Saturday, October 29, 2022

Kenny & Company (1976)


As hard as it may be to believe, despite being a widely celebrated holiday by the early 20th Century, there was a time when Halloween was infrequently mentioned in movies. This would begin to change in the Seventies, when films began mentioning Halloween more often. The year 1976 was a bit of a banner year in that three movies were released in which Halloween played a major role. Two were the horror movies The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) and The Clown Murders (1976). The third was the little known comedy drama Kenny & Company (1976).

Kenny & Company (1976) was significant as only the second feature film directed by Don Coscarelli, who would go onto direct the cult favourites Phantasm (1979), The Beastmaster (1982), and Bubba Ho-Tep (2002). He had earlier directed the drama Jim the World's Greatest (1975).  It was also significant in featuring Reggie Banister and A. Michael Baldwin, both of who would go onto star in Phantasm. In Kenny & Company, Reggie Banister played the teacher Mr. Donovan, while A. Michael Baldwin would play Kenny's best friend Doug.

Kenny & Company takes place over the four days leading up to Halloween. It centres on twelve year old boy Kenny (Dan McCann), his best friend Doug (A. Michael Baldwin), and their neighbour kid Sherman (Jeff Roth). The movie is episodic in nature, with Kenny and Doug's preparations for Halloween being the thread that links everything together. In the course of the movie, Kenny experiences his first crush, deals with the local bully, deals with the death of his dog, witnesses a fatal car crash, and, of course, celebrates Halloween. The movie climaxes with Halloween, during which Kenny, Doug, and Sherman go to a neighbour's haunted house and pull a trick on an elderly neighbour, and ends with Kenny and Doug finally besting the bully.

In making Kenny & Company, Don Coscarelli wanted to portray the everyday life of a twelve year old boy, drawing upon his own childhood to do so. At the same time he recognized the importance of Halloween for children, which may even overshadow Christmas in its significance for kids. Having written the screenplay for Jim the World's Greatest with Craig Mitchell, Kenny & Company was the first screenplay Don Coscarelli wrote all by himself.

Kenny & Company was truly a family affair. Don Coscarelli's father, Dac Coscarelli and his mother Kate Coscarelli both served as producers on the movie. Kate Coscarelli also played Kenny's mother in the film. It was Don Conscarelli's sister who designed the costumes Kenny, Doug, and Sherman wore for Halloween. As to Don Coscarelli himself, he not only wrote, directed, and produced Kenny & Company, but he also served as the film's cinematographer and editor.

When it came time to find a distributor for Kenny & Company, Universal Pictures, who had distributed Don Conscarelli's previous movie, Jim the World's Greatest, showed little interest in Kenny & Company. Don Coscarelli found a distributor for Kenny & Company in 20th Century Fox, who expressed interest in the movie as a late summer release. Unfortunately, 20th Century Fox decided to market Kenny & Company directly to children. In his book True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking, Mr. Coscarelli says that the film's tagline, "Get ready to have a happy day...Kenny & Company are coming your way!" did them no favours.

Indeed, the posters for Kenny & Company from 1975 must seem odd to anyone has seen the movie. The emphasis seems to be on skateboards, with only one photo on the poster referencing Halloween (the centrepiece of the movie). The over all impression that the posters for Kenny & Company give of the film is that it's a light-hearted comedy, when in truth it is a comedy drama that sometimes deals with such serious subjects as the nature of death.

Given 20th Century Fox's promotion of Kenny & Company, it should come as no surprise that at test screenings it did very well at daytime matinees, but played to empty theatres during evening showings. Ultimately, Kenny & Company would not play in such major markets as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Needless to say, Kenny & Company did not do well at the box office.

While Kenny & Company did not do well in the United States, it proved to be an outright phenomenon in Japan. Released there in 1978, the film did very well at the box office in Japan. A. Michael Baldwin, Dan McCann, and Jeff Roth went on a tour of Japan, where they were met by crowds of adolescents everywhere they went. While Kenny & Company was dead on arrival in the United States, it was very much a hit in Japan.

Kenny & Company may not be well known beyond fans of Don Coscarelli, but it would prove to be influential nonetheless. Not only did the movie feature A. Michael Baldwin and Reggie Banister, who would go onto star in Phantasm, but Kenny & Company would even inspire Phantasm. During test screenings Don Coscarelli noted the reactions of audiences during the Halloween sequence and it occurred to him that he should make a horror movie. Of course, that horror movie was Phantasm.

