Shout! Factory // 1995 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // September 19th, 2010
Hats off to Madeline!
"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived 12 little girls in two straight lines. They left the house at half past nine, in two straight lines, in rain or shine. The smallest one was Madeline." So begin Louis Bemelmens' six rhyming children's books about Madeline, a little girl who lives in Paris with 11 other girls and is cared for by a nun named Miss Clavel. The gentle little tales -- published from the late 1930s to the 1950s -- have inspired a number of animated television productions, as well as a live-action feature film starring Frances MacDormand (Fargo). The longest running of the television productions was Madeline, which ran for 20 episodes on The Family Channel, beginning in 1993. Narrated by Christopher Plummer, the 22-minute episodes feature adventures in which Madeline and her friends often travel the world, experiencing different cultures. In 1995, the series moved to ABC for an additional 13 episodes and was renamed The New Adventures of Madeline.
Madeline's Halloween and Other Spooky Tales includes four episodes of The New Adventures of Madeline and one episode of Madeline:
* "Madeline's Halloween"
Madeline and the other girls travel with Miss Clavel to New York City to meet their pen pals. In the States, they learn about Halloween and meet New York's most popular radio drama star: the Spider Lady, whom they discover isn't nearly as scary as her public persona.
* "Madeline and the Spider Lady"
Picking up where the previous episode left off, Madeline and the other girls visit a broadcast of The Adventures of the Spider Lady. A city-wide, War of the Worlds-style panic is set off when the girls' game of pretending New York is being attacked by giant ants is inadvertently broadcast to the masses.
* "Madeline and the Mummy"
The girls are invited on a trip to Egypt with the Spanish Ambassador and his son Pepito. Once in Egypt, they tour museums and learn about ancient Egyptian culture...including mummies. Miss Clavel assures the girls that the legend of the mummy's curse is just folklore, but the girls aren't sure they believe her when they all get trapped in the dark museum.
* "Madeline and the Haunted Castle"
The girls are paid a visit by the Hollywood star, Sugar Dimples. When Sugar shows signs of homesickness and confesses that she misses Halloween festivities, the girls decide to stage a "true French Halloween." They dress up, go trick-or-treating (to the chagrin of confused Parisians), and pay a visit to a haunted castle being used as a location in a Hollywood movie. Bon Halloween!
* "Madeline and the Mean, Nasty, Horrible Hats"
The girls accompany the Spanish Ambassador's son Pepito on a vacation to Madrid. In Spain, they tour a museum and see Pepito's family's grand hacienda, Rancho de Sombreros. They also meet Pepito's three naughty cousins, who make the girls' visit miserable. When the boys terrify a young bull with a faux bullfight, the girls decide to intercede on behalf of the animal.
At best, Madeline's Halloween and Other Spooky Tales is marginal as a Halloween-themed release. Three of the episodes from The New Adventures of Madeline -- "Madeline's Halloween," "Madeline and the Spider Lady," and "Madeline and the Haunted Castle" -- touch on the holiday and its foreignness to the little French girls, but none is really a proper Halloween special like, say, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. "Madeline and the Mummy" has no direct connection to Halloween, though it does involve the idea of a mummy's curse. The lone episode from Madeline, "Madeline and the Mean, Nasty, Horrible Hats" is included to pad out the disc (and, hey, a disc with five episodes is a better value than a disc with four episodes, even if one is a bit of an oddball, so who am I to complain?). Even though none of the episodes on the disc dives full-bore into the spirit of Halloween, it doesn't diminish their gentle charm. Young children (especially young girls) are sure to enjoy Madeline's adventures, which manage to be educational without the aggressive and pathologically cheerful force-feeding of information that characterizes the many, many modern children's shows produced by child development experts instead of honest-to-goodness storytellers.
As far as the DVD presentation goes, the episodes definitely show their age. Detail is soft throughout, colors are a bit muted, and there's a fair amount of minor source damage (nothing all that distracting, though). On the plus side, digital artifacts are non-existent. Audio is a flat and lifeless stereo mix in keeping with the original broadcast presentations. The episodes from The New Adventures of Madeline fare slightly better than the lone episode of Madeline (mostly because the quality of the animation is superior), but only slightly. The audio/video limitations won't bother young fans of the show.
The disc is the very definition of barebones. The main menu provides an option to play all of the episodes or to jump to a menu where you can select an individual episode. There are no scene selections, no subtitle options, no extras, and only the single audio option. If your child is a fan of the series, none of that is likely to matter. The bottom line is that Madeline's Halloween and Other Spooky Tales is a decent budget release of five episodes from the show that should get young ones in the mood for Halloween festivities.
That's all there is; there isn't any more.
Review content copyright © 2010 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated