Saturday, October 29, 2011

Merrie Melodies: "Transylvania 6-5000"

First released November 30, 1963

"Transylvania 6-5000" is a wonderful 1963 Merrie Melodies short directed by Chuck Jones.  (In fact,  according to Wikipedia, this was the last Jones-directed Warner Brothers short to feature the "wascally wabbit.") 

Bugs Buanny is en route to Pittsburgh, PA, but somehow winds up in Pittsburge, Transylvania instead.  (Presumably, Bugs should have taken that left turn at Albequerque!)   He stops to ask directions from a two-headed vulture lurking nearby - the two heads answer to "Agatha" and "Emily".  They seem more interested in making a meal of Bugs.   Bugs spots a spooky castle in the distance and, thinking it is a hotel, makes his exit to go see if said "hotel" has a phone.

When Bugs rings the castle doorbell, he is greeted and invited in by a vampire calling himself Count Blood Count.   Bugs just wants to use the hotel phone but the Count hungrily insists that he stay the night. ("Rest first, telephone tomorrow. Rest is gooood for the blooood.")

Yay funny titles!

Bugs is shown to his room where he  finds some light reading to help himself get to sleep.   He selects a book of "Magic Woids and Phrases" and reads aloud to pass the time.  Which proves fortunate for our hero.

A series of comedic transformations takes place as Bugs at first unwittingly and then knowingly changes the phrase "Abracadabra" (or "abacadabra" as Bugs puts it) around causing Count Blood Count to morph humorously back and forth between various permutations and combinations of his vampire and bat form.

Bugs dealing with the castle's bat problem
You'll have to watch this great short cartoon to discover whether Bugs Bunny escapes the castle unscathed.

Bloodcount: I am a vampire!
Bugs: Oh, yeah? Well, abacadabra! I'm an umpire!

RigbyMel says:

Like many people around my age, I was introduced to Bugs Bunny cartoons like this one through Saturday morning cartoons.   Although this is not an explicitly Halloween-themed 'toon in that Halloween is never mentioned,  the gothic trappings and the presence of an honest-to-goodness (albeit somewhat inept) vampire make it a Halloween seasonal favorite of mine.  

As a child, I liked that Bugs wasn't the least bit frightened by a situation that would have scared tiny me and in fact holds his own very nicely against the supernatural forces arrayed against him.   As an adult,  I still appreciate Bugs' unflappability as well as the cleverness of this cartoon  from the great sight gags to the fact that the title of the short is a parodic reference to a great Glen Miller tune.  I also love the great voice talent (Mel Blanc as Bugs Bunny,  Ben Frommer as the Count and Julie Bennett as Agatha/Emily) and Chuck Jones' directing style.

This is one short that I always feel like watching sometime around Halloween.  I consider it a seasonal classic!

RigbyMel's rating:
4 jack o'lanterns

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mad: "Halloween Episode"

Premiered October 24, 2011
"Kitchen Nightmare Before Christmas"

Network Executives are meeting with Gordon Ramsey to pitch yet another "angry chef" show. Ramsey says no, he's sick of doing the same schtick. He leans against the wall of the boardroom and falls through a trap door that leads to Halloween Town! Ramsey breaks into a (Danny Elfman-esque) song while trashing the cooking of the Halloween Towners. He is merciless in his criticism of baked brains and other ghoulish dishes.
Ramsey's presence attracts the attention of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. Jack is used to being the scariest creature in town, but Ramsey is threatening him on this front. So Jack seeks out Ramsey. Will he challenge him to a duel...or ask him for career advice?


"How I Met Your Mummy"

A Werewolf tells his children the story of how he met their mother...a mummy. In the process, he tells them how he met their mother's sister, his dentist, and other mummies who aren't their mother.
We also get to see Barney the vampire's attempt to woo a woman who looks a lot like Medusa. He says "ladies love the cape".

Additional stuff from this episode:

The "meddling kids" of the Scooby Doo gang ruin Halloween.

A moralizing rotten cucumber tells an anti-bullying story in "Veggietales From The Crypt".

The Black Spy from "Spy Vs. Spy" hosts a Halloween costume party.

