Dinosaur Dracula!

Tiny Tributes To Minor Monsters, #1!

Here are five tiny tributes to five minor monsters:

Drakulon, Creature of Doom!
Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot (1968)

It blows my mind that Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot — the American edit of Japan’s Giant Robo — never became big-on-the-internet.

In the series, Johnny Sokko calls upon Giant Robot — who looks like a friendlier King Sphinx — to stop the alien Gargoyle gang from taking over Earth. Led by Emperor Guillotine, the gang includes huge monsters based on everything from limpet mines to eyeballs.

Every moment of the series was jubilantly odd, but its penultimate episode — Drakulon, Creature of Doom — was out there even by Johnny Sokko standards.

Sokko and his do-gooder pals are captured by Drakulon, a vampire in a thick blue mask who talks like an under-the-weather Count Chocula. He’s billed as one of Emperor Guillotine’s heavies, but it’s hard to imagine this guy taking orders from anyone.

After raising an army of zombie-like vampires, Drakulon magically grows tall enough to battle Giant Robot… who promptly kills him by hurling flaming crosses at his head. I love Drakulon, and I love this show. Read More…

Five Retro TV Commercials, Part 20!

I’ve been digging through stacks of home-recorded VHS tapes, searching for more old TV commercials. It’s seriously one of my favorite things to do. I even wear a special outfit.

Below: Another batch of retro TV commercials. This time, they’re all from the ‘90s, when grunge was big and every chip got a spinoff ranch flavor.

Batman Returns: The Batcave! (1992)

Kenner made tons of desirable Batman toys during the ‘90s. Just as importantly, they knew how to advertise them.

I’m especially fond of their TV commercials from the Batman Returns era, which perfectly captured that film’s wintry, gloomy feel. (Right down to the liberal use of fake snow, which I bet tasted sugary.)

This ad focused on the Batcave Command Center playset, which was certainly a step up from the older Batcave made by ToyBiz — even if that one was showier in a cartoony sort of way. Basically, this new Batcave was for kids who liked aggressive toys with senses of realism. The old one was for kids who wanted Batman’s secret lair to make them think about ice cream.

The commercial also highlighted some then-new action figures, including that kickass Bruce Wayne with the removable Batman costume. (Easily among the most beloved of all ‘90s action figures, in and out of the DC universe.)

More quirky was Kenner’s Penguin figure, which famously looked nothing like Danny DeVito. It was a revamp of a much older DC Super Powers figure, based on Penguin’s appearance in the comics.

(I’ve never been clear on why they didn’t make a “DeVito” Penguin. Was the character too gross? DeVito’s fees too high? Did they just want to save cash by reusing an old mold? Every time I ask, I get a different answer. You people make me so mad.) Read More…

Spooky Unsolved Mysteries Segments, Part III!

At just around this time last year, the classic, Robert Stack-hosted episodes of Unsolved Mysteries began streaming on Amazon, Netflix and beyond. It was pretty much the best thing about 2017.

…but if you stopped paying attention after the big launch, boy, you’ve missed a lot. Amazon now has you covered through the show’s twelfth season, which I believe constitutes ALL of the Stack-led episodes. There might be a few segments missing, but for all intents, you can now stream the whole dang series!

To celebrate, I’ve put together another batch of tributes to the show’s creepiest segments. Some were only playfully macabre, but since others dealt with legitimately ghastly crimes, I’d advise you to be aware of your own “threshold” before seeking them out.

Hudson River Valley UFO
On Amazon: Season 5, Episode 1
Originally aired: September 1992

The UFO segments were my childhood faves, to the point where I’d get unreasonably mad if Robert Stack went a whole hour without mentioning space aliens. Some of those segments haven’t aged well, but this one has.

So, it’s 1983. We’re in Hudson River Valley, New York. Scores of people report sightings of an enormous alien spacecraft, and will continue to do so for years. Some even catch it on video.

Skeptics believe that these sightings were only of random planes flying in formation, but some witnesses were sure that what they saw was not of this world.

It was hardly the most gripping UFO story featured on Unsolved Mysteries, but I love how they recreated the events. Drawing inspiration from eyewitness accounts, the show’s crude, computer-generated UFO looked like a flying football field covered in Christmas lights. It also seemed to be hovering no more than 40 feet off the ground.