Kenny & Company was also ahead of its time. While Hollywood had churned out several movies about teenagers through the years, there was a time that movies about young adolescents and pre-teens were not particularly common. Kenny & Company was unique at the time in focusing on a twelve year old. It was then the forerunner of such movies as Over the Edge (1979),. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), A Christmas Story (1983), and Stand By Me (1986).

Even today, Kenny & Company is not seen often. Its only DVD release was in 2005 and it is out of print. On Amazon it sells for a hefty $59.56. It is not available on any streaming services, unless one counts a copy that someone uploaded to YouTube. This is unfortunate not simply because of the significance of Kenny & Company in film history, but because it is a very fine movie. Speaking as someone who was close to the same age in 1976 as the characters in Kenny & Company, it realistically captures childhood in the Seventies. Indeed, with the exception of the absence of those awful Ben Cooper costumes, I think many Seventies kids will see their own childhoods in the Halloween sequence. With only a few exceptions (such as 1944's Meet Me in St. Louis), no movie captures the spirit of Halloween as well as Kenny & Company.

Of course, the movie benefits not only from a good screenplay, but from its cast as well. A. Michael Baldwin does well as Doug, the one kid who is not afraid to talk back to adults. As Kenny, Dan McCann portrays the sort of kid many might have known in the Seventies. Reggie Banister does a great job as Mr. Donovan, Kenny and Doug's slightly eccentric teacher. My favourite character in the film is Doug's father, Big Doug, a Secret Service agent with a sense of humour. Big Doug is played by Ralph Richmond, who has a surprisingly short filmography.

Ultimately, Kenny & Company is more than a movie that would lead to Phantasm or even a forerunner of Eighties movies about adolescents. It is a fine comedy drama that captures both the fun and stress of childhood perfectly. While people who grew up in the Seventies might appreciate it best, I think even Zoomers would love the film. Kenny & Company is still rarely seen today, but it really should be much more readily available.

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Radio Show: "Haunted House"

Harriet & Ozzie
The TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is probably well remembered by many people of a certain age. Indeed, until It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia broke its record last year, at 14 seasons it was the longest running live action sitcom. What is not as well remembered is that before it aired on television, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was a radio show that ran from October 8 1944 to June 18 1954. Both the television show and the radio show centred on the every day life of Ozzie Nelson, his wife Harriet Hilliard, and their sons David and Ricky.

Like many radio shows before it and like the TV show after it, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet would have episodes dedicated to Halloween. Among these was "Haunted House," which aired on October 31 1948. "Haunted House" begins with David and Ricky getting ready to go trick or treating. Here they must explain trick or treating to Ozzie, although oddly enough later in the episode he does seem to be familiar with the concept. It is while Ozzie and his sons are discussing trick or treating that he tells the boys that when he was a boy they would visit haunted houses on Halloween. He also mentions the old MacAdams house as one that could be haunted, and the boys think it would be a good idea if he visited it. After the boys go trick or treating, Harriet sends Ozzie to get candy at the drug store, and he encounters their friend Thorny (John Brown) on the way. Once home Ozzie tells Harriet that he is going to the old MacAdams house. Unfortunately, along the way he encounters Emmy Lou (Janet Waldo), one of their little neighbour girls, who tells him how the MacAdams house is haunted by one of the original owner's dead suitors, a Scotsman named MacTavish. The story scares Ozzie so that he decides not to go to the MacAdams house after all. Once home he tells Harriet that he didn't go to the MacAdams house, and she finally convinces him to go by agreeing to go with him.

"Haunted House" is notable not simply because it was one of the Halloween episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, but because it features one of the earliest references to trick or treating in American popular culture. Although today it might seem like it is a long established custom, trick or treating would not emerge until the 20th Century. The first reference to trick or treating anywhere is in the the November 4 1927 issue of the Herald (published in Lethbridge, Alberta). From Canada it would spread to the Western United States and the Midwest in the early to mid-Thirties, and from there to the East Coast. This is probably why David and Ricky have to explain to Ozzie the whole idea of trick or treating. As a relatively new phenomenon, there might have been listeners who were unfamiliar with it.

