Tuesday, August 28, 2012

MONSTER SQUAD - THE COMPLETE SERIES

Another live-action Saturday morning favorite from my childhood, MONSTER SQUAD (1976 - not to be confused with Fred Dekker's 1987 movie of the same name), is about to be re-issued on DVD by VCI Entertainment and Fabulous Films.

A college student named Walt (Fred Grandy, THE LOVE BOAT) takes a night watchman job at a local wax museum. There he builds a super "crime computer" that, when activated, miraculously brings statues of the Frankenstein Monster (wrestler "Tarzan" Mike Lane), Dracula (Henry Polic II) and the Wolfman (Buck Kartalian) to life. Wishing to atone for the misdeeds of their past selves, they become the crimefighting "Monster Squad," battling various colorful supervillains - with names like the Queen Bee, Mr. Mephisto, Ultra Witch, The Astrologer, The Weatherman, etc. - every week.

Created by Stanley Ralph Ross, who had been one of the regular writers on the 1966 BATMAN television series, MONSTER SQUAD, which aired on NBC, basically used the same template of campy humor heavy on puns, broad physical comedy, and familiar comic guest stars portraying the villains of the week - including Alice Ghostley, Julie Newmar (BATMAN's Catwoman, herself) Jonathan Harris (SPACE ACADEMY), Marty Allen and Avery Schreiber (GALAXINA). Series creator Ross, an actor as well as a writer and producer, appeared on-screen in one episode, but was otherwise fairly hands-off with the show, as he was developing THE NEW ADVENTURES OF WONDER WOMAN for ABC at the time.

Previously released on DVD by Virgil Films in 2009, this new edition from VCI and Britain's Fabulous Films appears to be identical to the previous release (which currently commands astronomical prices online), with all 13 episodes presented in their original 1.33:1 (4x3) "full frame" aspect ratio on two discs. The picture quality is rather good overall, considering the obvious shoestring budget of the show and the cheap 16mm film stock it was shot on, with satisfactory detail and bright, stable colors. This edition is mastered from a PAL source, so the Mono audio does sound a bit high-pitched (PAL format runs about 4% faster than the U.S. NTSC standard). The only real bonus feature is a still gallery on disc 2.

MONSTER SQUAD actually holds up pretty well, all things considered. Sure, it's silly stuff, made on the cheap and aimed at young children, but much of the wordplay is pretty smart, and genuinely witty. If you watched the show as a kid, and feel like indulging your nostalgia, the DVD presentation is perfectly satisfactory. I really enjoyed revisiting it, and am glad to have it on my shelf next to my other childhood favorites.

BUYMonster Squad