Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Scooby-Doo Halloween

"It's not "regular scary" it's "Halloween scary!""

Premiered October 25, 2003

The Mystery Inc gang (Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Velma, Fred, Daphne) is headed to Banning Junction for the town's Halloween celebration.  They plan to stay with Velma's (Mindy Cohn) Aunt Meg (Julia Sweeney) and Uncle Evan (Diedrich Bader).  Shaggy (Casey Kasem) is excited because the rock band Kiss will be performing at the Banning Junction Masquerade Ball.  He and Scooby Doo (Frank Welker) are also looking forward to pigging out on Halloween candy.

"Jeepers, it sure is spooky out there!"
When they arrive at Banning Junction, they're met by a pitchfork-wielding angry mob.  Someone has been slashing and burning cornfields at night, the mob is suspicious of the Mystery Inc gang.

Uncle Evan and Aunt Meg rescue the gang from angry corn farmers.

Thankfully, Velma's Aunt and Uncle arrive and vouch for them. They all go back to Meg and Evan's house.  Velma is also happy to see her cousin Marcy (Jenny McCarthy), whose birthday happens to be on Halloween.  Marcy flirts with Fred, which angers Daphne (Grey DeLisle).    Meg mentions that Marcy has been elected Corn Princess of the Masquerade Ball.
Velma greets her cousin Marcy
In addition to Halloween, October 31st also marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Banning Junction.  Evan and Meg tell them a local legend: on that night, the ghost of Hank Banning (the town's long-time mayor) is due to rise from the dead.  After years in office, he became paranoid, began hearing voices, and grew unfit to serve, so he was voted out.  He died on Halloween night, promising to come back from the dead 100 years later to exact revenge from the town that turned on him.  The town expects a huge turnout for the Masquerade Ball, so that people can see if Hank's ghost shows up.

Will Hank Banning's ghost return as predicted?
The next day, they find new damage has been done to the corn fields. When Shaggy climbs a water tower, he sees that the field has been cut into the shape of a Jack O'Lantern.

Other parts of the field are cut into shapes of bats, ghost, witches, other symbols of Halloween.  Agnes (Rhea Pearlman), a local eccentric old woman, says Hank's ghost must be behind this.  Agnes' cat, Mr. Noodles,  doesn't seem to be a fan of Scooby.

Mr. Noodles steals Scoob's candy apple
Daphne suspects Marcy to be the culprit.  Fred and Velma disagree.

Velma, Fred and Daphne hit the library to research the case.  They learn that most of the surrounding lands have been bought by Eldon Reed (Daran Norris), a local businessman.  The damaged cornfields are the last independently owned fields.

Marcy shows up at the library too.   Daphne asks where was before she met them in the town square earlier.  She says she was at work and shows them a security tape that confirms this.

Mystery Inc checks out the cornfields that night.  They're attacked by scarecrows that have machetes and pitchforks for arms.

They figure out that the scarecrows are actually robots, operated by remote control. Scooby squirts them with a water hose and short circuits them.  Fred decides Scooby and Shaggy should disguise themselves as scarecrows and infiltrate the robots.  Fred uses the short-wave radio in the Mystery Machine to track the signal that operates the robots.  It turns out the scarecrow-bots are headed straight for the Masquerade Ball, where a crowd has gathered for the Kiss concert!


Kiss opens their set with "Shout It Out Loud".  Everyone is having a rockin' good time, but suddenly, the ghost of Hank Banning appears, and the scarecrow-bots attack!

Can Mystery Inc figure out who is destroying the cornfields?   Will the scarecrow robots ruin Banning Junction's Halloween celebration?  Has Hank Banning really returned from the dead to haunt the town?

J.A. Morris says:

Scooby-Doo was a big part of my childhood, especially the first 3 series.  But I haven't seen many of the "modern" episodes. 

Casey Kasem and Frank Welker reprise their classic roles as Shaggy and Fred, respectively.  Welker also does a nice job as Scooby-Doo, filling in for Don Messick (the original voice of Scooby, Messick passed away in 1997). Rounding out the principals, Mindy Cohn (yep, "Natalie" from The Facts Of Life) is great as Velma.

As we said in an earlier review, any Scooby-Doo episode makes for decent Halloween viewing.  So when an episode takes place at Halloween, you can expect it to be more fun than usual.  Like most Scooby stories, you can guess who committed the crime early on, but it's still a great ride.   