It is because trick or treating was a rather recent development that references to the custom were rare in American popular culture in the Thirties and Forties. Arsenic and Old Lace (released in 1944, but filmed in 1941) would be the first movie to reference trick or treating. Following World War II, trick or treating would be referenced on various radio shows. Trick or treating played a central role in the plot of the November 1 1946 episode, "Halloween Show", of The Baby Snooks Show. With regards to radio, the year 1948 would seem to be a banner year for trick or treating.  The same night that The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet episode "Haunted House" was aired, The Jack Benny Program also aired an episode featuring trick or treating, "Jack Goes Trick or Treating."

Of course, "Haunted House" was not the only Halloween episode of the radio version of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The episode "Halloween Party" aired on October 27 1950. Halloween episodes would not be unknown on the television version of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet either. In fact, the very first Halloween episode of the television version of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, "Halloween Party," was only its fifth episode.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet would make the transition to television on October 3 1952. The radio show would continue to air along side the radio show until 1954, finally ending its run on June 18 1954. While The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet only ranked once in the top thirty during its long run (it came in at no. 29 during the 1963-1964 season), it was popular enough to last 14 seasons. Although I have to think many younger viewers are unfamiliar with the show, it remains popular to this day.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Beverly Hillbillies: "Trick or Treat"

The Beverly Hillbillies
was the smash hit of the 1962/1963 season. In fact, it would be the first show in the history of American television to hit no. 1 in the Nielsen ratings for the year in its first season. It would be with its sixth episode that The Beverly Hillbillies hit no. 1 in the ratings for the first time. That episode also happened to be the show's only Halloween episode, "Trick or Treat."

Like many episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, "Trick or Treat" deals with multiple subplots. In the primary subplot Granny (Irene Ryan) is complaining that people in Beverly Hills are so unfriendly that they never come calling. It is for this reason that she wants to return to the hills. Jed (Buddy Ebsen) then notes that they haven't visited any of their neighbours either, and convinces Granny that they should go calling on their neighbours. It being Halloween, their neighbours think that the Clampetts are dressed in costume for trick and treating, and shower them with candy. In the second subplot, Jed's cousin Pearl (Bea Benaderet) visits Jed's old cabin in pursuit of oil man John Brewster (Frank Wilcox). While there, Pearl's daughter Jethrine (body by Max Baer Jr. and voice by Linda Kaye Henning) gains a suitor in the form of Jasper "Jazzbo" Depew (Phil Gordon).

"Trick or Treat" would be a historic episode for more than being the first episode of The Beverly Hillbillies to hit no. 1. First, it marks the first appearance of Jazzbo Depew, who would eventually become Jethrine's long-term beau. Second, it marks the first reference to Hooterville, later the setting of The Beverly Hillbillies creator Paul Henning's other shows, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. While flirting with Jethrine, Jazzbo mentions a dance in Hooterville. Not only is this the first reference to Hooterville, but it is also the first time that viewers learn Hooterville is near the Clampetts' home in the hills.

If there is one caveat that I have with "Trick or Treat," it's that it doesn't seem very likely to me that Jed and his kin would not know what Halloween is. Back in the hills, Mr. Brewster asks Pearl and Jethrine if they are dressed for Halloween. Pearl doesn't seem to know what Halloween is. Similarly,in Beverly Hills,  the Clampetts seem to be unaware that the day is Halloween. Of course, as anyone who has ever watched Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) knows, Halloween was a well-established tradition in Missouri by the early 20th Century. My father used to tell my brother and me about the many pranks he and his friends would pull on Halloween. The Ozarks were no different than any other part of Missouri, with Halloween celebrated there as early as the late 19th Century.  This was also true of the portion of the Ozarks in Arkansas. This should come as no surprise, given the Ozarks were heavily settled by Scots and it was the Scots who brought the holiday as we know it to North America.

Now I know there are some who might question that the Clampetts were from Missouri, but throughout the series there are several clues that they were. In the very first episode, "The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills," we are told that Jed's cabin is in the Ozarks. Now this could easily be in northern Arkansas rather than southern Missouri, but there are other clues making Missouri the more likely location. Joplin is mentioned more than once on The Beverly Hillbillies. In the second season episode, Jed brags that the Clampetts are dressed as well as any executive in New York City or Joplin. In the eighth season episode "The Clampetts in New York," downtown New York City is said to be bigger than downtown Springfield or even downtown Joplin. In the eighth season the Clampetts return to the hills, where they visit Silver Dollar City, an amusement park outside Branson, Missouri. Other Missouri places mentioned on the show are Springfield, Taney County, and Branson. When a city outside of Missouri is mentioned, it's usually one in a neighbouring state. An example of this is Eureka Springs, which is just across the border in Northern Arkansas. Given the show's creator Paul Henning was from Missouri, it would make sense if the Clampetts were from that state.

