Sunday, October 20, 2013

Monty's Halloween Viewing Log 2013 - Night of the Living Toys!

Well, folks, it's that time of year again! Officially! And while I don't seem to have as much free time as usual lately, one of my friends has been doing daily Facebook posts about his nightly monster movie screenings for the Halloween season, so I thought I might enjoy doing that too. Of course, I am a little behind, so now and then I might include a bit of backtracking too, since I've been watching Halloween stuff here and there since as far back as August, I'm sure.

Before getting started though, let me remind you that we have some great Halloween articles here from last year over in the Management Recommends section to your right. You can find my top 10 Halloween candy there, as well as an article about my favorite Halloween television productions, an article to Fairuza Balk-ify your Halloween, and a very quick commentary about various incarnations of The Addams Family and Sleepy Hollow. Also, expect the return of the Moonlight Motel comic strip this month, and if I have time, more fun articles, plus the Crush of the Week semi-regular feature.

But, on to the task at hand, and I think I'll save the backtracking for later, since last night was quite an excellent night of Halloween treats!

Last night started out with something I've been doing a lot lately, catching up with my favorite TV shows. Luckily, most fit in well with the Halloween season, so I'll get to talking about those next time. The real stars of the night were the classic, black and white, dark comedies that took over the evening afterwards, and the segway between the TV shows and the features, an all-new Halloween special starring one of my favorite casts of characters; a little something called "Toy Story of Terror".

So, a few years back, well, probably more than a few, Halloween specials started to make a comeback in the form of computer animated specials, usually based on Dreamworks movies like Shrek and, I don't know, whatever else Dreamworks makes. I watch their stuff pretty casually. When it comes to Disney though, I am quite serious, and they (and other studios) seemed to take notice of Dreamworks' new line of holiday specials. In recent years, Disney has made two computer animated Christmas specials featuring completely original elf characters, and this year they graced us with a Halloween special from the phenomenally popular (and deservedly so) Toy Story franchise, "Toy Story of Terror". This special premiered last week (Oct. 16, 2013 on ABC, I believe, and I also think it is set to have repeat airings on ABC Family between now and Halloween, but check your local listings to verify that), and I just got to see it the other day. If I haven't mentioned before, I currently do not have TV service. I have a TV and a PS3, and I have the internet and an enormous and constantly growing DVD/Blu-Ray collection, so I am plenty entertained. However, this does mean I usually see things after everyone else does, ha.

Now, Toy Story of Terror is a 22 minute special (minus the commercials) about an adventure the updated (post TS3) Toy Story gang has on a road trip with their new owner, Bonnie, and her mother. The special begins with the gang in the trunk of the car watching a vampire movie and getting pretty freaked out. Things get sidetracked when Bonnie's mom pulls into a motel for the night, and also acquires tire damage that must be seen to by a professional. During the night, the toys, already freaked out by the horror movie from earlier and Mr. Pricklepants' comments relating horror films to their current situation, begin disappearing from the motel room one by one. The toys set out on a mission to recover their friends but instead meet some new ones and uncover a sinister plot. It's a very entertaining special that's as good as you expect something from the Toy Story crew to be. All the original voices are back, and there is only one thing here to complain about... It really has nothing to do with Halloween. Okay, well, I guess a lot of stuff we watch on Halloween makes no mention of the holiday, but this is a Halloween special, right? For me, one of the most important points of a Halloween special is that it take place on Halloween, and obviously so, preferably showcasing many of the traditions that make the holiday so much fun. Beyond that, partway through the special, the plot loses much of its scary movie theme and becomes more like a typical Toy Story adventure of trying to get out of a "trapped" kinda situation and reunite with their owners. I suppose that's reminiscent of some survival horror, but it really no longer had the horror film mood to it. So, overall, this was an excellent Toy Story special, but as a Halloween special, well, I could have done with some jack o'lanterns and stuff like that in the mix.

Now, before I go into the many TV shows I've been watching lately and how they fit into the Halloween season so well, let me continue with what made last night such a fun night. As I said, I followed the Toy Story Halloween special with a bit of a classic movie night. Sorta like TCM without the aid of TCM.

I began with a film I'd been meaning to see for the longest time, and my first Veronica Lake film, in fact, "I Married a Witch" (1942). My expectations with this film? Well, first off, while I expected something with a bit of a "Betwitched" tone to it, this supernatural rom-com had the added spice of the female lead being quite evil in the beginning. It's the story of a young New England witch and her father who returning to the modern world to exact their revenge on the descendant of the man that put them to death. They decide the best revenge would begin with having him fall in love with the female witch, but this doesn't work out quite the way they'd planned it. Though this wasn't a laugh out-loud film by today's standards, which the later two films of the evening did manage to be, it was definitely a cute little movie, and I found Veronica Lake pretty adorable in it. I mean, she's not really my type for the most part, but in this movie she can be pretty irresistible, even if she also can remind me at times of Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus (only prettier).