Adding Kiss to the mix adds to the fun.  I'm glad they used "Shout It Out Loud" as their song, instead of more obvious choices ("Rock N Roll All Night", "Detroit Rock City").  It made for good background music during the closing chase scene.

Shaggy and Scooby rock out to Kiss!

There's a subplot that goes nowhere that involves Agnes, Banning Junction's resident cranky old lady. Her cat Mr. Noodles has some humorous interactions with Scooby. Noodles also has glowing, demonic red eyes, this is never explained.  This digression is one reason I can't give it a higher rating.

A Scooby Doo Halloween is available on a dvd called What's New Scooby-Doo:Monster Matinee  and
it usually airs on Cartoon Network every October.

This special can be enjoyed by Scooby-Doo fans of all ages, I've watched it every year since I discovered it several years ago.

J.A. Morris' rating:
3 Jack O'Lanterns

RigbyMel says:

This is a fun Halloween episode that doesn't jar tonally with "classic" Scooby-Doo episodes.  There are some amusing nods to the tropes from older incarnations of the series.   I also find the segment where Shaggy attempts to drive the Mystery Machine and grinds the gears, freaking Freddy out to be rather funny.

The appearance by Kiss is kind of random seeing as I have doubts as to the band's continued relevancy - they were "monsters of rock" in the late 1970s ... are they still really one of the biggest bands in the world in 2003?   It does fit in with the 70s recurring musical bits from the old show, though.

Also, I find it interesting that the animators chose to make Velma a lot skinnier than in the "classic" Scooby episodes.   This bothers me a little bit, as it sort of implies that there was something wrong with Velma in her earlier incarnation.  Velma was (and is) really the brains of the operation. Her weight shouldn't factor into it one way or another and the retconned lost poundage seems to imply that it DOES matter.

It was fun to hear voice actors that I've liked in other shows like Deidrich Bader (of Batman: The Brave & The Bold) and Julia Sweeney (an SNL alum) too.

Also, this image makes me smile:

Scooby with a "Shaggy" looking jack o'lantern

This is a fun addition to your Halloween viewing, but maybe not a "classic."

RigbyMel's rating:
3 Jack O'Lanterns


Spider-Man: "Revenge Of The Green Goblin"

Premiered in 1981.

Spider-Man swings over a group of trick or treaters.

"Halloween's the only time I don't feel conspicuous."  
- Spider-man/Peter Parker

Norman Osbourn, AKA the Green Goblin.

Norman Osbourn (Neil Ross) is riding on a train.  Suddenly, an accident occurs, derailing the train and sending the passengers flying.  The shock restores a repressed memory in Osbourn: he is the Green Goblin, one of Spider-Man's deadliest foes.

Osbourn remembers!

In New York City, Peter Parker (Ted Schwartz) is getting ready to celebrate Halloween.  He dresses up as a clown and takes Betty Brant (Mona Marshall) to a college dance.

Peter Parker and Betty Brant, dressed up for the Halloween Dance.

Peter's "spider sense" starts acting up at the dance.  He sneaks off, telling Betty he needs to go get her "Halloween present" and puts on his Spider-Man suit.

Peter uses his "spider-strength" to open a locked door.


He finds the Green Goblin in a lab nearby.  Goblin zaps Spider-Man with a ray that immobilizes him.

A black cat hisses at Spider-Man after crossing his path!

 The villain then dons a helmet called the "memory amplifier," which projects memories like they're movies.  Green Goblin recounts his last battle with Spidey, where they both learned each other's secret identities.

Green Goblin dons his memory amplifier helmet.

Osbourn says his business empire was destroyed when the Daily Bugle reported about his dangerous work conditions.  He vows to punish the Bugle and its owner, J. Jonah Jameson.  Gobby also threatens to tell the world that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.

Green Goblin flashes back to their previous battle.

The Goblin takes off and visits the Daily Bugle offices.  He shoots the Bugle's printing press with some sort of beam.  Spider-Man recovers and pursues the Goblin, brawling with him over Central Park.  But the Goblin gets away and drops Spider-Man in the lake.

The next day, every copy of the Daily Bugle disintegrates when touched.  The paper's publisher, J. Jonah Jameson (William Woodson) is furious about this and demands to know who's responsible.

