A lot of people ask me, “Creepy, how did you first come to love horror movies so much?” Well, growing up in the Seventies, there was plenty to go around. There were TV classics like Gargoyles, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and any number of TV Movies of the Week, and there was also…
There was also a ton of weird and quirky bits of monster-themed kids programming. Usually “The Munsters” and “The Land of the Lost” get all the love, and rightly so. They’re absolute classics. That being said, we’re gonna talk about some other things here. Things you may not have known even existed. For instance, were you aware that way before Venkmen, Spengler, Stantz and Zeddmore there was a whole other set of Ghostbusters? How about a different Monster Squad? Got your attention? Good. Sit back, relax, and get ready to soak up some lunacy as we revisit…
Now mind you, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the nuttiness on this list as the following programs are so gloriously whacked-out they still stand the test of time. Especially if you’re in the… shall we say… “right frame of mind!” If you’re an adult, having “party favors” on hand will surely help.
First on my list of the absolutely strange and obscure is a Japanese import that I wasn’t lucky enough to enjoy as a kid…
“The Space Giants” (1967)
It was the Foywonder who brought this giant-fighting gem into my life, and I’ve never been able to look back. This show out Ultras “Ultraman” and is an absolute MUST for fans of Godzilla and monster movies. Our main hero is a fifty-foot tall robot named Goldar who looks as if he got lost on the way to a Spinal Tap concert. Goldar works with his wife Silvar and their son Gam. So how does he know when the Earth is in jeopardy? A news reporter named Ito Mura and his son Miko always seem to be on the front lines of an alien attack, and when there’s trouble, Miko blows a magic whistle three times and Goldar and company fly to the planet’s aide by transforming into rockets and speeding off to the rescue. There’s also some form of strange alternate reality where Goldar lives that’s run by a weird looking wizard named Methusan. Sound strange? You have no friggin’ clue the insanity that waits for you should you track this hard-to-find gem down. Known in Japan as “Ambassador Magma,” “The Space Giants” enjoyed a hell of a run in the Far East, accumulating more than 50 episodes.
Then came this golden oldie…
“The Ghost Busters” (1967)
The powers that be can keep Ghostbusters 3! Who needs it when you have this sliver of pop culture peculiarity lurking about just waiting to be discovered? The show starred Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, and legendary Bob Burns in full gorilla suit as two average joes (and their simian friend) who hunt spooks. In a nutshell… our gang the Ghost Busters travel around the world looking for ghosts and anything else that has a habit of going bump in the night. Once they have a close encounter of the paranormal kind, they dispel said entities with a weird camera-looking gadget. With the exception of scenes filmed outside in their ghost busters mobile, the show is comprised mainly of flimsy sets with incredibly questionable production values, but that doesn’t matter as this freaky frolic is oozing charm. Filmation would later spin this off as a cartoon in 1986, the same year that the other Ghostbusters cartoon was released. As a result we had “The Real Ghostbusters.” Guess which one lasted longer?
Since we brought up animation, let’s look at these two classics…
“The Groovie Goolies” (1970)
Originally released as “Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies,” this cartoon featured your favorite monsters such as Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, and the Wolf Man yucking it up “Laugh-In” style. If you don’t know what that means, thanks for making feel ancient and go get some comedic culture while the rest of us old-timers have some fun. Friggin’ whippersnappers. Back to business… Sabrina was the head of a band of monsters (yes, band as in the musical variety) who would play ridiculous songs and scare people for fun. Fun being the operative and incredibly descriptive word of this experience. Dig it!
“Frankenstein, Jr. and the Impossibles” (1966)
If you’re lucky, you can catch an episode or two of this wondrous superhero-driven take on the assembled man subgenre on Boomerang or the Cartoon Network. They play it every now and again, and my advice? Set your DVR, fashion an incredibly large bowl of the sweetest sugar-based cereal you can find (preferably Count Chocula to keep you in the spirit of things), and go to town! In this vintage toon Frankenstein Jr. is actually a robot constructed by a boy-genius to fight crime. The Impossibles portion of the show featured four undercover superheroes who pose as a rock band as a means to fight crime. It’s an odd pairing for sure, but in the end it really works.
Moving back into the live action realm, who could possibly forget…
“The Far Out Space Nuts” (1970)
I’ll tell you who could forget them. YOU. If they were as revered as they deserve to be, I wouldn’t have to be writing this thing to make you aware of it. Now then… the show capitalized on the whole “Gilligan’s Island” vibe, even going so far as to bring in Gilligan himself, Bob Denver, as Junior to accidentally pilot a spaceship with his “Skipper-like” buddy Barney (played by Chuck McCann) that eventually gets stranded on far-away worlds that are home to wacky aliens and their eventual extraterrestrial sidekick Honk, who was played by Patty Maloney. The comedy here is pretty much as goofy as it comes, but it doesn’t matter. This shit still rules AND it has a badass theme song. FTW.
Now that we’ve blasted off into space, let’s land again… in a museum. Why a museum? Because that’s the home of the…
“Monster Squad” (1970)
Long before we found out that the Wolf Man had nards or the scary German guy was offering anybody pie, the original Monster Squad was comprised of museum caretaker Walter (Fred Grandy), who stored a handy crime computer inside of an Egyptian sarcophagus that when activated reanimates wax figures of the Frankenstein Monster, The Wolf Man, and Dracula to speed off into the night via their black Monster Squad van to nab themselves some bad guys. Yep, this one is indeed a strange affair, but the monsters – with the exception of Frankenstein – all play it relatively straight, and Dracula (played by Henry Polic II) can even be considered downright scary… at least appearance-wise because he’s rocking some serious fangs. I don’t know about you cats, but I’d rather trust these creatures of the night with my well-being than any politician who supposedly has the country’s best interests at heart.
And finally it all leads to this…
“The Hilarious House of Frightenstein” (1971)
This Canadian import is the creme de la creme of bizarro children’s programming. A friendly acid trip of obscurity which features an opening and closing by the great Vincent Price, who also pops up in several episodes along the way. The man behind all of this madness is one-man comic genius Billy Van, who plays several characters in the show including Count Frightenstein, The Librarian, a DJ named The Wolfman (no relation to Jack), Grizelda – the Ghastly Gourmet, and tons more! The show follows Count Frightenstein – the thirteenth son of Count Dracula who was exiled to Castle Frightenstein in Frankenstone, Canada for failing to revive Brucie J. Monster, a Frankenstein-like monster. Assisted by Igor (an unforgettable Fishka Rais), an overweight incompetent, and a three-foot-tall mini-Count (Guy Big), each episode followed the Count’s efforts to revive Brucie and featured comedy sketches, wacky music, dancing, a flying hippie dressed like Superman, a constantly under attack gorilla, and more psycho fever-dream stuff than you can handle in large doses. Simply put, it RULES. The show ran a whopping 131 episodes, several of which are available on DVD in Canada. Thank god for importing!
There you have it, kids. A good portion of how and why I grew up loving the macabre and loony side of life. There were dozens of other shows out there that even I’m not aware of! Maybe you can share what frights raised you right in the comments section below!
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