b). Hannah Queen of the Vampires movie poster from 1973

14). Movie still of the Ray Harryhausen Cyclops from the 7th Voyage of Sinbad

Next up…yet more movie stills and posters and stuff ;)

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15). Movie still of David Niven in Old Drac

16). Some of the club’s monster drawings including illustrations of the Gillman, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s Monster

17). Finger wall hook (these are seen ALL throughout the clubhouse…)

18). Godzilla, War of the Monsters movie poster

19). Movie still of Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolfman

There’s a closer look at that Godzilla poster in this next screen capture…

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20). Blood of Ghastly Horror movie poster

21). Assorted Garbage Pail Kids and GPK puffy stickers…

22). Movie still of Sissy Spacek from Carrie

We get a few different angles in the scene when Rudy and Patrick are blackmailing Patrick’s sister to help them with some virginal German linguistics…

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23). Ultraman Toy

24). Metaluna the Mutant Model Kit by Tsukuda

25). Movie still from The Creature From the Black Lagoon

26). B&W Promo still of Robert Englund as Freddy Kruger

27). Inhumanoids Tendril action figure

I was really surprised to spot the next three toys in this scene with the Monster learning to talk…

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28). Roboto Masters of the Universe action figure

29). Mantenna Princess of Power action figure

30). Leech Princess of Power action figure

There are some more toys in this scene, as well as the boxes for those Aurora model kits of Dr. Jekyll and the Hunchback.  There are more toys on that makeshift shelf that I can’t identify…

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31). Remco 3 &  3/4″ Dracula action figure

32). Gillman model kit by Tsukuda

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33). Movie still from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera movie starring Lon Chaney Sr.

34). Movie still from the 1931 Dracula featuring Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan

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35). Sssssss movie poster

Sssssss

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36). Still from Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein starring Christopher Lee as the Monster

Curse of Frankenstein

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And finally one more movie poster…

37). Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors movie poster

Dr Terror

Now, I need to print out a bunch of these photo and posters and start building my replica clubhouse!

As an added bonus, here’s an ACTUAL bedroom breakdown, a quickie featuring the only shot of Sean’s room from the film…

Seans Room

Sean’s bedroom appears for a split second in the film at the very start of the Rock Until You Drop montage sequence and even though it’s really quick there are a number of cool things lying about.  I can’t identify all of it unfortunately, like what appears to be a Creature From the Black Lagoon toy/statue on his dresser, or the specific issue of MAD magazine all the way on the left.  That being said, here’s what I could figure out…

1a). Famous Monsters of Filmland Issue 28 (he obviously brought it in from the Clubhouse…)

1b). MAD Magazine issue 199

Thanks to Erick of the rad Wonderful Wonderblog for identifying the issue of MAD magazine to the left of FMoF #28!

2). Inflatable T-Rex (for the life of me I couldn’t identify the specific model or maker)

3). MAD Monsters Issue 5

4). “This Place Gives Me The Creeps” mini poster

5). Fantastic Four Issue Number 1 Poster

6). Famous Monsters of Filmland Issue 29

7). Plastic Frankenstein’s Monster statue (again, for the life of my I couldn’t figure out the year or maker…)

Before I close this out, here’s today’s Monster Squad trading card!

Monster Squad Wrapper

Today’s card is #21, E.J. & Derek!

21 EJ and Derek F-B

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Monster Squad, my VHS holy grail…

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For the longest time it seemed like I was the only person who even knew that The Monster Squad existed.  After moving away from Florida during the winter of 1990 it seemed like I left behind everything I thought I knew and moved to a snowy wilderness where none of the other kids wore T&C Thrilla Gorilla shirts or obnoxiously colored surf shorts, nobody seemed to have a skateboard, and no one I met had heard of The Monster Squad.  New Hampshire felt like a completely different planet as a preteen who had spent the last 11 years growing up in sunny Tampa and Orlando.  During this period of change my mother and I developed some strange habits to try and stay connected to the world we left behind.  We had these daily ritual movie-watching sessions where we’d watch and rewatch the same handful of movies to a point where we knew every line of dialogue by heart and the tapes started to deteriorate.  VHS ownership was still an expensive hobby in 1990 as it was still in the middle of the initial boom and many catalog titles were only being manufactured for sale to video rental stores at exorbitant prices.  We had a handful of movies we’d taped off of HBO including a copy of Willow that I know for a fact was played over three hundred times during that year or so where we felt like we were in limbo.  And regular trips to the video rental shop were as important as eating or breathing.

