Friday, October 28, 2016


Whether under the label of Zacherley or Roland, you set the standard for horror hosts to follow. You were also the best of showmen, adding insight and humor to the wonderful films you shared. Forever in our hearts, you will remain the coolest of ghouls. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Collectible Time #71: Moebius Burt Ward Robin and Halloween Michael Myers Kits

Holy long-awaited Bat-kit!!! At long last, Burt Ward's Robin, the Boy Wonder, comes via Moebius.

Robin is the fourth in the ongoing  1:8 scale "Batman '66" plastic-kit series (see "Collectible Time #69", Sept '16 for the Burgess Meredith Penguin). The kits are designed to link in the old, Aurora vein, with startling likenesses to their beloved, television counterparts.

The model's pose is distinctively Ward, simulating his typical prone-for-action stance, thanks to Jeff Yagher's superb sculpting skills. (The model is also reasonably priced at about $35; I bought mine at trusty Z&Z Hobbies, of course.)

Next up in the series is Frank Gorshin's Riddler, scheduled for a February release, followed sometime thereafter by Cesar Romero's Joker and Yvonne Craig's Batgirl. 

Along with Robin, I also purchased Moebius' reissue of Polar Lights' popular 1:8 scale Michael Myers "Halloween" kit. 

The Chris White-designed model is really a lovely porch diorama, featuring not only the modified Shatner-masked Myers, but his kiddie clown mask on the lower-portion of the base, accompanied by a bag with spilled candy. On the porch step, one can install an actual, retooled (LED) light-up jack-o-lantern for eerie, flickering atmosphere.  

For those who missed out on this fine John Carpenter tribute the first time around, this is an inexpensive ($30 range) way to fill the gap. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Walking Dead: Season 7 (And Now We Know...)

When I started my blog, "Walking Dead" was well underway and with competitive posts on the subject being so massive, it was illogical for me to commence with my own ongoing analysis. That's not to say I haven't watched the show religiously. It's just that when it's come to posts, I've dealt exclusively with the collectible side of it.

In any event, "Walking Dead": Season 7 has prompted me to offer my two-cents worth, if only due to the immense anticipation of it, and boy, it sure flowed just as we expected (probably even worse), with unapologetic sadism and death. Of course, these elements have always been part of the series. However, this time the punch (in the case of "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be") was telegraphed well in advance. It stirred debate, speculation and controversy for months, even stealing focus from a companion saga.

By tradition, "Walking Dead" hits us with the element of surprise. Anyone can die at any given time. In this instance, we already knew that Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) would kill at least one of our favorites in a most brutal way, and so it became a process of elimination among fans in predicting who'd meet that nauseating fate. 

Well, now we know. (In case you haven't watched the episode or heard the social-media buzz, I won't spoil it for you.) I will say this, it was hard to swallow. In fact, it was hard to swallow long before the moment struck: an agonizing, sickening set-up that cursed the many months leading up to it, none of which I embraced with much ease. 

Is that to say I frown upon the gimmick? Gosh, not really. This particular flesh-eating zombie epic has never been politically correct, after all, let alone subtle. Its audience isn't the sissified sort in need of University of Florida counseling for Halloween or the sort to request clown costumes be removed from store shelves, so as not to offend those even more timid than themselves. We're a thick-skinned group, but still, the lead-in to this monstrous moment (and precisely how it would evolve) was prolonged and more contemptuous than any we've experienced. The aftermath wasn't much better.

I wonder if the same plot tactic will be repeated later down the line. One thing's for sure, Negan has redefined the show's atmosphere, but then the series was overdue for a new, merciless villain. (I can't tell you how much I've missed David Morrissey's Governor, but compared to Negan, ol' Phil was a veritable saint.) To see our surviving heroes (even if it's just one of them) get revenge on this bastard will now be the series' driving (and defining) force: something to look forward to and ultimately relish.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Monster Team-up Reflection #32: Rankin/Bass' Mad Monster Party?