We tend to imagine alien spacecraft as these wee little things, but here we had this mile-long metal boomerang that looked like a Catholic Star Destroyer, flying so close that you could practically hit it with a rock.

SCARIEST PART: Much is made of the show’s chilling theme, but Unsolved Mysteries used incredible music within its segments, too. Here, a light drone accompanied by spooky strings made even the “nicer” parts reek of dread. Read More…

11 Things I Loved About 2017.

2017 was meme-level ridiculous, but I’d rather remember the good parts than the bad parts. Even if those good parts mostly involved sushi and Zima.

Below are eleven things I loved about this year. I hope you can find at least as many things that you loved about it, too. Give it a shot, and post your lists in the comments.

#1: Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

Plenty of peeps weren’t into The Last Jedi, and that’s fine. It was a different kind of Star Wars movie, and it wasn’t going to work for everyone. It did work for me, though. Like holy shit, it REALLY worked for me. I left that theater feeling like I’d just pounded five Red Bulls.

Every time I expected the movie to zig, it zagged. Some fans took that as a slap, but I saw it as a jolt. Within minutes of the opening crawl, I realized that I had no idea what the film was going to say, do or be. As someone who considers Star Wars his only real area of expertise, that was exhilarating.

One of the more divisive aspects of the film was the “presentation” of Luke Skywalker, with some feeling that Luke wasn’t very Lukeish. I didn’t see it that way. I loved his jokey, brooding cynicism, and I triple-loved how Luke got to conquer his demons — especially because I only expected Luke to watch other characters conquer theirs.

I’m very glad that The Last Jedi is part of the Star Wars universe, even if I still don’t know how to pronounce “Praetorian.”

#2: Conveyor Belt Sushi!

At a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, endless plates of fishy things glide past you on a — duh — conveyor belt. Pick whichever ones you want, and at the end of the meal, your waiter just counts up the tiny plates to see how much you owe.

I’d spent almost fifteen years reading about these places and salivating over their combined convenience and novelty. They’re not easy to find in the States, but last February, I finally got to experience tuna on a treadmill.

Mr. and Ms. Sexy Armpit took us out for my birthday, and hiding in West Nyack’s cavernous Palisades Mall, there it was: An honest-to-goodness conveyor belt sushi restaurant! It was glorious. I felt like Lucy in the candy factory, and I was even wearing a similar hat. Read More…

Christmas Memories in Crayon.

I drew pictures representing five Christmas memories, and then wrote about them. I’m super good at never going viral.

Just to get this out of the way: Yes I draw like I’m five and no it’s not for effect.

Underneath the Christmas Tree!

I used to love laying under the Christmas tree. I mean directly under it, looking straight up at the lights and ornaments. It was another world down there.

Sometimes I’d bring a pillow, and twist my neck so I could watch cartoons. Linus’s speech was much more resonant when I was covered in needles. I was like the squirrel from Christmas Vacation, or more accurately Chip and Dale from Pluto’s Christmas Tree — the old Disney short that inspired me to do this in the first place.

But the best times I had under the tree were with my action figures. The tree essentially became a super-sized Castle Grayskull, supporting four inch monsters with its thousand branches. They’d weaponize ornaments and fight over candy canes, while I grew drunk off of the pine scent. It was so good. Read More…

Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 11!

I wanted to sneak one last edition of Classic Christmas Commercials onto Dino Drac before THE BIG DAY, which is now approaching so rapidly that it might actually be January by the time I finish this paragraph.

Below: Five more Christmas commercials from 1987, featuring ALF, Garfield and Santa Claus.

ALF’s Special Christmas! (1987)

Here’s a promo for ALF’s Special Christmas. If you’ve never seen it, just know that there are reasons why the one-hour special has become so internet-infamous.

The episode dealt with some very heavy subjects, from suicide to terminal illness. The script handled them well enough, but at the end of the day, it was still ALF — a show about a wisecracking alien Muppet who loved cat meat.

Depressing, sure, but I’d stop short of calling it “bad.” They probably should’ve been more suggestive than literal with some aspects, but if anyone was gonna introduce ‘80s kids to the darker facets of life, I guess ALF was an okay choice. He cushioned the blows with jokes and fur. Read More…