This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't (1979)

"It's one of those days I wish I was dead-and stayed dead!"
-Count Dracula

Like Witch's Night Out, this TV-Halloween special actually made a memorable impression when it was first broadcast (it even won the Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement-Children's Program"), but then, unbelievably, faded from the public mind by the time DVDs and the Internet became commonplace. Equally bizarre is the fact that, as you can see from the picture, it changed its name for its VHS release.
This is like an episode of The Munsters in that it presents everyone's favorite monster characters in a humorous light and in live action (we basically expect Dracula and his monstrous ilk to make us chuckle if they are animated).
Count Dracula (Judd Hirsch) is shocked by rumors that Halloween may come to an end, so he and his servant Igor (Henry Gibson) call the other monsters-the Witch (Mariette Hartley), the Frankenstein Monster (John Schuck), the Mummy (Robert Fitch), the Zombie (Josip Elic), and the Wolf Man (Jack Riley)-to Dracula's castle to discuss the matter.
After the count chastises them for becoming less and less scary over the decades (the Monster has taken up tap dancing, and the Wolf Man shaved to make a razor blade commercial), the Witch reveals that she's the one who started the rumors that Halloween will no longer be celebrated. She states that she hates being a witch because no one views her with anything but revulsion. The witch then gives Dracula the ultimatum of meeting her demands (which include having a line of t-shirts to replace his own) or she won't signal the arrival of the holiday by flying over the moon at midnight on her broom. When the count refuses, she sets off back to her castle and, since the sun is about to come out, Dracula must wait until the next evening (Oct. 30) to act.
The following night, he and the others arrive at the Witch's castle, where their attempts to capture her so Dracula can hypnotize her into doing his bidding meet with hilarious failure. When all seems lost, two young trick-or-treaters arrive, having heard of the holiday's plight by watching the news (hey, this was before the Internet, so they had to get that info somehow), convince the witch that children the world over love her and what she brings to the holiday. Those sweet words, along with Dracula's forced promise to take her dancing, convince her to fly over the moon just as midnight strikes.
The cast is great, especially Hirsch, who was already doing great work on Taxi, giving us, naturally, a game Bela Lugosi impression (I don't want to get too into this just yet, but the reason Lugosi's Dracula became enshrined into the pantheon of great screen villains is that he was a charming, charismatic figure who could destroy you in the blink of an eye).
Interestingly, this show was broadcast the same year that the equally charming vampire comedy Love at First Bite was in theaters.
Hartley's sarcastic witch makes a great foil for Hirsch's egotistical count. She, likewise, was already doing those Poloroid commercials with James Garner, although I'll always remember her as being the only woman who was able to romance both Spock and the Incredible Hulk (on their respective TV shows, that is).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Witch's Night Out (1978)

"So, okay, I ain't the Avon lady."

-The Witch

To mark the start of October, or Halloween month as I'd like to view it, this entry(& the one upcoming) is a change of pace in that it isn't a movie, but rather a TV special.

Although Disney has a nice number of Halloween specials under its belt (my favorite being 1952's Trick or Treat, in which the mischievous but lovable witch Hazel teaches Donald Duck a lesson when he refuses to share his candy with Huey, Duey, and Louie on Halloween night), the most famous cartoons which celebrate the Eve of All Saints are probably It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) and Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985).

Witch's Night Out may have been as famous as them (&, hence, not be on this blog) but it sadly got lost in the shuffle when the Disney Channel, after years of airing this gem each Halloween, decided that newer shows should been shown as the 1990s ended.

The title witch (voiced by Gilda Radner) is down because her services aren't in demand as they had been on Halloweens past. Her luck changes, though, when townspeople decide to throw a Halloween party at her seemingly-abandoned mansion. At the same time, she hears the wishes of children Small and Tender to be turned into monsters on Halloween. She pays them and their babysitter Bazooey a visit and transforms them into a werewolf, a ghost, and Frankenstein's monster, respectively.

Their initial joy soon turns into dispair, however, when the townspeople begin hunting them because of their monstrous appearances. On top of that, the witch's magic wand has been stolen by the mean Malicious (Catherine O'Hara) and Rotten (Bob Church), although their efforts to use the wand's power to make money appear end up in failure. The witch is promptly reunited with it and turns the thieves into monsters themselves before granting Bazooey and the kids their wish to return to normal. When the townspeople catch up with them, the witch sadly returns everything and everyone else to normal. Everyone then shows their appreciation for her and what she represents on Halloween by allowing her to transform them into whatever they wish. She then invites them all to her mansion for a party.

The animation is rather crude, but its more than made up for by the catchy disco title tune and, like the Peanuts and Garfield Halloween outings, it has a lot of heart.