Is that juice you have? Blood!? Oh, “blood”, okay got it. Apologies and welcome back aboard. I’m your conductor tonight, creeping forward with our Octerror marathon. While the many slasher film franchises like Friday the 13th and of course Halloween are there to watch annually, we cannot forget the Halloween television specials that are there to warm our hearts… with a flaming rod! And with dynamic dialogue and scenes, too. Sometimes the best specials can even rank higher above some of the Christmas classics. What are these chilling challengers? Let’s find out as we get this show on the road!
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Well, what else? Released a year after the low-budget though critically beloved A Charlie Brown Christmas, this follow up explores the holiday of Halloween, and features the Peanuts gang in a series of loosely woven vignettes. As you remember, Linus eagerly awaits the arrival of a supernatural “Great Pumpkin” which wastes his entire experience, Snoopy goes on a make-belief journey as his eponymous World War I flying ace, and the rest of the kids celebrate the occasion. I honestly prefer this program to the special it spawned from, that being Charlie Brown Christmas. The score is excellent at capturing the feel of the season, the dialogue is idiosyncratic of childhood wit and charm, and the animation compliments the quaint style nicely. It’s hard to find much to nitpick at, and it holds a lot of nostalgic value.
This might arguably be my absolute favorite of the list, but each special I would recommend too. And though I’m a big fan of the Peanuts comic strip myself, I can understand why people may have issues with the structure or the animation. Because we’re so used to boisterous special effects and large scale action, “hang out” movies are becoming increasingly something of a forgotten art. To sum it up, I adore this half hour of cartoon chitter-chatter. Nothing more to say about it, a traditional Halloween treat.
The Night of the Living Doo (2001)
Scooby-Doo is still a massive franchise today, but in the 90s and early 2000s they were welcome all the time on Cartoon Network. So much so that in 2001 it got it’s own original special called Night of the Living Doo. It’s kind of an obscure thing in the Scooby-Doo and Cartoon Network fan base, even though it has some promise. It is reminiscent of the New Scooby-Doo Movies, a series that syndicated the original series with the addition of special guest stars like the Three Stooges and Sonny and Cher. Those were the times, am I right? Here they have Gary Coleman, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy stars in a musical segment, and my personal favorite, David Cross. Cross’ character runs an abandoned castle in the middle of the woods, next door to the cemetery, and guarded by a shark. But it’s also a hotel for the rich and famous! And no wonder it isn’t getting any buisness.
Although the animation has been reused from old Scooby-Doo properties, the writing definitely makes up for the weakness there. It would be right at home with the retro original shows that aired on Adult Swim in it’s first two years like Space Ghost Coast Coast and Sealab 2021, both in humour and animation. I like how the ending and explanation of what happened makes hardly any sense, partly due to Mark Hamill just showing up. If you haven’t seen it before, check it out above and see for yourself.
Elvira’s Movie Macabre (1982-1986)
This is the kind of icon the 80s people often recognize, but don’t really know where it originated from. Cassandra Peterson earned popularity on the show biz scene as the gothic, cleavage bearing, and humorous horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Yeah, pretty sick name! She played commonly scummy public domain b-flicks such as The Day of the Triffids, Blacula, and Empire of the Ants. Longtime passengers might know that I have a fascination for these kinds of exotic movies. It’s always a fun time to watch exploitation trailers and laugh at the overblown corny ridiculousness and awful taste. So yes, I was into Elvira’s series concept for this. It sort of reminds me of what would become Monstervision, a late-night block on a Turner channel that had a familiar fashion.
The character has been revived back from the graveyard a handful of times, none of which lasted nearly as long as the original run. Elvira has additionally made appearances elsewhere in other random pieces of media. Movie Macabre is a great little blast to the past and an entertaining viewing for a schlock historian like myself. And hopefully thanks to this post you now are knowledgeable about this vampiric movie-grading mistress.
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The Treehouse of Horror Episodes (‘The Simpsons’)
This is kind of, in a sense, your pick. This slot is whatever your favorite “Treehouse of Horror” episode is. As of the time writing this, The Simpsons is still on the air, having churned out 30 of them in total, with the 31st nearing later in October 2020. Woah, that’s a lot of terrifying anthologies to cover! I’d go along and say the first six “Treehouse of Horror”‘s are high-quality content. So go ahead, insert your favorite here! Alright, moving on.
The Cheers & Frasier Halloween Episodes
Okay, if you’re confused about why I’m including two separate shows in this slot… well, why not? I’m fact, Frasier was a spin-off of a recurring character from Cheers. And I love the both of them; they might be some of my favorite sitcoms. So why not add the Halloween specials to the list? If I were to pick one specific episode from each series as the prized contenders it would be “Fairy Tales Do Come True” from Cheers, and “Halloween ” from Frasier. The former takes center stage per usual at the pub, with the patrons dishing up their own costumes for the occasion. The episode is surprisingly heartfelt, given that it’s the Witching Hours. Rather than screeches of fear, Cheers takes a spin on it and adds fantastic character moments and a feel-good vibe of a local bar. While the Frasier episode has some issues, the experience is still on level with an average entry in the series. For Frasier, let’s be real here, an average episode are cleverly-written, a good time waster, and give sitcoms a good name.
In the special, Roz thinks she might be pregnant, so Frasier suggests that they go to Niles’ Halloween party to take her mind off the anxiety. Not much stands out from the regular Frasier fare, except a single dud. Whoever let Camilla Grammar – Kelsey Grammar’s wife – guest star in this minor role should probably rethink the decision. It’s not her lines, rather her terrible performance and delivery of these lines. I mean, I suppose she gets some props; she did scare me in the Halloween episode of a sitcom. Congratulations, Miss Grammar!
Mad Monster Party? (1967)
And last but certainly not least, Mad Monster Party? from 1967 and directed by Jules Bass. Okay, what’s with the question mark? It’s not really asking for an answer, and the film is about what it says it is. Feel open to share why you think that punctuation was used. As you could assume from the animation techniques, this is the same studio that landed on the map with their annual Christmas stop-motions, particularly Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. They would be Rankin/Bass. Although Rudolph is played on repeat around the holidays nearly every year, it’s easy to claim that somebody may not enjoy it since the effects no one can really praise for being realistic or smooth. Frankly, it emanates amateur elements of the medium. But on the flip side of the coin, similar to Night of the Living Doo sometimes animation quality isn’t everything to it. Both conserve energy to have a charming and imaginative script instead, which again saves Mad Monster Party. The designs are great, and to support Rankin/Bass and their team, this style definitely works better in a Halloween special than a Christmas one. The Year Without A Santa Claus is an exception!
Thank you bunches for stopping by and reading my thoughts. I wish you the best during the season. Catch you later next week for more Octerror…
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Octerror’s Left the Premises. For Now…