I subsisted on a steady diet of about six VHS tapes that I watched to death, copies of Robocop and the first Tim Burton Batman flick that we owned, that beat up, taped copy of Willow, and rental copies of Rad, Red Dawn and The Monster Squad.  It was around this time that I developed a desire to own copies of the movies that I loved.  As I mentioned, buying copies of a lot of films was cost prohibitive as you had to purchase them through video store distributors and a single movie carried a price tag anywhere between $79.95 to well over $100.  For a thirteen year-old kid that seemed like an impossible dream.  When I could I’d tape movies off of HBO, which wasn’t perfect, but with recording in EXP mode and cramming three full movies on a single tape, the $5.99 per blank tape cost was much more in the realm of my budget.  Even so, I never managed to record The Monster Squad on TV, so it became the first hole in my collection, the movie I was constantly on the lookout for.

US Retail - Store VHS Vestron Advertisement 1988

I would have battled the vampire in the above VHS trade advertisement for a chance to own the flick.  Also, on a side note, I think it’s kind of funny just how much of the Monster Squad marketing riffed off of Ghostbusters, specifically in the ad above.  I guess the copy writers were trying their best to align it with the gold standard of horror comedies at the time.  “The Monster Squad ain’t afraid of no Ghouls!” indeed.

Getting back to my collecting woes, I wouldn’t own a copy of the film until a couple years after I graduated from high school.  In and around 1998 there was a rental store called Home Video in my neck of the woods that was beginning to thin out some of its stock to start making room for DVD rentals.  I had a full time job and was buying up VHS tapes left and right.  Though I had a pretty sizable collection (around 250 tapes at that point, which was a lot for the time) I still had yet to find a copy of The Monster Squad and by this time Vestron was no longer distributing the flick (if they were even still in business at all) so I was always on the hunt for video stores that were selling off their tapes.  So when I walked in and saw their clearance shelves I immediately started scanning the racks.  Right there in the middle of the second row was a copy of the movie complete with a faded cover from being in line of the direct sun for years on end, but I had to have it.  The store was asking for $30, which was still a pretty hefty price tag for me, but I plunked down a twenty and a ten and walked out with mt prize.

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MS VHS 3

I watched the ever living hell out of this copy of The Monster Squad, well over 200 times between 1998 and 2007 when the flick was finally released on DVD.  It’s still the gem in my movie collection even though I haven’t owned a VCR in almost a decade, and I can’t imagine ever parting with it.  Since this was released I’ve picked up the DVD, a copy of the laserdisc, and now the Blu-Ray.  I’m sure I’ll buy a copy when it’s released on a  holocube or whatever the hell the next format is.  Some people continuously buy copies of Star Wars over and over, but for me, it’s The Monster Squad.

Alright, now for 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 day for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is # 1, Sean Crenshaw!

1 Sean Crenshaw F-B

countdown button 200 2014 Robare

How I discovered the Monster Squad…

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I’m sure most Monster Kids can recall that moment when they were exposed to and ultimately fell head over heels in love with classic horror. That first experience where they stumbled upon an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, when they caught a glimpse of a Basil Gogos painting, found their first Aurora monster model kit, or tuned into their first local horror host screening a beat up old print of one of the universal classics on a Saturday afternoon. For me, I can pinpoint that moment to an almost exact place, date and time. I had just recently turned ten years-old, it was in Orlando on August 22nd 1987, at the Altamonte Springs Cineplex Odeon theater at roughly 4:00pm. I know that because that was when I attended a screening of Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad with my childhood friend Bryan and my mind was blown by what transpired on that huge movie screen over the course of the next hour and twenty minutes.

