Judge Patrick Naugle is glad he wasn't a child of the '70s.
If you have a MONSTER problem, you need…the Monster Squad!
"My name is Walt. I work as a night watchman here at Fred's Wax Museum to put myself through Criminology College. It used to be very lonely until recently when I plugged in my crime computer. Suddenly oscillating vibrations brought to life three legendary monsters…Dracula, The Werewolf, and Frankenstein. Creatures hated and feared for centuries, now determined to make up for their past misbehavings by fighting crime wherever they find it. Together, we're the Monster Squad!"
Boy, television was pretty weird back in the 1970s. How else do you account for a show like Monster Squad? Taking a ridiculous cue from the campy Batman series starring Burt Ward and Adam West, this Saturday morning time capsule takes horror icons and turns them into complete farce. When three of cinema's most memorable monsters battle crime with pillow fights, you know the show has not only jumped the shark, but become the shark.
I don't recall ever watching Monster Squad. The series premiered the year I was born (1976) and ran for only one season. I have the sneaking suspicion it didn't pop up in reruns or syndication often, and for good reason. Aside from its inherent nostalgia value, the show isn't very good. Actually, I guess it depends on how you look at it. The writing, directing, acting, production values, make-up, and practical effects are all just a notch above atrocious. However, as "bad" TV goes, Monster Squad is pretty entertaining. Where else can you see three of the biggest names in classic horror paling around with one of the stars of The Love Boat?
The plot lines are rather ludicrous, which is putting it mildly. In one episode, Count Dracula is stung by what they think is a killer bee. We then switch over to the Queen Bee (played by Designing Women's Alice Ghostly) inside her hideout, which looks like it was put together by the Edith Head while on a two week bender. The rest of the show is essentially the writers trying to logjam the word "bee" in wherever possible. In another episode, The Devil (or maybe just a criminal dressed up as The Devil) hypnotizes the city's mayor to do his criminal bidding along with his two game show model-looking assistants. Other villains of note are blandly named ("The Wizard," "The Weatherman," "The Astrologer") and dress in Halloween costumes culled from the clearance aisle at Woolworths.
Nothing in Monster Squad makes a lick of sense. The dialogue is horrendously bad, some of the writing skirting around sexual innuendo, as when the Wolfman says, "I noticed something about those girls—the distinct aroma of lubricating oil!" Yes, it came off just as tasteless and tawdry as it reads. The adventure elements are hokey (Flash bombs! Colored smoke! Strobe lighting!) and can hardly be termed as action. It's more like people with access to low budget fireworks.
Aside from offering a classic monster gesture once in a blue moon, no cast member makes much effort to give their character authenticity. They play each monster so against established personality (Frankenstein as a hippie?), for all I know it's the actors simply playing themselves dressed as monsters. Henry Polic II's Dracula is an effeminate worrywart, Buck Kartalian's Wolfman is Seinfeld's George Costanza, and Michael Lane's Frankenstein Monster has all the menace of My Little Pony. The make-up borders on ridiculous, either being too much (Dracula looks like he's starring in a high school production) or body parts only partially covered (for some reason Frankenstein's eyes are only half covered in green). And then there's poor Fred Grandy looking completely lost as the sidekick whose master computer looks like a large cardboard box filled with light bulbs.
In the end, Monster Squad is rather innocuous. Fans of Universal's classic monsters will find these depictions insulting, while anyone looking for sharp comedy or intricate stories will come up empty handed. I can't imagine this was a show that drew the kids in droves. It's slow, talky, and filled with dialogue that will alienate parents and children alike. Take my advice and check out Fred Dekker's similarly titled The Monster Squad movie instead. It offers the same characters and themes, just head, shoulders, and fangs above this cheapo mess.
For a show that is lucky to have seen the light of day on a digital format, Monster Squad looks decent. Presented in standard def 1.33:1 full frame, the image quality is rough to say the least. Each episode exhibits defects, fuzziness, and a general lack of sharpness, on par with their apparent VHS source material. Fans could get themselves up in arms, but considering the show hardly demanded a DVD release, they should be happy with what they get. The Dolby 2.0 Mono track in English is cheap '70s audio—tinny, canned, and just above passing. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are included on this set. VCI's "Complete Series" releases offers only a brief photo gallery as extras.
The back cover states Monster Squad "…was a hugely popular NBC Saturday morning action adventure series." Really?! How popular could it have been if it only managed thirteen measly episodes? I can only recommend this to hardcore nostalgia fans, and even then you've been forewarned.
Oh so Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: VCI Home Video
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