Let’s play a little word association. Monster Squad. What comes to mind? You either start thinking of the first virgin you can you think of or you scream Wolfman’s Got Nards! Yeah, that’s THE Monster Squad; The Fred Dekker classic about kids versus the regrouped Universal monsters. The Monster Squad is a brilliant movie that is one of the absolute best way to get kiddies into the creepies. Monster Squad on the other hand is something wholly different although with similar effect.
Monster Squad takes Herman Hoffman whose resume precedes him as a Director of early television shaping the way we view stories on the boobtube and combines his efforts with James Sheldon, also television royalty and director quite a few spooky classics including a pile of episodes of the Twilight Zone. While both men come from extensive television directorial backgrounds, I think it’s important to note that Sheldon directed two episodes of the camp classic TV show featuring the caped crusader circa 1966, Batman; Episodes Better Luck Next time and The Purr-fect Crime. That’s important. Remember that little factoid for later in the review.
The basic premise of Monster Squad features a Wolfman (known as Bruce W. Wolf), Dracula (as himself) and Frankenstein (known as Frank N. Stein) as animated wax figures who have come to assist Walter, the brains behind the crime fighting unit. They face villains from Queen Bee, a woman in a bee outfit, to the Tickler, a creepy clown, flanked by henchman wearing hands attached to hats with which to tickle their victims. The best way to think of Monster Squad is Batman if Batman and Robin were famous monsters. Their enemies are just as unlikely foes as the ones in the 1960’s Batman television program (remember the Eggman, Bookworm and King Tut?). The humor is double plus camp. I’d also liken this program to The Monkees TV show. There’s strong emphasis on physical comedy, un-horror humor and gags you’d be just as likely to see in Laverne and Shirley as you would in your favorite cartoon program.
Everyone from Fred Grandy of Love Boat fame to a couple of professional wrestler show up in this short lived piece of classic 70’s TV. Julie Newmar even makes an appearance. There’s a generation of actors that those of us who grew up in the 80’s will surely remember from reruns although I will admit that I am about ten to fifteen years too young to know this release personally. People in their mid-40’s who loved Saturday morning TV are sure to remember this gem.
The release is PAL format so make sure you’re capable of viewing it prior to buying it. The extras are somewhat lacking, but I can’t imagine there’s a wealth of additional footage lying around the NBC store rooms from 1976. You’ll get a series and episode synopsis, camp packaging. All episodes in a nice tidy package, 13 in all.
Just as the Dekker classic from the 1980’s, Monster Squad is a great way to get the little ones interested in monster horror in a safe, Saturday morning television show kind of way. It may eve be more appropriate than the 80’s Monster Squad for that purpose given some of the sexual subject matter in that version. It isn’t racy. It isn’t overly violent (perhaps less so than even Tom and Jerry). Monster Squad was made for a TV viewing audience in a kinder, gentler time when practical effects shared a crown with camp and cheese ball programming designed to put scary images in your head without paying an emotionally traumatizing cost.
You can pick it up on DVD HERE.