Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monster Squad on DVD

I've been meaning to post this for awhile, but never got around to it. On June 23 one of my favorite, seldom seen, children television show was finally released to DVD. The Monster Squad is a live-action, Saturday morning program that featured Fred Grandy (aka Gopher on the Love Boat) and a cast of superhuman wax monsters that come to life at night to fight crime. Originally aired on NBC in 1976 it hasn't been seen much since then, at least in the US.

I don't know the source material used, but I doubt they pulled these from the original film negatives. The sound is a bit muffled in some episodes and the picture grainy, and no real extras to speak of. Too bad... I have a bunch B&W film negatives and color slides I would have been happy to share. With that said, I'm still ecstatic that these were finally released, considering the fact that fan copies circulating over the years are completely unwatchable. I'm looking forward to other D'Angelo releases (Big John, Little John - Oct 2009) hopefully coming soon.

I do take some small satisfaction in helping to get it finally released, although some would say I had no bearing in the matter. A friend of mine who has made finding Monster Squad episodes a life-long obsession had tracked down producer Bill D'Angelo many years ago to see what the ownership status was... Reportedly, Bill claimed to have the original film negatives stored in his basement, along with most of his other early Saturday Morning shows. My friend made many calls to both Bill and his lawyer over several years to urge them to do something with the shows. D'Angelo and his lawyer eventually stopped taking his calls and then in 2002 (June 22) Bill died at age 70, along with hope of ever seeing Monster Squad.

As many of you know, BCI had obtained the distribution rights to the Filmation library in the US and did a great job with the sets it released. I contacted someone affiliated with BCI and suggested they investigate getting the DVD rights to the D'Angelo library. Surprisingly they were looking for new libraries to tap and asked for any contact information I could provide. I gave them everything I had and told them to contact my obsessed Monster Squad friend for more info.
There you have it. Okay, it's not like I did anything above and beyond what any self-respecting fan boy would have done, but let me have my victory, please.

Rumor has it that BCI approached D'Angelo's son and expressed an interest in the programs. Apparently not happy with the offer (or the terms), Bill Jr. began shopping around for other distribution deals... eventually going with Virgil Entertainment.

BCI went out of business at the beginning of this year after a great run of Filmation DVD sets, which was too bad... I'm convinced they could have produced awesome sets of D'Angelo material.

Brady Fanaticism

Fans of ephemeral 70s pop culture should know that there’s a new book out that takes Brady Bunch fanaticism to a new level… a 340 page book about the 9 episode flop known as The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Amazingly this book contains hundreds of never before seen photos and artwork (which remarkably escaped the furnace) and interviews with what seems to be nearly every living person who ever worked on the program. Love to Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of the Brady Bunch Variety Hour is veritable encyclopedia of lost Brady knowledge. It catalogs, in all it’s glittery, sequin-laced, gory detail the fiasco that what would one day be called by many the worst show in television history (TV Guide was extremely kind by awarding it a noble “4th worst show ever” award).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the BBVH, think of the Brady’s… uh, think of Donny & Marie… uh, think of disco… aw, forget it, there really isn’t a fair comparison. The premise is Mike and Carol pack up the kids and Alice and move to California to start their own variety television show, which will not only feature their inability to sing and dance, but highlight their total lack of basic sketch comedy. Sounds like a ratings winner to me. Quick, get me Sid and Marty Krofft!

Guest stars are paraded across the program with reckless abandon… pop star Tina Turner, aging Milton Berle, Kaptain Kool and the Kongs, Donny & Marie, Farah Fawcett, Lee Majors, the Kids from What’s Happening, Tony Randall and HR Pufnstuf just to name a few. Love to Love You Bradys coincides with (and perhaps even undermines) the 40th anniversary of the debut of the original Brady Bunch show, by highlighting the seldom seen, dirty little secret hiding in their collective closet. The authors of LOVE TO LOVE YOU BRADYS are Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) the youngest cast member, and pop culture historians Ted Nichelson and Lisa Sutton. While there is no shortage of content for even the most avid fan, I was struck by the eye-popping background artwork that really brings each page alive. Kudos for producing a book that caters to both the casual as well as the die-hard fan.

LOVE TO LOVE YOU BRADYS is a fascinating study in how a television show goes from vision to production and onto the air. Right down to its glittery-textured cover, it’s also a lesson in how to avoid a disaster, as Susan Olsen laments in the forward, “The memory should be kept alive to assure that this will never happen again.”