 A stack of Daily Bugle newspapers disintegrates!

Green Goblin attacks Jameson in his office, causing JJJ to accidentally fall out the window.

Spider-Man saves Jameson, but now the Goblin has a chance to tell Jameson that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are one and the same.

J.A. Morris says:
A bit of background on this series:Spider-Man ran for one season in syndication in 1981.  It never ran on a  national network (I only saw it when I traveled out of state or on VHS years later), so it's somewhat obscure.  For more info on the series, check out this excellent fan site.

A trick or treater shows up dressed as Aunt May's "favorite weirdo"!

"Revenge Of The Green Goblin" is a decent Halloween story.  As we said in our review of the Halloween episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Green Goblin is the perfect villain for a Halloween show.  The Halloween Dance and the kids in costumes give it plenty of Halloween atmosphere. 

Something that's always bugged me about Spider-Man (in comics, film and television) is that writers often use "the Parker luck" as a  cheap way of creating drama.  Peter Parker often has to run off in the middle of a date to change into his Spidey costume, which angers his girlfriend.  In this episode, Peter is forced to run off, but makes it up to Betty in the end.  She gets her "Halloween present"...

 and he gets a kiss!

The only real problem is the Green Goblin's method of revenge on Jameson.  He causes a day's worth of the Daily Bugle to disintegrate.  I suppose angry subscribers would demand a refund, ergo ruining Jameson's fortune?  I'm guessing a skinflint like Jameson would have insurance for such a thing. 

Halloween kitten!

 While it's not a classic, "Revenge Of The Green Goblin" is a fun episode, and it can also serve as good intro an obscure series.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 Jack O'Lanterns.

Saturday Night Live: "Charles Grodin & Paul Simon"

Aired October 29, 1977

Connie Conehead: Mommy, I must split to join my human friends and their Halloween activities.

Prymaat Conehead: Activities?

Connie Conehead: Apple bobbing.

Prymaat Conehead: Apple bobbing?

Connie Conehead: Apple bobbing! An ancient human ritual. The immersion of the cone into a fluid bath, while attempting to grasp buoyant fruit with a major orifice. 

(Note:as was the case for an earlier SNL review, we will concentrate on the sketches that focus on Halloween, except when necessary.)

Saturday Night Live cast members Gilda Radner and John Belushi are worried.  The show is about to start, and guest host Charles Grodin is missing!  They talk about how he's a bit eccentric and doesn't relate to the cast.  Grodin finally shows up, he was late because he was buying gifts for the cast and missed dress rehearsal.

He's due to perform the opening monologue in 1 minute and hasn't written it yet.  But he's excited about hosting, he's written a special song for the show that expresses how he feels about life.  Grodin says he didn't have time to write a monologue because he's been busy playing tourist in New York.  He's shocked when he's told it's a live show with a live audience.  Grodin's "lack" of preparedness will be a running gag throughout the show.   

During his monologue, Grodin says he's never seen the show, but he hears "it's a wonderful, wonderful show."  He says he wished he'd have time to rehearse with the cast, but he's been too busy sight-seeing and checking out Broadway shows.  It looks like a "really cute show!"

"Oh, my. Your costumes are so frightening. Here. Accept these treats."

The Coneheads are celebrating Halloween.  Prymaat (Jane Curtin) gets a knock on the door from trick or treaters.  She gives them fried eggs (or "fried chicken embryos" as the Coneheads call them) and a 6-pack of beer.  Daughter Connie (Laraine Newman) is dressed as a witch, she plans to attend a Halloween party later that night.  She attempts to explain apple bobbing to her parents.

Connie Conehead dressed as a witch for Halloween.

Beldar (Dan Aykroyd) and Prymaat talk about how they miss their home planet Remulak.  This is the time of year when Remulak celebrates the Harvest of Mipzor.

" We will honor your Halloween ritual by paying homage to the symbolic vegetable orb."

Their conversation is interrupted by a knock at the door.  But it's not trick or treaters, it's local "block parents" Carl (Bill Murray) and Sharlene van Arsdale (Radner).  They are angered that the Coneheads handed out "six-packs of brewski" to children.  The van Arsdales aren't crazy about fried eggs as Halloween treats either.

