Thursday, June 16, 2016

Monster Team-up Reflection #30: The Groovie Goolies

Continuing the classic-creature craze of the '60s, Filmation Studios commenced the '70s with its own joyous salute: "The Groovie Goolies", featuring cartoon impressions of our most beloved movie monsters. The animated "Goolies" is, in this respect, similar to the Billy Van/Mitch Markowitz live-action "Hilarious House of Frightenstein" (see "Monster Team-up #27: Oct '15), which aired around the same period.

The 16-episode "Goolies" sprung from Filmation's "Sabrina the Teenage Witch", which in its own right was derived from "The Archies". However, much like "Frightenstein", this monster "get together" was distinguished by a "Laugh-In", variety-show structure, which included jokes and skits, parenthesized by Horrible Hall's ghastly (and musically inclined) hosts: Drac, Frankie and Wolfie. 

Other monster favorites figured into the fun, such as Jekyll/Hyde (with the personalities conjoined as two heads on one body) and the Mummy, in a design reminiscent of the General Mills' cereal companion, Yummy Mummy. In addition, there was Hagatha, the rotund, green-skinned witch; Bonepart, a Napoleonic skeleton; Bella La Ghostly, a switchboard operating Vampira; Tiny, the Mummy's long-haired cousin; Missy, Tiny's mysterious Cyclopian spouse; little Hauntleroy, a Puglsy Addams-like ghoul; and his counterparts, Batso and Ratso, irascible Eddie Munster knock-offs.

A number of the show's supporting characters were likely influenced by the live-action, costumed actors found in various Sid and Marty Kroftt Productions: a gargoyle duo named Icky and Goo; the vulture-inhabited Spookoo Clock; the mystical Ask-It-Casket; Ghoulihand, a giant, ghostly glove; and Orville, an adorable, man-eating plant. 

The memorable character voices were supplied by a who's who of popular and seasoned performers: John Erwin; Larry D. Mann; Dallas McKennon; Howard Morris; Larry Storch and Jane Webb. For the discerning ear, these vocalizations gave the series distinction and prestige. 

Like "The Archies", "Goolies" wasn't shy about sharing song-and-dance, and music videos populated each installment. In fact, the song, Chick A Boom became a hit, and its video, featuring Hagatha being crooned by Wolfie, is accessible on YouTube. 

To enforce its musical ambiance, tailor-made groups appeared on "Goolies": the Bare Boned Band (a skeleton ensemble akin to "Mad Monster Party'"s Little Tibia and the Fibians); the Spirits of '76 (Colonial Period specters); the Rolling Headstones (anthropomorphized grave markers); and the Mummies and the Puppies (comprised of big, bandaged Mama Casket, the aforementioned Tiny, and a purple, puppy quartet). 

From a pop-cultural perspective, "Goolies" had wide-range impact. It's catch phrase, "I needed that" was arguably a poor man's equivalent to "Laugh In'"s "Sock it to me", and the show spawned profitable merchandise, including a PVC figure set; board game; coloring book and Halloween costumes. 

In '72, the series went the crossover route with a televised "ABC Saturday Superstar Movie" entitled "Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies". The episode is not only significant for its Mel Blanc overlap and inclusion of the Phantom of the Opera, but for its live-action footage of Drac, Frankie and Wolfie in a wacky race to catch runaway Hauntleroy. (The footage may have inspired, or at least holds resemblance to, Stanley Ralph Ross' live-action NBC series, "The Monster Squad", where a similar inspired trio engages in crazy, crime-fighting capers.)

A 2006 "Goolies" DVD box set is still available through various Internet sources and features fascinating making-of extras. Various clips are also available on YouTube and Dailymotion; and the series still surfaces on cable television, proving its appeal several decades after its premiere. 

"Goolies" is enchanting, charming and above all, fun: a worth while pursuit for monster-rally lovers young and old.

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