Jules Rankin and Arthur Bass blessed our childhoods with stop-motion wonderment. With Rankin/Bass' televised Christmas programs being so popular, it was only natural for the studio to branch out with a theatrical release, the result being the 1967 Halloween-ish salute called "The Mad Monster Party?" (Yes, the question mark, for whatever cryptic reason, is an official part of the kooky title.)

Directed by Bass, who co-produced with Rankin and Joseph E. Levine, from a screenplay by Harvey Kurtzman (best known for his Mad Magazine and Playboy cartoons), the story presents Baron Boris Von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) living on the Isle of Evil, set to retire upon the completion of a matter-destroying formula. He desires his nerdy nephew, Felix Franken (Allen Swift), to become his successor and rounds up the world's most famous monsters to make the big announcement. 

The gathering (or "party", if you will) includes the Frankenstein Monster; his Bride (Phyllis Diller, standing in for Elsa Lancaster); the Creature from the Black Lagoon; the Lugosi-ish Dracula; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the Mummy; Quasimodo/Hunchback of Notre Dame; the Sydney Greenstreet-ish Invisible Man; the Werewolf/Wolfman; the Peter Lorre-ish Yetch (Swift); and his ghoulish, zombie-clone bellhops. There's also a specimen unseen for most of the film, referred to as "It", who holds (SPOILER) a startling resemblance to a particular inhabitant of a little place called Skull Island. (It makes one wonder, therefore, if Rankin/Bass hadn't at some point pitched stop-motion puppetry to Toho, when it came to their "King Kong Escapes" collaboration.)

The Baron's secretary, a fetching redhead named Francesca (Gale Garnett, who made "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" such a bit hit), takes issue with Felix assuming command and enlists Drac (and inadvertently the other monsters) to thwart the Baron's plans. However, in an unexpected turn, Francesca falls for the hapless nephew, which leads to an explosive yet "happily ever after" climax. 

Not only is "Monster Party" a bubbly character tour de force, it's characterized by beloved personalities and their distinct vocalizations, headlined of course, by Karloff (think of his portrayal in "Frankenstein 1970", but made more congenial); and Diller, essentially playing herself as a lovable, wise-cracking caricature. Incidentally, the Frankenstein Monster, a lumbering but cute variation of Jack Pierce's design, is named Fang, after Diller's referenced boyfriend in her stand-up routines. (Indeed, the pop-cultural vibe couldn't have been more hip at the time, or arguably, even at present for those in the know.)

The aforementioned Swift, perhaps best known to cartoon fans as Simon Bar Sinister and Riff-Raff on "The Underdog Show", supplies not only Felix's voice, but Yetch's, with all the trademark Lorre intonations. 

Felix, however, is Swift's own concoction, smacking of a congested James Stewart, combined with Jerry Lewis' "Nutty Professor'"s, Julius Kelp. Felix is clumsy but amiable, making him similar to other '60s comedic heroes, not only Lewis', but those featured in such Don Knotts fare as "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" and "The Reluctant Astronaut". Felix also holds the distinction of being different, stumbling his way through life, even more so than the monsters (who hold an inherent camaraderie), making his circumstance the film's recurring concern. 

Like other Rankin/Bass productions, "Monster Party" succeeds as an endearing musical, thanks to Maury Laws' catchy compositions, with Diller rising to the occasion on "You're Different" and Garnett belting out the wonderful "Our Time to Shine", in what becomes a terrific dance sequence with Drac. Also, there's an uproarious scene where the the Mummy, Bride and Quasimodo dance to the Edwardian-haired skeleton band, Little Tibia and the Fibias, who perform the groovy "It's the Mummy". 

Though considered a box-office flop in '67, "Monster Party" began its steady cult rise throughout the early '70s when it aired on UHF stations. Children and adults, who appreciated the likes of Rankin/Bass' Rudolph and Frosty shows, embraced the film and looked forward to repeat viewings. Also, Drac's monocle look clearly inspired "Sesame Street'"s Count, which many children of the time were quick to acknowledge, thus enforcing the film's earliest, pop-cultural influence.   

