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Case Number 05283: Small Claims Court

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The Teacher From The Black Lagoon... And More Slightly Scary Stories

Scholastic Video // 2004 // 54 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // September 30th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Maurice Cobbs discovers that his inner child is drawn to stories of monsters, ghosts, and the horrors of homework.

The Charge

These spooky stories are frightfully fun for the whole family!

The Case

This selection from the Scholastic Video Collection offers several "slightly scary stories" adapted from popular children's books. In fact, one of the stories—"The Three Robbers"—was a beloved story from my own childhood. Probably helped turn me into the man I am today, so now you know where to assign at least a portion of the blame.

• The Teacher from the Black Lagoon, by Mike Thaler.
A young boy is terrified on the first day of school when he discovers that his new teacher is Mrs. Green, a real monster—with scales, claws, and sharp teeth! Mrs. Green quickly lives up to her terrible reputation, biting kids in half, gobbling them up, and giving out piles of math homework. It's not as gruesome as it sounds, but I still wondered at the sort of tyke who'd get a kick out of this stuff. Reminds me of me at that age. And that math homework stuff really sent shivers down my spine. I can't argue with her treatment of gum poppers, though. I hate that. Narrated by Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire), it's a fun little tale that articulates the fear a child might have at meeting a new teacher.

• What's Under My Bed? by James Stevenson.
What's that in the shadows? A ghost? What's that noise? Is there a monster lurking under the bed? Mary Ann and Louie are afraid that there is—until Grandpa tells them about the things that lurked in the shadows when he was a kid. The pictures of Gramps as a kid with his little moustache are hysterical.

• By the Light of the Halloween Moon, by Caroline Stutson.
A story about a cat, a witch, a hobgoblin, a sprite, and some other creepy characters who menace a little girl on Halloween—or do they? This one was my least favorite story, and I didn't think that the animation quite worked.

• The Three Robbers, by Tomi Ungerer.
My favorite! Three terrible robbers scourge the countryside, stealing and threatening, until they steal a little orphan girl named Tiffany. Suddenly, things begin to change, and the robbers have a new purpose in life. Wonderfully narrated by Gene Deitch.

The DVD also includes three bonus stories not available on the VHS release:

• A Dark, Dark Tale, by Ruth Brown.
The story of a dark, dark cat's dark, dark journey through a dark, dark house. It's quite charming, especially the dark, dark end.

• Georgie, by Robert Bright.
When the residents of the house he haunts fix the creaky stair and oil the creaky door, Georgie the ghost finds that he's lost his sense of purpose—for a while, anyway…

• Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman, by Barbra K. Walter.
An adaptation of a Turkish fairy tale that finds the smallest of a trio of brothers matching wits with a sinister witch who has wicked plans for them.

While I suppose that a world hungry for quality children's entertainment might gobble this admittedly well-made DVD up, I have to wonder whether or not it sort of defeats the purpose. As fun and entertaining as these stories are, I have to think that the books themselves lose a great deal of the charm that made them popular when presented through the boob tube. Granted, a read-along option is provided in the special features section, but how can watching a video adaptation of a beloved book compare with snuggling under the covers and listening to Dad read it aloud to you before bedtime? How does reading along with the TV compare with sitting on Mom's lap on a rainy afternoon and reading along with her? I can't find fault with the DVD or its advertised mission of providing an "invitation to the world of reading"—but I think that the mission would be better served by putting a book in front of the child instead of a DVD remote.

Still, if you must park the little shaver in front of the TV, you could do worse than present these charming little tales—and the best part is, you'll likely enjoy them too.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Scholastic Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 54 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• All Ages
• Animation

Distinguishing Marks

• Three Bonus Stories Exclusive to DVD
• Read-Along
• Interactive Menus
• Story Selection


• Official Site

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