I admit that I’ve been slacking on the regular Dino Drac content lately. Would you believe that I’ve gotten really into playing horseshoes? I mean, I haven’t, but I feel like it’s an excuse you’d accept. Picture me out there, wiping dirt on my jeans after every bad toss. Isn’t all forgiven?
Here’s the latest edition of Five Retro TV Commercials, with ads rescued from thirty-year-old recordings of Mr. Belvedere.
Matchbox Parasites! (1985)
I was ecstatic to find this on one of my tapes, as I’ve been trying to work Matchbox’s Parasites onto Dino Drac since Day 1. Few remember this line and even fewer ever bring it up, and I’m here to tell you that that’s WRONG WRONG WRONG.
Parasites was a collection of hollowed-out Matchbox cars with ALIEN ROBOTS stuffed inside. The robot figures worked like collapsible luggage, starting as rectangular “bricks” that fit snugly inside each car. When you pulled ‘em out, they expanded into techno-monsters with stilt-like legs and terrible attitudes.
It was a neat concept made ten times better by the extraterrestrial theatrics. Parasites figures are pretty expensive nowadays, though you may occasionally be able to find ‘em cheap if you search eBay at just the right time. Good luck — they’re worth tracking down!
Aliens love Almond Joy! (1980s)
I’ve watched this commercial ten times, and while I won’t pretend that I don’t “get it,” I’m still amazed that SPACE ALIENS FROM VENUS was how they chose to illustrate the point.
The idea was that one’s inclination towards Almond Joy bars spoke well of them. In fact, it spoke so well that no actual words were necessary. Just hold up an Almond Joy, and everyone instinctively knew that you were the shit.
That’s how one astronaut got chosen as ambassador for a trip to Venus, and also how one blue-skinned Venusian was picked for a vacation to Earth. If you’re reading this and nothing makes sense, I assure you that I’m merely describing the commercial and adding virtually no color.
I guess this was a way to do the E.T./Reese’s Pieces thing, but for Almond Joy? I love how so much 1980s candy advertising hinged on the idea that we’d want certain candies more after watching space aliens eat them. Really, they weren’t wrong.
PS: I was way into Almond Joy bars as a kid, despite hating almonds and being ambivalent-at-best about coconut. Honestly, I just liked that shade of blue on the wrappers. Very Caribbean!
Weaver Chicken Tenders! (1987)
I can’t remember the last time I ate Weaver’s Chicken Tenders, but it for sure was when they came in a box like that. MAN does that box take me back. I used to live on these things!
I’m not sure if Weaver has since modified the formula, but at the time, the tenders weren’t meant to be cooked in the microwave. That never stopped me, though. I’d line a plate with half of the box, nuke for three minutes, and revel in the hardest, chewiest chicken tenders ever. They basically came out of the microwave as chicken jerky. I loved ‘em!
I have such fond memories of pairing Weaver’s Chicken Tenders with cartoons and cable movies. Watching TV while eating chips was one thing, but doing it with chicken tenders felt like the go-nowhere version of a night out. Looking back, it’s no wonder that I still have trouble thinking of food as “food,” and not like, a magazine.
Child’s Play 2! (1990)
As is already on record, Child’s Play 2 was my true gateway to horror. I’d seen plenty of scary movies by 1990, of course, but this was the first one that I fanatically latched onto.
I rented the film dozens of times before finally rigging two VCRs together to make my own copy… and then I watched it every day. Hell, I even convinced the owner of our old mom-and-pop video store to sell me his giant Child’s Play 2 standee, which for a long while was my favorite thing in the world. I was all-in on this movie.
I still talk about Child’s Play 2 as the eleven-year-old kid who swore by it. I tell newbies to watch it and expect ‘em to have the same reaction that I did back then. I’m completely unobjective about this movie. It’s a pillar of my own personal culture, which I suppose is a weird thing to say about a film where a possessed doll uses a yardstick to beat someone to death.
Hey, we all have movies that are worth more to us than whatever’s actually onscreen.
Time-Life’s Enchanted World! (1986)
I covered a different ad for these books years ago, but given how incredible this one is, I don’t think you’ll mind the double-dip.
Enchanted World was another of Time-Life’s “dark” collections, with subjects ranging from black magic to mythical monsters. (Why else would they hire Vincent Price to handle the voice-over?)
With its two-minute length, the commercial was more of an infomercial, and would’ve eaten an entire ad break on its own. It was atmospherically akin to Unsolved Mysteries, and had a similar effect on me, too. I could never look away, but it sure made me think twice about those midnight runs to the pitch-black kitchen for more of Weaver’s Chicken Tenders.
All of Time-Life’s old “spooky” books are tremendous. They’re so masterfully designed that what are essentially just ghoulish folklore encyclopedias feel more like mass-produced Necronomicons. There may be more info about the same subjects on Wikipedia these days, but they won’t be spiced with such rich flavors. (Yeah, I’m still thinking about the chicken tenders.)
Thanks for reading!