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Category:    Home > Reviews > Art > Design > Horror > Comedy > Animation > Monsters > Live Action > TV > Mystery > Children > The Art and Making Of Hotel Transylvania (2012/Hardcover/Titan Books)/Monster Squad: The Complete Series (1976)/The Red-Handed Gang: The Complete Series (1977/VCI DVD Sets)/Vampire Dog (2011/E1 DVD)

The Art and Making Of Hotel Transylvania (2012/Hardcover/Titan Books)/Monster Squad: The Complete Series (1976)/The Red-Handed Gang: The Complete Series (1977/VCI DVD Sets)/Vampire Dog (2011/E1 DVD)

 

Picture: X/C+/C/C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D/C/C-/C-     Book: B-     Main Programs: B-/C+/C

 

 

As Halloween 2012 approaches, there is always a healthy market for children’s product and here are some of those entries…

 

 

The Art and Making Of Hotel Transylvania (2012) is a coffee-table hardcover book about the upcoming computer-animated theatrical feature by Dexter’s Laboratory creator Genndy Tartakovsky (whose original animated Star Wars: Clone Wars is far superior to its CG replacement) written by Tracey Miller-Zarneke about the extensive character and background development that this took to make.

 

Color quality and paper stock are superior and the illustrations are accompanied by some text that is not too much or too little.  I had mixed reactions to the art, but it will be interesting to see how the characters all move.  The idea is to gather all the major monsters in one place (Dracula runs the title hotel and is having all the other classic monsters stop by) in the mode of Mad Monster Party?, the stop-motion animated classic Lionsgate is issuing on Blu-ray (see our DVD and CD soundtrack coverage elsewhere on this site) and it is not the first such collection of the classic monsters Universal Pictures built their studio on in the 1930s.

 

I will say the book demonstrated to me that this is a more ambitious project than I expected and even if it does not work (the voice actors chosen are not a plus for me in many cases, but we’ll see) at least they had a great director who tried.

 

 

Other gatherings of the monsters without officially being the Universal Pictures originals include the great animated Saturday Morning TV classic Groovie Goolies (reviewed elsewhere on this site) that puts their variants of the monsters in a Laugh-In variety/comedy show mode and the less-seen and discussed Monster Squad: The Complete Series (1976), which ran for 13 episodes, is a live-action production and actually is one of many shows at the time from Saturday Morning TV that tried to duplicate the energy, fun and style of the 1960s Batman series that was then a tremendous hit in syndication.  It is not to be confused with the well-liked 1987 film of the same name Lionsgate has issued a Blu-ray of, which we covered at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/9359/Monster+Squad+%E2%80%93+20th

 

In this case, one-time U.S. Senator and Gofer from the hit TV comedy show Love Boat Fred Grandy is here as Walter, who runs a wax museum, but secretly (looking like Burt Ward’s Dick Grayson) has a trio of great monsters he brings to life with a super computer (that uses computer punch cards!) to fight crime.  With its own jokes and puns (sometimes politically incorrect), Dracula (carton voice actor Henry Polic II, later of Webster), Bruce W. Wolf (longtime character actor Buck Kartalian, Julius of Planet Of The Apes (1968) among others) and Frank N. Stein (he played the real monster in Frankenstein – 1970 with Boris Karloff as Doctor Frankenstein) fight wacky villains in 13 half-hour shows all on this set.  Here are the episodes with key guest stars:

 

1)     Queen Bee (Alice Ghostley, Al Mancini, Colin Hamilton)

2)     Mr. Mephisto (Barry Dennen, Cathy Worthington, Mindi Miller)

3)     The Tickler (Ivor Francis, Douglas Stevenson)

4)     The Ringmaster (Billy Curtis, Simone Griffeth, H.B. Haggerty)

5)     The Music Man (Marty Allen as Lorenzo Musica)

6)     No Face (Sid Haig, David Proval, Timothy Scott)

7)     The Astrologer (Jonathan Harris, Frank Cady, James Gammon, Richard X.. Slattery)