Even if the Clampetts were from the Ozarks in Northern Arkansas, as mentioned above, it seems unlikely that they wouldn't know what Halloween was. Of course, while it seems likely that the Clampetts would have been aware of Halloween (and probably celebrated it), they might not have known what trick or treating was. Trick or treating originated in the 20th Century. The first known reference to trick or treating is from Canada in the November 4 1927 issue of the Herald (published in Lethbridge, Alberta). From Alberta it would spread to the Western United States and the Midwest. It would take the better part of the 1930s for trick or treating to reach the East Coast of the United States. Given how far behind the Clampetts were on popular culture (they were still watching silent movies back in the hills), they might not know what trick or treating is.

While it might not seem realistic for the Clampetts to be ignorant of Halloween, "Trick or Treat" is still a very funny episode. And as mentioned above, it is also a very historic one. It marked the first time the show hit no. 1, as well as the first time Hooterville was every mentioned. The only Halloween episode of The Beverly Hillbillies would then be pivotal in the history of the show.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The 1965 Halloween Episode of Shindig!

Shindig!
was a rock/pop music show that aired on ABC from September 16 1964 to January 8 1966. The show is notable in that it featured keyboardists Billy Preston and Leon Russell as part of its house band, not to mention Teri Garr as one of its dancers (she also danced on Shindig!'s rival show Hullabaloo on NBC). Among the show's regulars were also The Blossoms (led by Darlene Love) and The Wellingtons (now perhaps best known for performing the theme song for Gilligan's Island). Today Shindig! is perhaps best remembered for two things. The first is that The Who made their debut on American television on its October 2 1965 episode. The second is its Halloween episode, on which Boris Karloff was the guest host and Ted Cassidy, as the Addams Family's butler Lurch, was among the guests. On the episode Boris Karloff performed a portion of "Monster Mash," while Lurch performed his novelty song "Do the Lurch."

Shindig! was the creation of Los Angeles disc jockey Jimmy O'Neill, who would also host the show,  his wife, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, British television producer Jack Good, and Art Stolnitz, It largely made it to the air because of the failure of another music show. ABC's folk music show Hootenanny. Hootenanny tumbled in the ratings after the British Invasion brought an end to the early Sixties folk revival. In its first season Shindig! proved popular, actually holding its own against CBS megahit The Beverly Hillbillies. In fact, it proved successful enough that NBC debuted its own rock/pop music show, Hullabaloo, and it inspired such syndicated  rock/pop music shows as Shivaree and Hollywood a Go-Go.

For its second season ABC began airing Shindig! twice a week. Having aired on Wednesday night in its first season, it now aired on Wednesday night and Saturday night. The historic Halloween episode of Shindig! aired on Saturday, October 30 1965. Beyond guest host Boris Karloff, guest Ted Cassidy, and guest Bobby Sherman, I seriously doubt many today would recognize many of the guests on that night's show. Jim Doval & The Gauchos were a Fresno, California band that released several singles in the early to mid-Sixties, as well as one album, The Gauchos Featuring Jim Doval. Jackie & Gayle were Jackie Miller and Gayle Caldwell. The duo released a few singles in the mid-Sixties, and saw much more success as members of The New Christy Minstrels. The Spokesmen were a vocal trio who released singles from 1965 to 1967, as well as one album, The Dawn of Correction.

The 1965 Halloween episode of Shindig! began ordinarily enough with Billy Preston playing keyboards, followed by Bobby Sherman performing a medley of The Beatles' songs "Help!" and "I'm Down." This was followed by a performance of "Get on the Right Track, Bobby" by Jackie & Gayle, Ted Cassidy as Lurch, The Blossoms, and The Spokesmen. Host Jimmy O'Neill then introduced guest host Boris Karloff.

This was followed by performances of "Tell Me What You're Gonna Do" by Jim Doval and The Gauchos, "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" by Jackie & Gayle, "Memphis" by Bobby Sherman, and "There But for Fortune" by The Spokesmen. It is then that Boris Karloff, seated in a chair, recites a "fairy tale" called "Peppermint Twist." Afterwards there were performances of "Some Enchanted Evening" by The Wellingtons and "Bonie Maronie" by Jim Doval and The Gauchos.