The excitement had been building for a couple weeks prior to that screening. I had about $10 worth of saved birthday money in my black Velcro Jimmy Z wallet that was earmarked for a matinee at my local theater and there were a handful of flicks that I really wanted to see that summer. I wasn’t sure if I should get a ticket to North Shore (I lived in FL and was in the middle of my surfing/BMX/Skateboarding phase), the new live action Masters of the Universe flick (I was in the waning days of my initial love of that cartoon and toy line), or Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie. Then one afternoon I was hanging out with my friend Bryan at another kid’s house that I didn’t know all that well. That kid’s parents were out shopping and we were sitting at the kitchen table flipping through the Orlando Sentinel looking for the comics and movie announcements. We were making a mess of the Arts and Entertainment section, spreading it all over the kitchen trying to find the fun stuff when out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed an ad for a film I hadn’t heard of and the tagline had me diving over Bryan to snatch up the page.

“You know who to call when you have Ghosts. But who do you call when you have Monsters?”

Monster Squad Newspaper Ad August 14 1987 2

I wish the above picture was ripped from the Orlando Sentinel, but unfortunately their archive is mainly text, but pretty much everything else besides the theater location is what I saw that afternoon.  I remember drooling over the artwork in the ad, the iconic painting by Craig Nelson featuring a group of kid monster hunters hanging out on the hood of a hearse underneath a sky literally filled with monsters. It was like the Mt. Rushmore of classic movie monsters, and at that moment I knew exactly where the remainder of my birthday money was going. All thoughts of surfing vacations in Hawaii, Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, or little people in GPK costumes evaporated from my consciousness. In my spastic excitement Bryan and his friend had stopped spreading and paper out and they hovered over my shoulders to get a look at what I was obsessing over. They were hooked too. The Monster Squad sounded amazing to our 10 year-old brains, it was like The Goonies versus Halloween and we all decided that come hell or high water we’d be catching that movie as soon as possible.

Spokane Chronicle Page Spread Aug 14 1987

That afternoon was capped off with some weird drama as Bryan and I got into an argument with his friend about the use of his home phone and our now immediate need to call a 1-900 number to “hear a special monster message”, part of the Monster Squad theatrical advertisement that ran in the August 14th papers across the country (as seen above.) By calling 1-900-660-6666 we could actually talk to a freaking monster! Bryan’s friend was having none of it as he wisely knew that he’d get into huge trouble when the phone bill came and there were a bunch of charges that he’s have a tough time explaining away. No matter how much we needled him, no matter how much we cajoled, or offered a month’s worth of sack lunch Twinkies, he would not budge.  Needless to say we were bummed and in a fit of childhood stupidity Bryan and I stormed out of his house and sped away on our bikes in a huff. That little row lasted the entire week and on that next Saturday it was just Bryan and I packed into the rear-facing, fold-up station wagon seat en route to catch a screening of a film that would forever change my life.

Twenty Seven years later and I can still feel the visceral pull of needed to call that 900 number.  When I sat down to write this my mind raced.  Dare I dial it?  Would that recording still be ready to play, sitting on an aging cassette tape in some call center switchboard, just waiting for me to finally be brave enough (and financially stable enough) to accept the charges and hear a real live (er…recorded) monster tell me some juicy tidbits about their life, or my Horror-scope, or whatever cheesy message was in store?  I had some Skype-Out credit sitting in my account so I decided what the hell, what’s the worst that can happen?  Well, it’s my sad duty to report that the number is no longer in service.  Sigh.  That doesn’t mean my research stopped there.  I dug into the internet archives hoping someone else had written about, or hopefully recorded that original message.  No dice.  Well, not exactly.  Thankfully someone on youtube managed to rip an old 1-900-660-6666 commercial from a VHS tape and upload it, though for the final nail of my despair coffin the commercial was Christmas themed.  Apparently whoever held that number changed it out seasonally.  Still, kinda neat that my detective skills were unable to unlock that tidbit I guess.

So in place of the actual Call a Monster message, here’s asimilar horror-themed 900 hotline from back in the day.  I’m particularly fond of it as it was pimped by Al Lewis, Grandpa Munster himself and called the Jr. Vampires of America Club!

Also, this first post is just the taste of a much longer article that I recently wrote for the premiere issue of Monster Shindig magazine which should be debuting later this month!

Lastly today’s first Monster Squad Trading Card!!!