The second film of the evening was 1940's "Ghost Breakers", starring Bob Hope. As with all the films I saw this night, it was new to me (though I'm a big fan of some of Hope's other films, especially the Road pictures with Bing Crosby). Paulette Goddard was quite charming as the female lead, and as politically incorrect as it probably is to say it, Willie Best was fantastic as well as Hope's frightened man-servant, even if his presence allowed for a lot of 40's racial humor opportunities. I'm not one to get all disturbed by stuff like that though. It's our history, and it's sad, but also fascinating for the same reason. Just as when jokes like that are done today on Family Guy or the like, they are still funny, maybe more than ever, but for totally different reasons. Like some movies are "so bad they're good", some jokes are sooo wrong that it's hard not to laugh at them for that very reason. Setting that big issue aside though, this movie had a lot of good laughs beyond those, and a fun haunted house story too. And, wow, with its settings, characters, dialogue and beautiful shots, it was such a perfect example of early 1940s filmmaking.

Finally, I ended up the night with one of my favorite comedy teams ever, Abbott and Costello. Now, I watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein every year, and I'll be putting that one on soon for sure. It's not only one of my favorite films to watch around Halloween, it's one of my favorite films, period. However, I knew the team had done some other monster themed movies, and I've decided to try and explore some of them this year. First one turned out to be "Hold That Ghost", from 1941, and it didn't let me down, though I first had to get through the unimpressive (and, yeah, pretty racist) entertainment of musical legend Ted Lewis. Luckily, this opening nightclub scene quickly followed Lewis with the incomparable Andrews Sisters. Granted, I prefer not to have to look at the Andrews Sisters as they perform, but I do love to hear them sing. Anyway, Bud and Lou play two schmoes waiting tables in the club. Of course, they soon have to find work elsewhere, and eventually get mixed up with a local gangster who dies in their presence. His will then decrees them his heirs just for being there. The boys immediately head out to see what they've won, and it turns out to be a rundown old place that appears to be haunted. But, are they really ghosts, or just someone trying to find the fortune hidden somewhere within Bud and Lou's new home? "Hold That Ghost" was not the very Abbott and Costello film I'd been looking for when I finally came across it. I had caught one once when I was very small in which Costello himself was a ghost. I know now that film is called "The Time of Our Lives", and I hope to see it soon. In the meantime, however, I will hold fond memories of this film. This film was a riot! You have Bud and Lou being classic Bud and Lou in their prime, lovely Evelyn Ankers from "The Wolf Man" in a romance with a studly uber nerd, and probably the highlight, comedienne Joan Davis, who does a wonderful dance routine with Costello and is definitely one of the best things about the film. But, it's pretty darn great overall, as far as being funny and classic Abbott and Costello goes.

Okay, that's all I have time for right now, gang, but next time I'll get into the many creepy TV shows I've been watching lately, and maybe some other stuff too. Be sure to come back for it!


  1. Hey there Nathan, Ryan here from Facebook! I read through all your old Halloween articles several weeks ago and found them very informative and entertaining. I especially enjoyed reading the Top 10 Halloween Candies and Halloween TV specials of the past. My favorite was always The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone, but I love 'em all. I didn't get a chance to see the Toy Story of Terror special. I totally get your point about a Halloween special featuring more seasonal items, so you know you're watching a Halloween special. The special certainly sounds interesting, but they should have made room for jack-o-lanterns, black cats, witches, etc.

    That lineup of old supernatural comedies is awesome! I've never seen Hold That Ghost, but I have seen the other two and thought they were great movies! Certainly perfect for this time of year. Veronica Lake is one of the sexiest actresses from Hollywood's Golden Age, and her performance in I Married a Witch made her even more enticing to me. Another good movie in that mold is Bell, Book, and Candle with James Stewart and Kim Novak. If you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend it. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein is indeed one of the best comedies ever made. Plus it makes for great Halloween viewing. Cheers!

  2. Hey Ryan! Great to hear from ya! I'm glad you got to enjoy those articles! Yeah, though I grew up watching all sorts of Flintstones incarnations, I didn't see that film until more recently. Definitely try to catch one of the replays of Toy Story of Terror! It's totally worth it! Even without much of a Halloween theme!

    Yeah, I am going to try and watch Bell, Book, and Candle this week, if I can, and a few others. May not get to see a lot of my usuals though, since Halloween is almost here! I have tons of articles I wanna do this month! I hope I still get the chance! Need to bring back the comic strip this month too, so it's gonna be crazy! Stay tuned! Should have the next installment of the viewing log up by this (Wednesday) evening!

    1. Since it's getting closer to Halloween day, me and my nephew will be watching the more seasonally appropriate shows we view every year. Last night we watched Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but during the coming nights we'll be watching: Halloween I & II (originals of course), Hocus Pocus, Lady in White, Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Disney's Trick or Treat and Lonesome Ghosts, Creepshow, and hopefully a few others. It seems Halloween comes and goes so quickly, it feels like it breezes by too fast. Yet the rest of the year drags and it takes forever for us to see Halloween again. I'll keep my eyes peeled for those coming articles!

  3. Man, I love everything you just mentioned! I haven't seen The Lady in White in forever though! I haven't watched all my usuals. I have never had a full time job at this time of year, amazingly and sadly, ha, and so I've been busy with a lot of things and have had very little spare time. I might not get to all my traditional viewings, but I have seen a lot of stuff already since August. I hope I have time to list them all in another log posting, though I can't guarantee that since I want to get a comic done too, and tomorrow will likely be my last night for Halloween related posts. Truly, Halloween really felt like it breezed by this year! By the way, always so good to see more love for Halloween 3! That movie has really developed quite the following!