8)     Ultra Witch (Julie Newmar, Johnny Brown, Joe E. Tata, Dick Bakalyan)

9)     The Wizard (Arthur Mallet, Mickey Morton, Victor Paul)

10)  The Skull (Geoffrey Lewis, Nathan Jung, Pete Kellett as The Mummy)

11)  The Weatherman (Avery Schreiber, Cheryl Miller, Owen Orr)

12)  Lawrence Of Moravia (Joseph Mascolo, Joe Tornatore)

13)  Albert/Alberta (Vito Scotti, Raymond Singer, Phil Diskin)

 

 

Edward Anders was a semi-regular as Mayor Goldwyn (a Commissioner Gordon type, sort of) and the show also played off of several monster action figure toy lines (see what Mego, Remco and AHI were issuing at the time in the sometimes Superhero mode) so it was right for the time and more entertaining than I remembered.  It has also aged well along with other Batman-inspired hits like ElectraWoman & DynaGirl (shot on professional analog videotape) and Bigfoot & Wildboy (filmed like this show) from Sid & Marty Krofft (see both on the Krofft compilation DVD elsewhere on this site).

 

This is a fun little gem that deserves to be rediscovered and has some top rate talent in each episode.  I also have to give Grandy credit for making more believable than most actors might have been able to do at the time.  Extras include series synopsis, episode synopses and a still gallery.

 

 

This was one of several limited-run Saturday Morning TV shows created by the writing and producing team of D’Angelo/Bullock/Allen, who had just launched the hugely successful classic TV sitcom Alice with Linda Lavin (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and were looking to expand.  They followed Squad with The Red-Handed Gang: The Complete Series (1977) the following year with a young unknown cast batting bad adults each episode.  The 12 half-hours amounted to three storylines and though it did some ratings for NBC at the time, it was not continued, yet became a big British hit and has its own following.

 

Of the cast, only actor James Bond III continued to have any kind of varied on-camera career, though Matthew Labyorteaux is now a voice for animated shows and had a run on Little House On The Prairie, J.R. Miller showed up in the original Amityville Horror, the late Johnny Brogna loaned his voice to the 1971 adult animated feature American Pop and Jolie Newman apparently left the business altogether.

 

I was not a big fan of the show and thought it a mix of being a child’s show and a drama with occasionally odd twists of children being in jeopardy which the teleplays never resolved.  The show reflects the Sesame Street/Electric Company phenomenon of the time in its attitude and naturalism, so that helped it, but having an evil Anthony Zerbe seems out of place here, but Van Williams (The Green Hornet) and Sorrell Booke (Dukes Of Hazzard) also show up as guests and it becomes a mixed show overall, which might explain its later cult appeal to some.

 

This means this is one of those shows you might just have to see for yourself.  Extras include series synopsis, episode synopses, stills gallery and commercial break tel-op card.  You can read about the D’Angelo/Bullock/Allen show Big John, Little John at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/11906/Big+John,+Little+John+(1976/VCI+D

 

 

Finally we have the silliness of Geoff Anderson’s Vampire Dog (2011) made in Canada with mostly unknown actors, though Norm MacDonald shows up as a bad guy trying to catch the title animal who is a hero of sorts to children in this child-safe-but-flat attempt at a fun comedy.  Clichés and boring digital effects on occasion will not make a fan of Fang The Dog (wow, how original…) for many and this is just too lite and forgettable to really recommend.  A trailer is the only extra.

 

The 1.33 X 1 on Monster Squad and Red-Handed Gang were shot on 16mm film like many live-action children’s shows of the time, but while Squad has been nicely restored, the clean prints on Gang are actually copies finished on video that add soft edges and even a little motion blur throughout each episode.  They are still watchable, but Squad has better overall performance, especially for a show of its age.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Dog is an HD shoot with motion blur and softness, but not as much detail and depth issues as Gang with color that is a little better than expected.  I still like the color on Squad overall at its best of the three.

 

The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on both TV shows can have background noise and show their age, but the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Dog is so weak overall that it cannot get ahead of the older shows sonically.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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