J.A. Morris says:

If you liked Mad Magazine as a kid (I still pick it up now and then myself), you'll probably enjoy this series and this episode. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" parody was the highlight. And it's hard for me to say the phrase "VeggieTales From The Crypt" without laughing. But most of the jokes were merely "smile inducing". It's a good Halloween episode, and a good introduction to the series if you haven't watched it yet. But it's no classic. If I was a teen or adolescent, I'd probably rate this higher:

My rating:
2 and a half jack o'lanterns

Monday, October 24, 2011

Castle: "Demons"

Premiered October 24, 2011

A possibly haunted building in Manhattan

NYPD consultant and mystery novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) works with Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and her team to solve murders in the Big Apple. This Halloween-ish episode, opens with a paranormal investigator for a fictional tv series called "Ghost Wranglers" on location in a spooky old building that is thought to be haunted. Armed with a video camera and an EMF meter (two items commonly used in the ghost hunting business), he is recording his experiences. He sees something that frightens him and is quickly revealed to be our murder victim of the week.

Alexis and Castle enjoying "father-daughter zombie night"

Castle is at home enjoying a zombie movie on "father-daughter zombie night" with his teenage daughter Alexis when he gets a call to come out to the murder scene.

Upon arriving at the scene of the crime, Castle sees the "Ghost Wranglers" van outside the building and reveals that he is a big fan of the show. Beckett is not at all enthused about the concept of the show and calls it "ridiculous". Castle responds that it is "ridiculously aweseome" thus setting up who is going to be the "Mulder" and the "Scully" of the episode. Castle is shocked to learn that Jack Sinclair, the host of the program, is the murder victim but in typical fashion, his writer's brain kicks in with a bit of humor. He remarks that this is "one wraith he (Sinclair) couldn't wrangle" and makes a comment about the ghost hunter becoming the hunted.

We learn that the crime is especially bizarre, the victim's throat was slit causing blood to spatter everywhere but there is no sign of the murderer and the clues on the scene don't seem to add up. Is it possible that this murder is the result of paranormal activity? Castle wants to think so and Beckett thinks there must be a rational explanation. You'll have to watch the episode to find out the solution to the mystery. No spoilers here!

Beckett and Castle interviewing a suspect

RigbyMel says:

Full disclosure: I am a devoted fan of both Nathan Fillion and of programs like Castle and The Mentalist. I like my modern detective shows with a side of snark and Castle definitely provides a great deal of humor in this vein. For example, I really enjoyed when Castle referred to the murderer as an "Apparition American" after Beckett forbids him to use the word "ghost." Moreover, I am fascinated by ghost stories and paranormal investigations myself, so this show really appealed to my inner ghost geek.

The themes of this episode definitely have a Halloween flavor (haunted house, paranormal activity, etc) and the when we see the title sequence it has been changed a bit to include a spooky organ rendition of the theme music and an orange (rather than the usual blue or grey) background.

Castle logo in Halloween mode

This episode is an amusing way to spend an hour and definitely appropriate for the Halloween season. It's also not a bad introduction to a really smart and fun police procedural with a comedic edge, so if you've never seen the show, I recommend checking it out on Hulu or your internet tv source of choice.

My rating:
3 jack o'lanterns

My rating:

M*A*S*H: "Trick or Treatment"

Too bad the enemy was dressed to kill! Halloween in Korea: bobbing for shrapnel.
-Hawkeye Pierce

First time I ever heard of where being dead wasn't terminal.
-BJ Hunnicutt

Premiered November 1, 1982

It's Halloween in Korea, 1953. Hawkeye Pierce (in a Superman costume) and BJ Hunnicutt (dressed as a clown) are getting ready to attend the 4077th M*A*S*H unit's Halloween party at Rosie's bar. Their tent-mate Charles Winchester is on surgical duty, so he won't be joining them. Maj. Winchester doesn't care for Halloween or any of its trappings. Klinger shows up and says a group of Marines has arrived at Rosie's. One of these "pirahnas" has gotten a pool ball stuck in his mouth. Charles says he'll show the Marine "some Halloween spirit."

We get a funny scene where Charles taunts the Marine, Pvt. La Roche (played by George Wendt), who, indeed, has a pool ball stuck in his mouth. Later, Charles tends to another Marine who thought it would be a good idea to punch an electric fan at Rosie's. Charles calls this man "the lowest form of Marine life."

BJ and Hawkeye meet up outside with Col. Potter (wearing a makeshift cowboy costume) and Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (wearing an oriental-style silk dress).

Halloween plans are put on hold when new injured troops arrive. One of the wounded appears to be dead, he even has a toe tag attached. In the operating room, Potter, Hawkeye and Margaret all tell ghost stories to lighten the mood. Charles is dismissive of all the spooky tales insisting that "we're all adults here."