Monster Squad Wrapper

I made a mini set of 80s Topps-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time, one that unfortunately never had an official set released (or any merchandise for that matter.) So come back each day for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #10, The Mummy!

10 Mummy F-B

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IT’S ALIVE! Branded gears back up for the 2014 Countdown to Halloween

It’s been pretty quiet around here during this past summer as I’ve been juggling a lot of projects, but things have calmed down a bit and I’m fully ready to tackle my 9th Halloween at Branded in the 80s.

Before I talk about this year’s theme, I wanted take a second and point again to the Countdown to Halloween site, a hub for sites who are participating in the month-long celebration of all things Halloweeny.  I recently re-skinned the website for this new year and added a brand new batch of participant badges, all with a monstrously aquatic theme in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the release of Universal’s Creature From the Black Lagoon!

Julie Adams and the Gill Man in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 1954.

I had a lot of fun fudging the 3-D effect for the new site banner as well as picking some creature-rific imagery for the 2014 badges.  This year there’s also a special project I’m working on specifically for the countdown site that I hope to announce in the next few days.  So head on over to the Countdown site. check out the list of participating websites, and join up if you’re planning on celebrating on your own site!

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As for Branded, this year I’m finally going to spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite films, probably my most favorite, Fred Dekker’s 1987 kid-adventure, horror masterpiece The Monster Squad!  I’ve written and talked a little bit about the flick over the years, though mostly it was either reviewing the bootleg DVD, lamenting the lack of an official DVD release, and then when the film was finally released on disc, it was to lament the horrible cover art that adorned it.  I fully intended to spend a week talking about the movie when the 25th anniversary came up a couple years ago, but I got sidetracked and just wrote one short piece about seeing the film for the first time.  I also did a breakdown of Eugene’s room when I first started my exploration of 80s era kid’s rooms on film.  I still feel though, that I haven’t sufficiently tackled a discussion of the flick, so for the next 31 days I’m going to do my best to dig into all aspects of my favorite movie of all time!

10655011_1449641078658365_981214608_nI have a pretty ambitious line up of articles and features planned to celebrate this cult classic, so I hope you’ll join me each day as I examine all aspects of the movie from the script, the marketing, the home video release, trivia, behind the scenes footage and so much more.  As an added bonus, each day this month I plan on posting a treat for your virtual McDonalds Halloween Boo-Pail.  I’ve always been bummed that the movie didn’t have a big merchandising push like other kid’s flicks from the decade, so there were never any read along adventure books, Burger King Collectors glasses (a crime since they were so prominently featured in the movie), or toys.  We didn’t even get a set of Topps trading cards!  We all know how much I love Topps, wax wrappers and junk, so I’ve taken it upon myself to create a mini set of collectible digital Monster Squad trading cards, and I’ll be “handing” them out in place of candy for all you trick or treators who stop by Branded this month.  To get you started I’ll post the first one below.

27 Scraps F-B

Thanks again for reading Branded and I look forward to kicking some Wolfman nards over the next month…

countdown button 200 2014 Robare

31 Days of Monsters, Days 16 & 17: Cute Little Gobllins and one ugly Gorgon!

Alright, with today’s two monster animation cels I’ve finally gotten caught up on my 31 Days of Monsters Countdown!  These cover days 16 & 17, and once again features creatures from both the Filmation and Real Ghostbusters cartoons.  First up is this cel/production photocopy background from the Filmation show featuring the main gorgon herself, Medusa!

Unfortunately Eddie Spencer, Jr. is part of the photocopy in this image, but it does go really well paired with the Medusa cel (and seeing as how he’s holding up a mirror I can pretty safely assume that this is an accurate background image.)

Though it would have been nice to get a cel that showed her full face, I’m going to go ahead and make the claim that I didn’t want to inadvertently turn any Branded readers into stone.  Yeah, that’s the ticket (said in my best imitation of Jon Lovitz…)

Next up we have this cute little guy from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon…

Unfortunately I can’t quite place this character from a specific episode at the moment.  I’ve been watching so many episodes lately that my brain is becoming fried and resembles a ghost trap after it’s just slammed shut and is still smoking…

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.