October 09, 2015

MONSTER SQUAD (1976)

MONSTER SQUAD (1976)
(NBC, September 11-December 4, 1976)


D’Angelo-Bullock-Allen Productions

MAIN CAST:
Fred Grandy – Walt
Henry Polic II – Dracula
Buck Kartalian – Bruce Were Wolf
Michael Lane – Frank N. Stein

What do you do when Count Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman appear? Well, you can’t call the Monster Squad—because they ARE the Monster Squad.

Frank, Dracula and Bruce watch as Walt works the Crime Computer.

Walt (Fred Grandy), a criminology student, took a job as a night watchman at Fred’s Wax Museum. There, he built a prototype crime computer in a sarcophagus. When he activated it, the oscillating vibrations brought to life the wax statues of Dracula (Henry Polic II), Frankenstein (credited as Frank N. Stein, played by Michael Lane) and Wolfman (known as Bruce W. Wolf, played by Buck Kartalian). But, rather than pick up where they left off, the famous monsters decided to atone for their pasts and become superheroes.

The monsters in the Squad.

Monster Squad was developed by Stanley Ralph Ross, who used his time as a writer on Batman to create the monster-filled equivalent to that show with campy elements. The monsters traveled around town in a customized van and each possessed a utility belt full of gadgets developed by Walt. Walt would typically supervise their missions from the Museum as he was unable to leave, although he’d join them on the field sometimes when they really needed him. Otherwise, they would keep in contact through communicators with CB-style codenames: Dracula was “Nightflyer,” Frank was “Green Machine,” Bruce was “Furball” and Walt was “Chamber of Horrors.” Walt’s remote control for the crime computer was Mego’s Star Trek communicator painted a new color. Its sound was even used on the show sped up.

Ultra Witch at her cauldron.

Like Batman, the Squad’s rogues gallery was full of highly exaggerated villains played by many notable guest-stars of the era. From Batman came Julie Newmar (Catwoman) as Ultra Witch, Vito Scotti (Marty Dee) as Albert/Alberta, and Sandy McPeak (a Joker henchman) as Castor. Jonathan Harris, Dr. Smith from Lost in Space played The Astrologer, and Bewitched’s Alice Ghostley (Esmeralda) played Queen Bee. Notable Comedians Avery Schreiber and Marty Allen played The Weatherman and Lorenzo Musica (after Lorenzo Music), respectively. Ross even appeared in an episode as Jackie Joey.

The catalog ad for the canceled Monster Squad figures.

The series was produced by D’Angelo-Bullock-Allen Productions. It premiered on NBC on September 11, 1976 with music composed by Richard LaSalle. While it only lasted a single season of 13 episodes, NBC kept it on its schedule for the remainder of the broadcast year. Despite its short run, a good amount of merchandising was planned around the series. Ideal was contracted to produce toys related to the show, including action figures and their van. However, consumer disinterest led to the toy line to be canceled before its release, and only a smaller version of the van was produced for Ideal’s Micro Mighty Mo line. Carlin produced three bendable figures called “Chained Monsters” that were clearly modeled after the Monster Squad characters, right down to their communicators (although Dracula differed significantly from his on-screen persona).

The board game.

A blow-dart game and Frank bop bag were produced by GLJ Toys while a coloring book was published by Rand McNally. In 1978, Collegeville produced a Wolfman and Dracula costume based on the show’s designs, but by the following year all they offered was Dracula still brandishing the Monster Squad markings. Milton Bradley made a board game and HG Toys produced a puzzle prominently featuring the “Ultra Witch” episode.

The half-man, half-woman Albert/Alberta.

While the series fell into relative obscurity over the years, the concept had not. In 1980, Hanna-Barbera produced a cartoon with the premise of the same heroic monsters called Drak Pack. In 1987, TriStar Pictures released the Monster Squad movie; however, the concept of that was a group of monster-enthusiast kids had to stop the full gamut of Universal Monsters from conquering the world. Fun fact: David Proval, who played a pilot in the film transporting Dracula’s (Duncan Regehr) coffin, also appeared in an episode of the TV series. In 2009, the complete series was released to North America by Virgil Films and Entertainment and overseas by Fabulous Films.

EPISODE GUIDE:
“Queen Bee” (9/11/76) – Queen Bee chooses Dracula for her mate.

“Mr. Mephisto” (9/18/76) – Mr. Mephisto turns dolls into politicians to commit crimes.

“The Tickler” (9/25/76) – The Squad faces off against the Tickler’s tickling machine.

“The Ringmaster” (10/2/76) – The Ringmaster uses his stupid gas on children.

“Music Man” (10/9/76) – Music Man holds up a telethon.

“No Face” (10/16/76) – No Face steals the mayor’s identity.

“The Astrologer” (10/23/76) – The Astrologer steals an atomic bomb to make his prediction of an earthquake come true.

“Ultra Witch” (10/30/76) – Ultra Witch turns the Squad into cardboard cutout versions of themselves.

“The Wizard” (11/6/76) – The Wizard uses his magic to steal national monuments.

“The Skull” (11/13/76) – The Squad must stop the diabolical Skull.

“The Weatherman” (11/20/76) – The Weatherman uses the weather to ransom his becoming President.

“Lawrence of Moravia” (11/27/76) – The Squad faces off against an evil sheik.

“Albert/Alberta” (12/4/76) – The Squad fights a half-man, half-woman.

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