Another batch of wounded arrives, including a morbidly-thin soldier named Pvt. Scala, who is wounded but conscious. Hawkeye tries to cheer him up with jokes, Scala doesn't respond. Hawkeye asks Nurse Kelleye to get some x-rays of Scala. BJ is helping Marine Cpl. Hrabosky (played by Andrew "Dice" Clay), who has a head wound. Hrabosky says he was racing a jeep and accidentally crashed into a chicken coop, resulting in his injury. Nearby, the dead soldier has been left on the ground in a stretcher. Hawkeye calls for someone to cover him up.

A military police officer tells Potter that Hrabosky should be considered a prisoner, since he ran over the chickens. Potter points to all the blood on his hands from operating on wounded soldiers and doesn't "give a damn about any blessed chickens!"

Finally, two soldiers from graves registration show up to take away the dead soldier's body...but is he really dead?!

And will Charles make it through Halloween without experiencing a haunting?

J.A. Morris says:

I watched M*A*S*H religiously for about the first 18 years of my life, not much since then. This was the first episode I've watched in years.

"Trick Or Treatment" is a lot like other good episodes of the series: there are some laugh out loud moments combined with some very sad commentary about the futility of war. At the end of the show, the Army doctors have saved lives and will likely have to do the same tomorrow. Yes, it's formulaic, but that's okay. Plus, it's always funny & interesting to see actors (like Wendt and Clay in this episode) unexpectedly pop up in cameos before they were well known.

I imagine soldiers and doctors tried to celebrate Halloween just to make life during the Koren War a little more bearable. Alan Alda (Hawkeye) and Mike Farrell (BJ) are funny as always, but David Ogden Stiers (Charles) was funnier than usual in "Trick Or Treatment." Charles was often the but of the jokes, but he gets some of the best lines in this episode.

My rating:
3 jack o'lanterns

Friday, October 21, 2011

Roseanne: "Boo!"

Premiered October 31, 1989

Roseanne:"Halloween is the one night of the entire year
where the veil is lifted between the living and the dead.
And the dead return from Hell to walk the Earth.
And we have to dress up like ghosts and goblins and stuff.
To fake out the evil spirits. Or else they might carry us back to Hell with them!"
Becky:So why do the dead people come back?
Roseanne:For the candy! There's no chocolate in Hell, that's WHY it's Hell!

In the Connor family's kitchen, Roseanne and her sister Jackie are making caramel apples for their upcoming Halloween party. DJ says he's dressing up as a Ninja, his sisters Becky & Darlene act like they're too "mature" for costumes. Roseanne gives them a hard time about that, but Becky says she'll be attending her friend Marcy Michaelson's Halloween party. Dan enters the scene. Roseanne claims to be "the champ" of scaring, Dan claims he's the best in the family.

Breakfast of Halloween morning is eventful: Roseanne pretends she is being shocked by the toaster, Darlene pretends her tongue is cut out and "bleeds" into Becky's cereal. Dan comes inside covered with blood, he says he's cut himself on a jigsaw. Roseanne freaks out...but it's fake blood! Dan says this proves he is "the Master" of scares.

On Halloween night, Dan is awaiting an important call from a man named Jeff, who might be interested in giving Dan a construction job. Becky is in a bad mood, insulting Darlene (more than usual) and yelling at her mother. It turns out Becky wasn't invited to Marcy Michaelson's party. Her parents try to cheer her up by saying she'll have a good time at their party, Becky isn't interested and says she hates Halloween. Roseanne gives Becky a speech about the meaning of Halloween (see the pull quote at the top of this review). Becky's mood improves, she's decided to dress up and participate in the Conner's Halloween party.

Dan has a "splitting headache"!

The festivities begin:trick or treaters arrive. The Conners have turned their living room into a haunted house, they call it "The Tunnel Of Terror". Roseanne and Dan keep attempting to scare each other through various means. But only one can be "The Master" of Halloween scares! Who will be the scariest? Watch the show and find out!

J.A. Morris says:
A very good episode, fans of the series will remember that 'Roseanne' always went all out for Halloween. This episode is over 20 years old, but it still holds up pretty well. Roseanne and Dan's methods of scaring one another are all very funny, I won't go into detail to avoid spoilers. I This entire cast plays off each other so well, it feels like there was a lot of improvisational stuff that made it into the final script. I appreciated the daughters' attitudes about Halloween too. Teens and adolescents like Becky and Darlene still struggle over wearing costumes(it was a tough decision for me when I stopped) as they're torn between growing up and holding on to childhood activities. All in all, a great episode of a great series, and you don't need to be a 'Roseanne' aficionado to enjoy 'Boo!'.

