There are some heavy hitters in this edition of Classic Creepy Commercials, and then also stuff that you definitely won’t remember. I prefer my articles to have polar extremes. Kick back with exactly 150 seconds’ worth of spooky old TV spots, yanked from my tape collection:
Real Ghostbusters Proton Pack! (1986)
Way back when, me and the neighborhood kids loved pretending that we were Ghostbusters. Kenner made it easy, since virtually every gadget seen in the film and cartoon got a toy version. Even so, I think there was more to it than that.
See, pretending to be Ghostbusters did not also require us to pretend we had bulging muscles, or super strength, or the ability to transform into semi-trucks. The Ghostbusters had brains, but they were also just like… regular dudes. I wasn’t writing a check that my doughy ass couldn’t cash.
Plus, “ghosts” were the perfect enemy because they didn’t actually need to be there. We just pretended they were invisible, because ghosts so often are. Making that plastic PKE meter click was all the proof we needed, and zapping unseen ghosts with a big yellow pool noodle was probably the highlight of my first ten years on this planet.
Playskool’s Big Frank! (1992)
I’m glad that Big Frank existed, though I’ve never been clear on why he did. Made by Playskool, Big Frank was part My Pet Monster and part Milton Bradley’s Operation. Larger than a Cabbage Patch Kid and heavier than a brick, the green behemoth had a pop-open chest that let kids “fix” his clock-like innards. (They’d then be rewarded with Frank’s light-up eyes and a volley of sound effects.)
Big Frank was marketed to teensy little kids, and I gotta wonder just how much juice Frankenstein had with the preschool set. I mean, this was 1992, which wasn’t exactly a major year for the Universal Monsters. I suppose familiarity with the inspiration wasn’t required, but Big Frank still felt like an anachronism.
Eh, whatever, he was cool! A friendly Frankie in a blazing orange suit, with a head that you could hide candy in! Given his size and accoutrements, Big Frank is surprisingly cheap on eBay. With a little luck, you can score a complete, working doll for under 50 bucks. He’s totally worth it, too. I don’t know how well he landed with the kids of ‘92, but Frank is amazing for the shelfie-takers of ‘21.
Halloween II on WPIX! (1980s)
The thing to note about this very effective WPIX promo is that it could’ve aired at any point during the day. As I’ve written about before (and have since confirmed with one of WPIX’s old producers), they’d stick promos for horror shit all over their schedule. You could’ve been watching afternoon cartoons without a care in the world, and then wham, there was Michael Myers with his trails of blood.
Back then, I considered Michael Myers the scariest of the slashers. That was partly because of my awful experience watching his first film, but also because Michael hadn’t been “commercialized” nearly as much as Freddy or Jason. I might’ve thought twice about watching an Elm Street movie, but in the end, a guy who had his own bubble gum could never be that scary. And Jason? Man, Jason was on fuckin’ Arsenio. If anything, I thought I could save him.
Michael Myers, on the other hand, was still the Great Unknown. Hell, I don’t even remember seeing cheapie versions of Michael’s mask at the neighborhood pharmacies back then. My perception was that he was more serious and brutal, and that his movies were not to be trifled with. So, when a promo like this came on during a Charles in Charge rerun, I can’t say that I marked my calendar. Actually, I probably just avoided WPIX altogether that day.
Beetlejuice Action Figures! (1990)
Thank God Kenner was so quick to create a Beetlejuice toy line. Had they waited a year, they almost definitely would’ve focused on his cartoon rather than the movie. Which would’ve been an extinction event, tbqh.
While the film premiered in 1988, this toy line didn’t get underway until 1989, and didn’t really settle in until 1990. Any kid who missed Beetlejuice’s theatrical run was all over the videocassette, because Michael Keaton was by then our Bat-God, and the thought of him playing a wisecracking ghoul was downright irresistible.
I had most of the figures in this collection, which paired nicely with my Real Ghostbusters toys. Those were also made by Kenner, and they shared a roundabout scale. Actually, several figures would be so at-home as RGB toys that if you saw them laying in a box at some flea market, you might need to remind yourself that they *aren’t* RGB figures.
PS: I’m decades late, but here’s a lifehack. The set included several figures depicting the titular poltergeist, but not the one we wanted most: Beetlejuice in his black-and-white pinstripe suit, with his “regular” head. But since the heads pop off, you can simply steal the one from Spinhead Beetlejuice and throw it over Showtime Beetlejuice. Voila, the perfect Beetlejuice figure. Don’t say I never gave you nothin’.
Rice Krispies w/ Boglins Stamps! (1989)
The Boglins toy line wasn’t hugely popular even at its peak, so it’s pretty wild that it scored THREE different co-promotions with Kellogg’s. One was for a Boglins stamper set, another was for cutout masks, and then the one advertised here was for a sheet of 100 Boglins stamps. All things being equal, I think this was my favorite of the promotions.
Kellogg’s did the hundred-stamp thing with many different partners over the years, and I always got a kick out of it. While they took more effort than stickers, they had the same appeal, and getting a hundred free with a box of cereal was gonna be a win whether there were alien frogs on them or not.
I remember pulling that exact sheet from a box of Rice Krispies as a kid, and feeling like my day was made. And you know, it kinda was made. I spent the whole afternoon inventing uses for those stamps, and only in retrospect do I realize that it had less to do with stamp enthusiasm and more to do with how the gummy sides tasted. Mmm, delicious stamp glue.
Thanks for reading! There are still a few editions of Classic Creepy Commercials to come during this year’s Countdown, so if you’re into this sort of thing, I ain’t done with you yet.