Dinosaur Dracula!

Mad Scientist toys were gross and great.

Whenever I wish I was ten years younger, I try to remind myself of all the great toys I would’ve missed out on. Sure, it’s irritating to have hit that age when people start suggesting invasive exams of my most unmentionable areas, but at least I got to play with Mad Scientist toys as a kid.

Look, it works for me.

Unleashed by Mattel in 1986, Mad Scientist was a strange line of playthings that would best be described as the demonic love children of action figures and chemistry sets.

The commercial embedded above promotes the collection’s peak offering: The Monster Lab, which let you bring monsters to life, and then kill them in vats of acid. (Metaphorically, but also pretty literally.)

This and the other larger Mad Scientist kits had the air of arts & crafts projects, but whereas crayons and construction paper only let us satisfy our collective desire to create, Mad Scientist also let us satisfy our desire to destroy.

Between Madballs and Boglins and everything in-between, this was the golden era for “gross” toys, and Mad Scientist fit right in. Since most of the sets included parts that were never intended to last thirty years, you rarely hear about them in today’s collectors’ circles. Make no mistake: They were pretty popular!

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Even more charming to me were Mad Scientist’s smaller kits, which were presented similarly to action figures, in everything from packaging to price. While lacking the “science experiment from hell” aspect of the larger sets, these had a sort of quiet charm. As much charm as an alien pig who blew fake snot from his snout could have, really.

The smaller kits had wildly different gimmicks, but they all boiled down to messing with some kind of toy slime. Sammy Sneeze — the weirdo shown here — was only worth five minutes of fun, but man, they were a great five minutes. Read More…

The Novelization of Halloween III!

I love that Halloween III’s reputation has improved so dramatically over the years. Once commonly reviled, it seems like most people love it now — and for the very same reasons that others used to… not.

For those who don’t follow the series, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the franchise’s black sheep. It’s not a “Michael Myers movie,” and hell, it isn’t even a “slasher movie.”

The film was originally conceived as the startpoint for what would’ve been an annual run of completely unique horror movies, with only the “Halloween” banner to tie them together. Iffy box office returns changed those plans in a hurry, and by Halloween 4, Michael Myers was back for good.

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For some, if the removal of Michael Myers was arguably forgivable, the fact that Halloween III featured such a drastic shift in tone wasn’t. If I said that the film was more “sci-fi” than “horror,” I’d probably lose the debate — but only after a strong showing.

Ironically, that uniquity is part of why so many of us have come to adore the film. Look at the pile of movies classically thrown into homemade horror marathons. There’s nothing like Halloween III in that pile. That counts for a lot.

…but it’s just as true that Halloween III is a plainly great movie. It’s creepy as hell, always moving, and it has a kickass ending.

The story, in a nutshell: Mad novelty entrepreneur Conal Cochran has big plans for Halloween. To the general public, this only involves making sure that millions of kids are glued to their television sets on Halloween night, for his big “Silver Shamrock” giveaway. The truth is far darker, and it’s up to King Tom Atkins to save the world. (Tom Atkins isn’t really a king, but trust me, he’s really a king.)

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The movie isn’t without its share of schlock and cheese, but with the story being so gripping, strange and haunting, Halloween III is impossible to forget. It’s one of those films that stays with you forever.

Perhaps that’s what drove me to pick up the official novelization, from 1982. Written by Jack Davis (a pseudonym for Dennis Etchison, who has a pretty storied career in horror movie novelizations), I was immensely curious to see how the events of the film played out in print.

Novelizations sometimes get a bad rap. In my (albeit limited) experience, the books add to stories you already love in ways that movies never could. Since authors would end up with unattractively short novels if they simply described films like play-by-players, the good ones reevaluate and reinvestigate everything: The characters, their motivations, the settings… everything. Here, Dennis Etchison (sorry, Jack Davis) certainly did.

As much as I enjoyed the book, the main reason I bought it was to see how it tackled THAT SCENE. If you’ve seen Halloween III, you know the one. If you don’t, here you go: Read More…

March of the Halloween Peeps.

Oof, the guys from Marshmallow Peeps HQ are really dishing it out this year!

Whenever I bring up Peeps, I’m assaulted with comments from those who don’t like them. I’ll admit that the last time I truly savored a Peep was probably Easter of 1987, but I still think it’s harsh — to you and to them — to completely discount a candy brand that keeps finding new ways to bring it each and every Halloween season.

After all, long before Halloween’s current “food boom,” Peeps was letting us eat marshmallows shaped like bats and cats. They lit the torch in far darker times. Let’s repay them with a little loyalty!