Sadly, for whatever reason, film of Boris Karloff's performance of a portion of "Monster Mash" appears to be lost.  This situation is both curious and sad, as Shindig! is one of the best preserved of all the rock/pop music shows of the Sixties. In fact, its episodes appear to be largely intact except for the missing footage from the 1965 Halloween episode. Fortunately, someone recorded Boris Karloff's performance on a reel to reel tape, so we at least have the audio of the performance, which was part of a medley performed by multiple artists. The medley begins with Boris Karloff, backed by Jim Doval and The Gauchos, performing the first part of "Monster Mash." This segues into Jim Doval and The Gauchos performing one of the musical interludes between the songs, after which Ted Cassidy performs the song "Do the Lurch." This is followed by another musical interlude by Jim Doval and The Gauchos and "Scully Gully" performed by The Wellingtons. The medley ends with Jim Doval and The Gauchos performing "Out of Sight."

Here I should discuss the song "Do the Lurch." "Do the Lurch" was a novelty record by Ted Cassidy as Lurch, released on Capitol Records in late 1965. The song was written by Gary Paxton, who had produced The Hollywood Argyles' novelty song "Alley Oop," as well as singing lead vocals on the song, and the classic "Monster Mash." Ted Cassidy as Lurch had earlier performed "The Lurch" on the syndicated rock/pop music show Shivraree that September.Despite the exposure "Do the Lurch" received on television, not to mention the popularity of The Addams Family, "Do the Lurch" failed to chart.  For ABC Ted Cassidy appearing on Shindig! probably meant good business sense. Like Shindig!, The Addams Family aired on ABC, so Mr. Cassidy's appearance on Shindig! was a clever bit of cross-promotion.

The 1965 Halloween episode of Shindig! closed with a bit between Jimmy O'Neill, Ted Cassidy (as himself rather than as Lurch), and Boris Karloff, and Mr. Karloff announcing next week's guests. Over the closing credits, Bobby Sherman performed "You Can't Sit."

Sadly, Shindig! would last only a few months after its legendary 1965 Halloween episode. The change in the show's time slots had seriously impacted its Nielsen ratings. The Saturday edition of Shindig! performed particularly poorly. This should have come as no surprise, given its primarily teenage audience probably went out on Saturday night. ABC cancelled Shindig! at mid-season. Its Thursday night time slot was filled by the second weekly episode of Batman, which would prove to be an outright phenomenon. Its Saturday night time slot would be filled by elderly sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which had forfeited its Wednesday night time slot to, you guessed it, the first weekly episode of Batman.

Regardless, the 1965 Halloween episode of Shindig! would be well remembered by those who saw when it first aired and would become a legend for those of us who were either too young to remember it or simply weren't born yet. Indeed, it is something of a touchstone for both fans of Boris Karloff and fans of The Addams Family.

Update: I want to thank Robert M. Roberts in his comment for pointing out that the big finale of the 1965 Halloween episode of Shindig!, including Boris Karloff's performance of "Monster Mash," has recently resurfaced. Someone uploaded it to YouTube on October 10 of this year. Sadly, it is with a gigantic watermark in the middle of the screen. Regardless, individuals can finally see it. You can watch it here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Halloween Tree (1993)

Ray Bradbury is one of the best known authors of the 20th Century. He is also an author who worked in motion pictures and television, and whose works have been adapted several times over for both the big and small screen. Among his best known works is his 1972 novel The Halloween Tree. What is not as well is known is the 1993 television movie adaptation of the novel that first aired on October 2 1993 on the cable channel ABC.

It was perhaps only fitting that The Halloween Tree would be adapted to the small screen, as it had originated as a television project. As hard as it might be to be believed, The Halloween Tree grew out of the disappointment Ray Bradbury and his daughters experienced upon watching the debut of the now classic It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in 1966. In a 1967 interview, Ray Bradbury addressed his disappointment with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, saying, "I thought the Great Pumpkin was just dreadful. So mean. It was dreadfully mean, to anticipate the ‘Great Pumpkin’ arriving for a half hour and when it was over my kids sat there, and they were depressed. And so was I. I thought it was dreadful of Mr. Schulz not to know that you can’t build up this kind of need in people to see the Great Pumpkin, and not have him show up one way or another. It’s a shame. I thought he knew better."

