Time for a new edition of Classic Creepy Commercials, a series that’s been part of every Halloween Countdown on Dino Drac!
Throughout the year, I rescue spooky old TV commercials from my collection of VHS tapes. As tempting as it is to show them off as soon as they’re uncovered, I force myself to wait until the Halloween season. For the 2021 Countdown, I’ve amassed enough spots to cover at least three articles, so after today, there’s still more to come!
Mattel’s Boglins Collection! (1987)
Here’s the first-ever TV commercial for Mattel’s Boglins collection. The creepily cute rubber puppets were part of the “gross-out toy fad” of the mid ‘80s, when things like Madballs, My Pet Monster and Mad Scientist ruled over Kay-Bee with a mix of gnarly faces and toxic slime.
I’ve owned many Boglins as a collector, but I only had one as a kid, which technically wasn’t even mine. When my older brother graduated college, he received a Boglin as a gag gift. At least, I’m pretty sure it was a gag gift, as I don’t think my brother played with toys even when he was appropriately aged for them.
It sat untouched in his bedroom for several weeks. One day, it somehow ended up in my bedroom, and the official story is that I have no idea how that happened. I swear! My brother probably would’ve given it to me had I asked, but since I didn’t, I knew better than to parade that Boglin around.
For a while, he lived in a drawer, ostensibly so my brother wouldn’t see him, but really because I loved pulling that drawer open to tuck my Boglin into his makeshift pillowcase bed. I treated that thing like the frog version of Gizmo.
PS: If you weren’t aware, the original creator and designer of Boglins, Tim Clarke, snagged the rights and is now selling them again. They’re extremely faithful to the originals, too. Same “cage boxes” and everything. Looks like Tim is having success with the relaunch, as you can even find the new ones at Walmart. He’s even brought back the beloved Halloween editions!
The Real Ghostbusters Fright Features! (1989)
While I grew fonder of them as a collector, I admit that the “Fright Features” series of Real Ghostbusters figures wasn’t a childhood favorite. Their dropping jaws and bug-out eyes were impressive action features for sure, but I disliked it when my figures were married to any particular “emotion.”
It was tough to assign a serious role to this Peter Venkman, because his eyes looked like they belonged to an animated cat who’d just spotted tuna. I preferred my figures to look more neutral, so I could make them fight, party, date or chill with equal realism.
Actually, the bigger swing for me from this particular spot was Highway Haunter. What a car! Highway Haunter switched from a Volkswagen into a menacing, mantis-like ghost. He was pretty similar to Scales from Tonka’s Gobots line. In fact, I’d often team the two and let them run roughshod over any action figure stupid enough to wander the open carpet.
Tales from the Darkside Bumper! (1980s)
Bear with me, because this’ll take a minute to explain!
Throughout childhood and into my teen years, I chased Tales from the Darkside all over TV as it hopped between different networks and time slots. It was one of my true gateways to horror. As a kid who had little to do, TFTD taught me that when you were scared, you were never totally bored.
While every episode of the anthology series fit the show’s title, some were more on-the-nose than others. Beyond the incredible intro, one thing that normalized ‘em all was the short bumper embedded above. This would play before and after most commercial breaks, and even during the rare “happier” episodes of Tales from the Darkside, that creepy logo and synthy sting were enough to keep me on high alert.
I wasn’t always the most attentive watcher of Tales from the Darkside. Often enough, I’d tune to the appropriate channel and then go about my bedroom business — like playing with toys and organizing my comics. TFTD would play softly in the background, but the sudden, sinister sound of that bumper always gave me a jolt!
(As for the Hershey’s commercial, I’m just leaving that in for context.)
Crazy Eddie’s Moonlight Madness Sale! (1980s)
Crazy Eddie was a northeastern electronics store chain that began in the ‘70s and died in the late ‘80s. I loved it as a kid, and it definitely lived up to its name. The store near us had the most berserk layout imaginable.
Packed to the brim with electronics of every type, Crazy Eddie was impossibly disorganized. It looked less like a “store” and more like a warehouse stuffed with stolen goods. If Shredder appeared from nowhere to order wayward teens around, you wouldn’t have been surprised. I firmly believe that a person could’ve hid in that store for a full year.
On a more personal note, it was where I found my copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.
The chain is remembered now for its owner’s legal troubles, but back then, everyone knew Crazy Eddie for its nutty TV commercials. In them, actor Jerry Carroll portrayed “Crazy Eddie,” and I actually didn’t know until adulthood that he wasn’t the real Ed. A motor-mouthed ball of fire, Carroll’s pitches were arguably THE reason why Crazy Eddie had as much success as it did.
This spot highlighted Crazy Eddie’s “Moonlight Madness” sale. Airing in June, it certainly wasn’t a “Halloween” commercial, but given that Jerry Carroll was bathed in blacklight and dressed like a vampiric Archie Bunker, I feel totally okay with including it here!
WPIX Movie Intro: Arachnophobia (1996)
By 1996, my beloved WPIX had been rebranded as the WB Network. I assume that was a nationwide phenomenon, with the WB Network “taking over” existing stations? If you woke up one day and saw Michigan J. Frog all over your preferred channel for sitcom reruns, just know that it happened here, too.
The WB packaging lasted for a decade, and during that time, WPIX no longer felt like the network I grew up with. Even so, some of the channel’s classic gimmicks remained intact, like its 8 O’Clock Movie. Before the WB thing, WPIX ran movies at 8PM almost every night. It became more sporadic after the rebrand, but they still managed to make those films feel like big events.
Embedded above is WPIX / WB 11’s intro to Arachnophobia, from 1996. The movie was six years old by then, so this wouldn’t have qualified as its broadcast premiere or anything. Still, doesn’t that intro make you excited, even now? By 1996, we all had a hundred channels and half of us were already flirting with internet access. It was no longer as easy to sell older movies on network TV as major happenings, but those sonsabitches did it!