In '73, "The Saturday Superstar Movie" series premiered a cell-animated follow-up to the film. Though it never went beyond one entry, fans of the '67 film respect its connection and perhaps the fact that it exudes the same cheerful charm of "The Groovie Goolies" and such live-action counterparts of the era as "Monster Squad" and "Hilarious House of Frightenstein".

In the later decades, with the advent of VHS and special-edition disc releases, "Monster Party" has grown even larger in popularity, prompting companies to produce resin/vinyl figures and latex masks of the characters. (The movie also appears to have influenced Tim Burton/Henry Selick's stop-motion favorite, "Nightmare Before Christmas", which in its own right may have helped usher in the "Monster Party" collectibles.)

As an enduring monster-rally epic, "Monster Party" has arguably matched the acclaim of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" and even more serious fare like "House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula". "Hotel Transylvania" also owes much debt to it. 

The filmmakers' love for monsters and their varying mythologies, as well as its underlying celebration of being unique in a world of blah normality, is more than enough reason why this charming team-up has stood the test of time and is destined to delight audiences far into the future: in other words, a classic if ever there was one.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Take a bittersweet sip of the season by boosting your autumn reading...with MICHAEL F. HOUSEL'S psychedelic monster-rally smash...FLASK OF EYES!!!

Order your copy today at...

To taste the eyes is to open one's mind!!!

Monday, October 17, 2016


You were one of the most dynamic filmmakers of our time and a hero to all eccentrics. The highbrows rarely acknowledged your greatness, but to those who enjoyed your varied forms of escapism, including "Blood Orgy of the She-Devils"; "Doll Squad"; "Corpse Grinders"; and"Astro-Zombies", you'll always be respected. May your flamboyant genius prevail into the great beyond...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Collectible Time #70: Dencomm/Aurora Monster Scenes Animal Pit and Dungeon Dioramas

There was a time when Aurora character and diorama kits were the king of their kind: a fact solidified by Monsters Scenes. The '71 1/13 scale, snap-together series followed the company's classic, earlier '60s larger-format set and predated the popular Prehistoric Scenes, but unlike those long, successful lines, this Gothic string met an untimely death. That was thanks to the concerned-to-a-fault National Organization of Women, which threatened to protest and boycott the Nabisco Company and its goods, including the vast inventory it had procured from Aurora. Its members took issue with what they perceived to be a sexist/misogynistic angle to Monster Scenes' content. 

The hubbub was referenced even on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in", and in little time, the models disappeared from store shelves (though the series continued for a duration thereafter in Canada, with only a few new entries being added before it fizzled). As a result, some intended Monster Scenes kits (like Bride of Dracula) only ever made it to the drawing-room stage and the two that actually entered the manufacturing phase, the Animal Pit and the Dungeon, never reached the masses for consumption. 

Dencomm Products International, which was instrumental three years prior in producing a series of original, supplemental Monster Scenes pieces (the Feral Cat; Saber Tooth Rabbit; and Skeleton), now offers those two "lost" kits, each produced from their original molds. 

The Animal Pit contains 40 plastic pieces, including winding stairs; a lidded pit/cage, equipped with clear plastic; and a weird, indiscernible reptile. When assembled, the diorama stands approximately 14": a lofty play set, indeed, for ghouls young and old alike.

The Dungeon holds the same chilling charm, offering 35 plastic pieces, including a hinged, arched door; a trap door on the base; a barred coffin with internal spikes; a creepy aardvark and rats. When completed, it stands a nifty 7". 

Both kits come in colorful, Aurora-artwork boxes, which (per their side panels) feature Dracula and Mr. Hyde, which made their way into the Canadian release, but would instead enter the U.S. in Aurora's mid-'70s, monster-kit series, Monsters of the Movies.

