Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Cult Classic Comes To DVD July 24!
After twenty years, The Monster Squad is going to be released on DVD on July 24 of this year. Fans of the movie had been screaming for this release for years, especially since the DVD format has become available.

The movie was previously released on a VHS format. However, at the time of that release, it was easier to get access to the right to reproduce the movie soundtracks. As collectors know, several television series (including The Profiler, which lost a whole episode due to the music problems, and delayed production on the Miami Vice season sets) have been affected by the music rights problems.

There was a lot of speculation about when The Monster Squad would be released on DVD the two similar related problems. No one knew exactly who owns the rights to Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s monster. Evidently the legal of world is especially dangerous to monsters because of no one was gonna let those guys out of the box.

For those of you who remember when the movie was released in 1987, you may remember loving it but if you remember it accurately you’ll also recall that it wasn’t all that good. It was camp. Pure unadulterated camp. And it made no excuses for being so. These were your father’s monsters twisted into a 1980s reality where kids were take charge kind of heroes who took no prisoners.

Almost since the time film was invented, of audiences have thrilled to the classic monsters. Of course, it wasn’t long before Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s creature lost their horrific sway over those audiences and became the butt of jokes. Abbott and Costello took on those legendary monsters, as did Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Those movies were played primarily as slapstick and farce.

But, those comedians for your father’s comedians as well. In the nineteen eighties, we needed our own comedians who were closer to our age. So screenwriter/director Fred Dekker and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) teamed up to produce a kid movie that kidded their fearless young heroes of against these legendary evil villains.

Some of the young stars went on to have film crew careers, though none of them ever hit the big time.

Before The Monster Squad was released, Steven Spielberg hit box office gold with a simple kid-driven movie called The Goonies. Spielberg proved you didn’t have to have star power in a movie that would appeal across the board to kids and adults if you had a story that kids would learn to love and adults never the love of.

The Monster Squad is exactly the same kind of story. Every kid who has heard about Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s monster has secretly wondered how he or she would deal with those scary creatures if they ever confronted them. And adults have never forgotten wondering the same thing when they were that age.

The story is amazingly simple. A group of kids declaring themselves to be the Monster Squad encounter Dracula and his minions as the evil vampire puts his plans in motion to take over the town where the kids live. As luck would have it, and luck always figures into these kinds of stories, the leader of the Monster Squad discovers Abraham Van Helsing’s journal that describes how to banish the monsters. Even with directions though, the job isn’t easy. Thankfully watching the action takes place on the big screen was a real knee-slapper.

The kids in the film aren’t superheroes. They’re just kids in the wrong place at the wrong time, but who won’t give up when the going gets tough. This is Scooby-Doo live-action before that was done, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer before Joss Whedon got that series up and running.

It would be interesting to know if The Monster Squad had an effect on the formulation of Buffy. In the movie, the kids have to have the help of an older man who can read and interpret the journal so that they know what to do. The man doesn’t fit in with the rest of the town has always been thought of as “odd”. Hmmm, Rupert Giles, anyone?

The Monster Squad is releasing as a special two-disc collection that offers the trips, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, and an interview back-in-the-day with Tom Noonan, who played the Frankenstein’s monster in the movie. As a bit of trivia, Tom Noonan had just played one of the scariest monsters in celluloid history when he starred as Francis Dollarhyde, a protégé of Hannibal Lector, in Manhunter, the original Hannibal the Cannibal movie.

I’m looking forward to this movie, and I’m especially looking for it to watching it with my nine year olds. He’s the perfect age for this bit of nostalgia from my own younger years.

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