Later in the show, we get an episode of the talk show, Consumer Probe, hosted by Joan Face (Curtin).  Her guest is Irwin Mainway(Aykroyd), owner of Mainway Novelties.

Mainway's company sells unsafe Halloween costumes. His company sells such dangerous costumes as "Invisible Pedestrian" (an all-black suit and gloves), "Johnny Space Commander" (a plastic bag and a rubber band) and "Johnny Human Torch" (a bag of oily rags and a lighter).

Irwin Mainway wears his "Johnny Space Commander" mask.

Face is disgusted by the costumes, Mainway (a personification of sleaze) dismisses her concerns.  He says each costume is a "pure fantasy toy."

After "Weekend Update", it's time for a performance of "Sounds Of Silence" by musical guest Paul Simon and his old partner, Art Garfunkel.

Simon & Garfunkel?

Actually, it's Grodin in an "Art Garfunkel" wig.  But Grodin barely knows the words, it seems he hasn't bothered to rehearse the song.  Plus, Simon finds it difficult to sing with someone who looks so much like his old partner, but isn't.  Simon convinces Grodin to give up on the song so they can save time for other stuff on the show.  Unfortunately, Grodin decides to use this time to sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water."   Keep an eye out for a surprise cameo in this sketch.

 The Killer Bees go trick or treating.

The Killer Bees trick or treat at a suburban house.  But it's not candy they're after, they want pollen!  The man of the house (Grodin) tells them they don't have pollen.

Give us your pollen -- NOW!!

Grodin breaks character and talks about the wonderful bee costumes.  But he quickly changes his tune, saying the antennae props are distracting.  Radner, playing his wife, tries to get him to read the cue cards, to no avail.  Belushi and the others try to stay in character.  Grodin gets confused, asking the cast "am I supposed to believe that you're real bees?"  Belushi reminds him that if he hadn't missed the dress rehearsal, he would understand the sketch.  Grodin refuses to stay in character, causing Belushi and the other "bees" to walk off stage. 

J.A. Morris says:

A very good (if unusual) episode from SNL's classic era.  Grodin comes from a different "school" of comedy than the Not Ready For Prime Time Players.  And Grodin's style of comedy is certainly an acquired taste,   but he's brilliant.  I think Grodin's approach to humor was a bit ahead of its time (Ricky Gervais' comic persona owes a lot to Grodin, in my opinion).    

The Mainway sketch is a Halloween classic (used for years on SNL's Halloween clip shows).  Irwin Mainway is one of Aykroyd's best characters, and this is his best sketch.  Jane Curtin also deserves kudos here for the way she plays off Mainway.  "Joan Face" was sort of a typical "straight-woman"character, but Curtin makes you believe she is truly appalled by Mainway's negligence.

"The Return Of The Coneheads" is one of SNL's best Conehead sketches.  Aykroyd, Curtin and Newman are great as Beldar, Prymaat and Connie.  Newman is especially funny as she attempts to explain Halloween to her parents.

The "Simon and Garfunkel" bit isn't a "Halloween" sketch per se.  But I included it in the summary because you could say the Garfunkel wig was Grodin's Halloween costume.  Paul Simon is also funny here. 

One more sketch I'll mention:"The Judy Miller Show" isn't really a "Halloween" sketch, but Judy (Radner) does have a Jack O'Lantern in her room, which is a nice touch.

 "It's the Judy Miller Show!" (note the bedside Jack O'Lantern).

The last sketch, titled "Hire The Incompetent" of the night has nothing to do with Halloween.  But it does feature the first appearance of Roseanne Roseannadanna, one of the most popular characters in the history of SNL.

 Roseanne Roseannadanna, before she became a 'Weekend Update' commentator.

This is a great episode, one that I try to watch every Halloween.

J.A. Morris's rating:
3 1/2 Jack O'Lanterns


RigbyMel says:

Although I had seen many of these Halloween sketches in various SNL re-packagings and clip shows over the years,  I had never seen them in their original context before.   Charles Grodin was a very funny host and Paul Simon was a good sport to put up with the Garfunkel-inspired shenaningans.   The classic cast is, of course, amazing!   Even the sketches that aren't quite as strong strike me as being much better than most of what is currently being aired on SNL.

This episode is well worth seeking out on DVD or Netflix streaming.

RigbyMel's rating:
3 Jack O'Lanterns