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…besides, if you were ever gonna pick a year to jump back on the Halloween Peeps train, THIS IS IT. Aside from their normal run of spookily-shaped marshmallow monsters, there’s a trio of much fancier Peeps in what I can only term as “new hotness Halloween flavors.”

Dipped in fudge and sold in unique three-packs, these adorable haunted chicks work just as well as decorations as they do candy. (Not long-lived decorations, I concede, but don’t act like these wouldn’t make your party table look twice as lively.) Read More…

Disney’s Scary Tales. My 1st horror rental!

A few days ago, I drove past what’s now one of my city’s thousand salons, but used to be our neighborhood’s very first video store. Converted from a portion of a long, thin house that certainly wasn’t meant to carry a storefront, the place was — and remains — a slanted architectural goof that never would’ve survived without its prime location on a busy street.

That video store went out of business in the early ‘90s. Actually, it closed down just a week or two after I convinced the owner to let me buy a giant Child’s Play 2 standee for just ten bucks. So let’s assume it was 1991.

But before competition from major chains dented their armor, that was my place. So many of my adolescent ideas about movies came from browsing that store’s crudely assembled shelves.

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For all of the confused joy I took in browsing videos from every genre, I only ever seemed to rent one of two tapes. It was either Kids is Kids, a Donald Duck compilation from Disney, or Scary Tales, which was… also kind of a Donald Duck comp. (I really liked Donald, you see. To this day, I cannot comprehend those who place Mickey higher.)

Released in 1983, Scary Tales — which was later rechristened as Donald’s Scary Tales — was a collection of Disney’s spookiest shorts. Whenever we went to that video store, it was a real struggle to resist its oversized clamshell case, or the image of disembodied demon paws lunging for Donald’s throat.

I made my mother rent Scary Tales dozens of times. (This was back before families commonly had two VCRs, so no, we couldn’t do the dual-deck record trick.)

I couldn’t have been more than five years old at the time. More likely, I was even younger. As such, Scary Tales really lived up to its name. Only blind loyalty to Donald kept me glued to the television, and in truth, some of the shorts spooked me so badly that I could only rarely finish the tape!

In a sense, Scary Tales was my first “horror movie.” I didn’t piece this together as a child, but the video taught me that being scared could be fun, or at least never boring. I guess it takes an especially prudish kid to equate Pluto’s Judgement Day with Hellraiser, but I’m telling you, I did.

Scary Tales includes six Disney shorts that were already ancient by the early ‘80s. Fortunately, all of them are on YouTube, and in serious volume. If you think you remember this compilation, these videos should help you confirm: Read More…

The Purple Stuff Podcast: Episode 5!

The Purple Stuff Podcast normally goes live on Saturday nights, but an assortment of irritating factors forced us to push it off a bit. The good news? Now it’s ready!

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In this episode, me and Jay try to come up with our ideal Halloween television marathon. Like, let’s say you were put in charge of a network’s lineup for October 31st, and you didn’t have to worry about licensing fees or any of that shit. How would you fill the hours? What horror movies and TV specials would you dust off?

Give us a listen on the player below! Or, if you prefer, you can access the MP3 directly over here.

Reminder: The Purple Stuff Podcast is also on iTunes and Stitcher!

This episode was partially inspired by ABC Family’s unveiling of their 2015 13 Nights of Halloween lineup. We goof on some of the “iffier” inclusions during the podcast, but the truth is that it’s full of awesome selections. Sleepy Hollow? Poltergeist II? I’m so in. Read More…

Dino Drac’s September 2015 Funpack!

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(Available in the United States only!)

Uh oh! Dino Drac’s September 2015 Funpack HAS ARRIVED, and in celebration of the Halloween Countdown, it’s stuffed with TERROR AND NIGHTMARES.

If you’re new to the site, here’s the scoop: Every month, I mail a new Funpack out to all subscribers. The cost is $25 per month (including shipping), and you can cancel at anytime. Automatic payments are handled via Paypal. For as long as you stay subscribed, you’ll keep getting Funpacks! This endeavor helps to keep Dino Drac afloat, so thank you!

Skip to the bottom for more subscription info, or read on to see what’s inside this month’s box!

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There are over ten items in every Funpack, and nearly all of them are n tune with the Halloween season. From weird ass Real Ghostbusters figures to Dino Drac’s Bag of Death, it’s one of the best Funpacks I’ve ever put together. I swear!

EVERY subscriber will receive ALL of the following: Read More…