|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. It not being all that demanding a job, apparently, 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 titular monsters in the Squad.
Monster Squad was developed by Stanley Ralph Ross, who used his
time as a writer on Batman to create this monster-filled equivalent to that show complete 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 different
color. Its sound was even used on the show, though sped up. Robert Turturice
designed the costumes.
|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
half-man half-woman 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.
Monster Squad was produced by D’Angelo-Bullock-Allen
Productions and premiered on NBC on
September 11, 1976 with music composed by Richard LaSalle. The series was
written by Richard
M. Bluel, Alan Dinehart,
Samara and Ross. While it only lasted a single season of 13 episodes, NBC
kept it on its schedule for the remainder of the broadcast year.
|The board game.
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). 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.
made a board game and HG Toys produced a
puzzle prominently featuring the “Ultra Witch” episode. In 2009, the
complete series was released to North America by Virgil Films and Entertainment and
overseas by Fabulous Films.
|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 a similar premise 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.
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2021.