Each diorama (as evidenced from the photos) is highly detailed and fun to assemble, designed to connect to previous pieces, such as the legendary Pain Parlor; Hanging Cage; and (ouch!) Pendulum. They're also handy backdrops for the series' primary characters: Dr. Deadly, the Frankenstein Monster; the scantily clad Victim and Vampirella (the ladies being the primary catalysts of the threatened boycott). 

These clever kits should have seen the light of day decades ago. Now, thanks to Dencomm, a great injustice has been remedied. (Please note: the kits run on the high end of $50-$60 and are in limited run. I was most fortunate to obtain my sets from trusty Z&Z Hobbies, and even then, they were on back-order for nearly a year.)

Incidentally, one can still purchase the original U.S. Monster Scenes reissue line (from either Dencomm or Moebius), making this an ideal time to (re)collect your childhood favorites, or perhaps, finally obtain that which you always desired but were deprived. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I saw the Caped Crusaders Return...

The wonderful thing about animation is that it can conjure sequels to movies and television shows well after they've exited their prime. Then again, has the Adam West/Burt Ward incarnation of the Caped Crusaders ever left our pop-cultural consciousness? Gosh, no, which is why a revisit of any sort seems only justified. 

As our good fortune would have it, Warner Brothers/DC has fashioned, with the help of director Rick Morales, the animated "Return of the Caped Crusaders", a film which wisely utilizes the voices of not only West and Ward, but Julie Newmar, reprising her delightful role of Catwoman. Meee-ooow!!! (But don't be surprised--SPOILER-- if a couple of other Catwomen surface along the line...)

The plot is of the basic reunion variety, for all intents and purposes a villain-rally sequel to the beloved '66 theatrical film, though with a few Cold War/Space Age trimmings. In addition to Catwoman, the primary baddies include Joker, Penguin and Riddler, who've broken their shackles and re-teamed in pursuit of a super-duper Replica Ray Gun. They hope once more to purge Gotham of the Dynamic Duo and seize conquest beyond the fabled city, or if that fails, at least make Batman bad, but come on, is that even possible? (Hint: The latter plot device is a clever way to essay Batman's evolution from West's version to the recent, darker, cinematic editions, though as the story progresses, the concept eventually steers in a different direction.)

The vile crusade contains a number of cat-and-mouse set-ups, including the already famous, TV-dinner sequence revealed in the film's teaser trailer, plus the expected "Zap"/"Boff"/"Oof" brawls: nothing too sophisticated or profound, but for scriptwriters Michael Jelenic and James Tucker to have done otherwise would have gone against the grain. This is classic "Batman '66", or at least as close to it as we could hope to get. 

To give the reunion the required atmosphere, the animation is flamboyantly garish, featuring rich hues and a fluid thickness that, after a spell, plays upon one's mind as would any '60s Batman adventure, and all adorned by those spectacularly slanted angles and familiar musical queues, plus cameos by a number of villains outside the headlining quartet. (BTW: the opening credits are a spellbinding, visual feast, inserting the Caped Crusaders and their foes in recreations of classic Batman comic covers.) 

Unfortunately, the voices of Joker, Penguin and Riddler never quite emulate the inimitable tones of Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin, though they come pretty close under the circumstances; the same can be said for Alfred; Aunt Harriet; Commissioner Gordon; and Chief O'Hara. Regardless of this debatable imbalance, the adventure remains a bubbly, satisfying experience, and a welcome submission to our present culture of sinister tones and vague morality: guaranteed, therefore, to put a sentimental tear in many a Bat-fan's eye. (The movie also works as a nifty companion piece to the live-action, memory-lane testament, "Return to the Bat Cave", for those desiring an evening's double bill.)

Too bad this animated approach wasn't implemented sooner, when other cast members were alive. Nonetheless, it's nice to see this one come about, and it appears a sequel is already in the works: an adaptation of the "lost" Harlan Ellison Two-Face introduction, with William Shatner set to voice Batman's legendary foe. Holy Bat-Dream Come True!!!

"Return of the Caped Crusaders" is currently available for viewing via Amazon and will hit disc in early November.