My rating:
4 jack o'lanterns

RigbyMel says:

I didn't watch "Roseanne" regularly when it was first airing, but have enjoyed the odd episode in re-runs and on DVD. This Halloween show is quite a lot of fun. I like the way it captures the funny, but true to life sibling dynamics (as the oldest of 4 children, I can relate) and I Roseanne and Dan's attempts to out-scare each other perhaps a little mean-spirited but also believable in a funny way. This episode is well worth adding to your Halloween viewing, although I am not 100% convinced it is a "classic."

My rating:
3 jack o'lanterns

That 70s Show: "That 70s Halloween"

Premiered October 26, 1999
“Hey, let's not fight, alright? It's Halloween, man, it's time for Peace On Earth and Good Will towards men!”-Kelso
In Eric's basement, he and his friends (Hyde, Donna, Kelso, Fez, and Jackie) are talking about how fun Halloween was when they were kids. They're all trying to figure out what to do to celebrate Halloween. Fez is fascinated by the concept of candy being given away for free, as it's not something that's done is home country. Kelso suggests they go see 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. Eric suggests they visit Old Main their old grammar school. It has recently been burned and boarded up. Eric says they should break in and tell ghost stories in the dark. But first, Fez decides he must go trick or treating...dressed as Batman! Fez wants free candy, but gets an apple. He's not happy about that.
Fez goes Trick Or Treating
We cut to Eric's house where his parents, Kitty and Red are waiting for trick or treaters. They flash back to the first Halloween they celebrated in their house, in 1957: Kitty is wearing a Catsuit (Kitty is "a kitty" for Halloween), she's preparing for a Halloween party. Red's mom Bernice Foreman shows up uninvited and is making fun of Kitty (as usual). Red (dressed in a Zorro costume) and his friend Frank (dressed as “a bum”) arrive at the house carrying copious amounts of beer. Kitty asks Red for help setting up for the party, he says no, he's got to go to the garage with Frank so they can get drunk. Kitty gets a phone call from her doctor and learns she's pregnant! Bernice asks if she knows who the father is!
Later in the flashback, trick or treaters arrive at the Foreman house. Red and Frank scare them away, causing some of the kids to drop their candy. Kitty says Red shouldn't do that to kids because “what if you has kids?” Kitty then drops the news that she's pregnant. Red says “oh crap!”.
After attending a screening of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre', Eric and the gang break into the school. Eric tells a story about a gym teacher who died in the fire, his ghost still walks through the school. Kelso freaks out and runs away, Jackie is disgusted that he didn't stay to protect her from the ghost. She runs off, Donna goes after her. Jackie notes that Fez stayed behind to protect her.
The guys are getting bored with Eric's “scary” ghosts stories, when the Donna walks in with a stack of papers. She's discovered something verrry scaarry... their Permanent Records from grammar school!
Permanent Records!
Hyde's record says he's destined for a lifetime of crime, citing his destruction of a classmate's diorama in the 2nd grade. Eric then admits he broke the diorama because “it was better” than his. Eric's admission infuriates Hyde, because everyone turned against Hyde and labeled him as a bad kid when the diorama was destroyed. He accuses Eric of ruining his life. Eric objects and they're both ready to fight about it!
Kelso peruses his Permanent Record
What other deep, dark secrets will be discovered about the gang through their Permanent Records? Will the revelations turn them all against each other? And will Fez discover who stole his last box of Sugar Babies?
Jackie lets out a "Horror Movie" shriek when Hyde threatens to reveal her darkest secret!
J.A. Morris says:
This is no classic, but it's a good, solid episode. I watched 'That 70s Show' regularly for the first 3 or 4 seasons, but I didn't remember this one. It's easy to forget what a nice ensemble cast this show had. Wilmer Valderama (Fez) and Ashton Kuther (Kelso) got the biggest laughs from me, but everyone had their moment. In the parents' flashback, we got an "origin story" of sorts for Red's use of the word "dumb@$$", which was funny. And Marion Ross was always fun when she guest starred on the show as Red's mother Bernice.
My rating:
3 jack o'lanterns
RigbyMel says:
This is definitely a fun, silly and amusing episode. I was a bit puzzled by why the scary permanent records wouldn't have been salvaged from the remains of the school building, though - maybe it is part of their evil divisive nature or something?
I always tend to like the way that this series zaps back and forth in time as it does with Red and Kitty's 1957 Halloween flashback segments as well.
My rating:
3 jack o'lanterns