Ray Bradbury later discussed his disappointment in It's the Great Pumpkin,, Charlie Brown with his friend, legendary animator Chuck Jones, at lunch. He would later give Mr. Jones a painting of an tree with pumpkins hanging from its branches that he had made a few years before. The two men then conceived a half-hour Halloween television special that would address the history of the holiday. Unfortunately, MGM closed down its animation division and fired everyone, including Chuck Jones. Ray Bradbury and Chuck Jones's Halloween television special would never be made.

Mr. Bradbury then took his teleplay and expanded it into the novel The Halloween Tree. The novel followed eight children, ready to go trick or treating, who discover a friend's life is on the line. Ultimately, with the help of the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud, the children find themselves pursuing their friend through a history of Halloween and similar holidays, from ancient Egypt to Mexico during the Day of the Dead.

Over the next several years various studios would have options on The Halloween Tree. Eventually Hanna-Barbera, not long after Ted Turner had taken over the animation studio optioned the novel. Ray Bradbury wrote the teleplay for the special, which simplified the plot of the novel by reducing the number of children from eight to four. Ray Bradbury also narrated the telefilm. Leonard Nimoy provided the voice of Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud. The composer on The Halloween Tree was John Debney, who had also provided the music for another Halloween movie released the same year, Hocus Pocus (1993). He would later be nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Score for The Passion of the Christ (2004).

The Halloween Tree won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in An Animated Program and was nominated for the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Children's Program. It also received largely positive notices from critics.

While The Halloween Tree was produced by Hanna-Barbera, it is a far cry from their Saturday morning cartoons. The animation on the special is superior for a made-for-TV animated film, with often lavish backgrounds and imagery. The Halloween Tree itself is very impressive. The voice talent also does a remarkable job of bringing the characters to life, particularly Leonard Nimoy. He is virtually unrecognizable as Mr. Moundshroud.

What really places The Halloween Tree above other television specials is Ray Bradbury's script. For the most part the teleplay is fairly faithful to the novel, and, as might be expected of a teleplay by the great Mr. Bradbury himself, captures the magic of his writing perfectly. The only caveat I have is a flaw shared by the novel as well. In including Día de Muertos, I fear that it might reinforce the misconception that many have that the holiday is merely "Mexican Halloween." While both Halloween and Día de Muertos have roots in Allhallowtide, and Halloween originated as a "day of the dead," the two holidays evolved separately and differ in some significant ways.

After its debut on ABC, The Halloween Tree would air regularly at Halloween on both TBS and the Cartoon Network. Turner Home Entertainment released the TV movie on VHS in the Nineties. In 2012 the Warner Archive released it on DVD. It is currently available to watch for free with commercials on the streaming service Tubi and for rent on several other streaming services.

The Halloween Tree may not be as famous as other Halloween specials, but there is every reason it should be. It is a finely produced television movie that numbers among the best of Halloween fare that has aired on American television. And it is among the few adaptations of a Ray Bradbury work that actually captures the magic of his writing.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Retro Halloween Commercials

Halloween advertising has existed in print for well over 100 years. It was then natural that with the rise of television there would be Halloween commercials. I am not sure how far Halloween commercials go back in the history of the television, but I know it is at least the Sixties and I have to suspect there were even Halloween commercials in the Fifties. Below are five old Halloween commercials I gathered from YouTube. The quality of many of them is poor, but then I suspect that they were probably digitalized from old video tapes that had seen better days.

First up is a commercial for Shasta Orange Soda. It is from the Seventies, but I have no idea what year. I believe the store clerk is none other than John Fiedler, now best known as the voice of Piglet in Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" cartoons and Juror No. 2 in 12 Angry Men (1957).


One can tell this next commercial is an old simply from the fact that it is for Woolworth's and Woolco. Woolworth's closed its department stores in 1997. This particular commercial is from 1978. Notice the Star Wars cotumes, not to mention the other old Ben Cooper costumes.


This Wrigley's Gum commercial is from 1979.



And here is a Hershey's commercial from 1981.




Finally, here is a Toys "R" Us ad from 1985. You'll notice the kids are still wearing costumes of the type manufactured by Ben Cooper. Ben Cooper didn't have too many years left. It would close its doors in 1991. As to Toys "R" Us, they closed down just a few years ago, in 2018.