I’ve been absent for a few days, owing to several minor things that snowballed at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME. The assumption is that life went on without those three or four extra posts about candy and costumes.
In any event, now I’m back, and I have more Classic Creepy Commercials! Here’s the third volume, starring Herman Munster, Fred Willard and need I say more?
Beetlejuice Action Figures! (1990)
Neatly, the Beetlejuice toy collection was based on the movie – not the cartoon series. Every figure had a special feature, but most memorable were the several with pop-off heads that revealed SHRUNKEN heads underneath. (In a nod to the “waiting room” scene from the movie’s climax, which Kenner was apparently obsessed with.)
The series had an unmistakable Real Ghostbusters vibe, to the point where it’s easy to confuse some of the monsters with RGB figures. (Given that both lines were produced by Kenner, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that some Beetlejuice figures were salvaged from RGB concepts.)
In fact, the least-known figures were the best of the bunch. This commercial features characters recognizable to anyone who’s seen the film, but even better were the ones exclusive to the toy line. (My favorite was “Street Rat,” a gothic punker who could transform into a giant, eyeball-flinging rat!)
Alien vs. Predator for the Atari Jaguar! (1994)
MOTHER OF GOD, THIS IS THE GREATEST. I’ve never played Alien vs. Predator, let alone owned an Atari Jaguar, but even all these years later, this commercial still makes me want to change that.
Here, a guy with a very enviable bedroom is too engrossed in his video game to notice someone lurking behind him. “Mom” taps on his shoulder, but in the big reveal, we see that it’s actually a Xenomorph using her lifeless arm as a puppet! So, 2+2: This is a commercial where a monstrous alien murders some kid’s mother IN REAL LIFE.
Under the right set of circumstances, the promo is legitimately frightening. Had I been just a few years younger in ’94, it would’ve paralyzed me. Between the spooky heartbeats, the dim lighting and OH YEAH, THE DEAD MOTHER, it was the kind of ad that made you second-guess every window and closet. Perfect!
Hallmark’s Boo Bazaar! (1988)
Hallmark stores still go all-out for Halloween, but here’s a lesson for the kiddies: They used to be THE #1 PLACE for it. The balance of power has now shifted to larger department stores, but when I was a kid, the real money stuff was always at Hallmark.
Think back. How many of you owned one of those chattering skull pins with the googly eyes? Those were from Hallmark. If you had a “spooky sounds” cassette, it probably came from there, too. (And let’s not forget the “This is my Halloween Costume” t-shirt – another Hallmark classic.)
Don’t take my word for it. There’s an unspoken bravado about this commercial. Hallmark acted like it was #1 because it was #1.
Yellow Pages “Torture Chamber” Commercial! (1991)
In this commercial for THE PHONE BOOK (!!!), Fred Willard challenges a woman to find a phone number before she’s dunked into boiling hot oil. Wow! I think that’s arguably on-brand for Halloween, but the swank dungeon set really takes it over the top. It looks like an old Aurora model come to life.
This is even more cracked out than that UPS guy who visited Dracula’s castle back in Volume II. I’m assuming it was spoofing some show or movie that I’m unaware of, because advertising a phone book with hot oil and medieval dungeons is like going from Point A to horsehair.
(PS: Horror fans, take a close look at that set. It seems too intricate to have been built specifically for this one commercial. I’m wondering if they borrowed it from some scary TV series. Any ideas?)
Mystery Mansion Board Game! (1984)
This looks great! So many little plastic parts! It seems like another one of those board games that I would’ve cannibalized for use with my action figures. (Which is why I’ll never get the near-universal hate for Mouse Trap. Forget playing it the right way; it was an amusement park for G.I. Joes!)
Here Come the Munsters Movie Promo! (1995)
I remember watching bits and pieces of Here Come the Munsters, a made-for-TV movie that debuted on Halloween night in 1995. Even back then, I felt a strange moral responsibility to support anything resembling a “Halloween TV special.”
Even with cameos from some of the original cast, the film didn’t hold my interest. At least, I’m assuming it didn’t, because I can remember absolutely nothing about it. Now that I think about it, maybe I didn’t see it at all, and I’m just confusing that bootleg Herman Munster with Flabber from Big Bad Beetleborgs.
It’s not a very interesting promo, but that’s kind of why I’m including it. I just feel bad for the poor thing. I have a folder with dozens of great Halloween commercials, but with this one, it’s a case where if I don’t give it attention, nobody will. Something deep in my heart says that getting people to watch this fifteen-second Here Come the Munsters promo is all part of God’s master plan.
Raley’s Halloween Sale! (1984)
I saved the best for last. I know nothing about Raley’s (apparently a mash of a supermarket and a department store), but there is not ONE SINGLE FRAME of this commercial that doesn’t make me want to extend the Halloween season through April.
The shots of those masks (Was that Yoda?) in foggy darkness would’ve terrified me in 1984, but in 2013, I WANT THEM ALL SO BAD. (Especially the one they refer to as “Frankenstein,” even though it looks more like Zombie Ted Danson from Creepshow.)
While I’m at it, I’ll take those Halloween cupcakes and cookies, too. I don’t think I’ve written about supermarket-brand Halloween desserts before, but that’s where the action is. Call me crazy, but there’s something wholesome about week-old Halloween cupcakes smothered with four pounds of frosting.
Finally, the quick shots inside an actual 1984 Raley’s store remind me so much of my earliest Halloweens, when most of my costumes were bought from pharmacies and supermarkets. Back then, you either got your costume from one of those places, or maybe Toys “R” Us. Dedicated “Halloween stores” were still a foreign concept.
The commercial is, or at least was, Halloween in a nutshell.
(Thanks to Larry P. once again for donating these ads!)