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Five Things – 12.15.14

1.  The Hilarious House of Frightenstein - Canadian kid’s television is its own sort of weird, beautiful monster.   There’s not really a better example of that fact than The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, a 1971 sketch comedy show that incorporated familiar horror and pop culture elements to make something that was truly unique.


The show was hosted by Count Frightenstein, an exiled descendent of Dracula who was tasked with animating a monster named Brucie, Frankenstein-style.  If he was able to do that, he’d be accepted back into Transylvania.  At least, that’s how Vincent Price lays it out in the show intro.

The Count’s task was the backbone of the series, but there were tons of other elements in there too. Like a Wolfman DJ that played top-40 hits of the day, Wolfman Jack style:

The show also took the opportunity to teach kids about things like grammar, animals, and science with regularly occurring segments for each.  There were a ton of side characters on the show, most played by Billy Van who played the Count.  130 episodes were produced over 9 months (wow!) and the syndication run lasted quite awhile.  There’s a chance you could still see them today!

Here’s a full ep.

Another fun fact: Vincent Price recorded all of his bits for the show (400 in all) over 4 days!

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Five Things – 12.08.14

1.  Christmas Comes to Pac-Land - I was all about Pac-Land as a kid.  A visualization of what Pac-Man’s day-to-day life was like? A side-scrolling game set in Pac-Man’s home town? A cartoon series where the Pac-people talk about stuff and go on kind of boring adventures? I was in.  I was in for all of it.  Especially the Pac-Man Christmas special, Christmas Comes to Pac-Land, which premiered on ABC in 1982.

Christmas Comes to Pac-Land

The special takes your basic “help Santa out of a jam” template and applies it to Pac-land.  Santa crash-lands and Pac-Man negotiates with the ghosts to keep him and the town safe for just one night while Santa uses power pellets to get moving again.  I was going to share the entire episode, but you know what? This show doesn’t really age well.  This 3-minute clip pretty much sums up the whole thing. 


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Pearl Postcard

Five Things – 12.1.14

1. A Claymation Christmas Celebration - It’s finally the proper season to share this.  This Christmas special premiered in 1987 and loudly touted the then-ubiquitous California Raisins’ involvement, although the Raisins don’t really show up until the final number.

Claymation Christmas

Hosted by what appear to be a dinosaur version of Siskel and Ebert, the half-hour special takes you through a handful of holiday regulars like “We Three Kings” and “Carol of the Bells”.  “Carol of the Bells” features a bunch of bells hitting themselves in the head with mallets to perform the song.  That’s kind of funny, right?

California Raisins

Toward the end the Raisins show up to bring the house down with “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and then the entire cast from all of the songs gather ’round for “Here We Come A’Wassailing”, punctuating a joke that ran through the whole special.  All in all, it’s pretty entertaining – some parts shine more than others but at the end of the day watching claymation’s usually better than not watching claymation.

See for yourself!

California Raisins – Claymation Christmas by theperminator
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Five Things – 11.24.14

1.  Jack and Jill Magazine Covers -  Jack and Jill is a kids’ magazine that started its run in 1938 and is still in publication. Think Highlights with less Goofus and Gallant and more of an outside-the-doctor’s-office circulation.  It was created by the same family behind Country Gentleman, and maybe that explains why I can’t get enough of Jack and Jill‘s covers either.  The more recent covers aren’t much to write home about but it’s interesting to see how the covers of the past reflected the design sensibilities of the day. Here’s a batch from the ’60s that I’m tempted to print out and frame and/or live in:



November 1967

November 1966

“My Father is a Personnel Consultant” – riveting!

1966A preview for the Grinch! Amazing.

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Five Things – 11.17.14

1.  Country Gentleman Covers - I fell into a rabbit hole this week when I stumbled across an old Country Gentleman magazine on the web.  Country Gentleman was an agricultural magazine that was published from 1831 to 1955. A good run! The covers are Saturday Evening Post-like in their Americana essence – some covers were done by Norman Rockwell here, too, so it makes sense – but Country Gentleman’s covers also branch out a little bit more stylistically than the Post did.  Here are some of my favorites.

Country Gentleman Turkey

Country Gentleman Schoolkids

Country Gentleman Something Went Bump

This one might be my favorite of the bunch – the clowns!

Country Gentleman Circus

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Jazzercise Ad

Five Things – 11.10.14

1. Fallout - If you watch enough nuclear preparedness films from the 1950s, they have the tendency to turn into white noise.  They’re fascinating, for sure, but it’s basically the same handful of half-baked tips over and over again.  How distinguishable the films are from each other seems to come down to how the producers visualize these tips; will they have someone act the tips out, create a dramatic scene where the tips are illustrated, or crudely animate 15 minutes or so and call it a day?  “Fallout” chose the third option, and while it’s crude the animation is actually pretty charming:

I know I just bagged these films for repeating the same stuff over and over again, but Fallout does mention the CONELRAD channels, the prelude to the Emergency Broadcast system. There were two stations on the dials marked CD, where citizens could tune in for government warnings and updates.  That’s good information; not all of these films mention that.  They follow that up by telling you that you’ll probably be fine within hours after throwing up your radiation sickness, though, so take it all with a grain of salt.

Here’s a beautiful graphic for CONELRAD:

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Five Things – 11.3.14

1. That Refreshing Look - The appropriately-1950s-named Vendo corporation produced this promotional film touting the benefits of Coca-Cola’s new vending machines.  The part that’s actually about the machines themselves is a little dry, but the crisp color imagery of 1950s American life at the beginning and the ‘roleplay’ selling scenarios at the end are fantastic.

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Five Things – 10.27.14

1.  Nightmare on Elm Street (NES) – Of course Freddy had a video game.  He had a few, actually, but the NES game was the one I played as a kid.


(His pose is less menacing than I think they were intending.  He seems to be saying “I give up!”)

Developed by Rare and published by our license-loving friends at LJN, Nightmare on Elm Street was one of the first (and only) NES games to support four players.  Using the NES Satellite, you could team up with your buddies to defeat Freddy once and for all. Taking an idea from the film series, the game tasks you with collecting Freddy’s bones in order to destroy them in the furnace at the High School.  Just as in the Friday the 13th game there are a bunch of artificial bad guys thrown in as atmosphere, like bats and ghosts.  They save Freddy for the boss fights, which makes sense.  You have a sleep timer which, if depleted, sends the player into a dream world where the enemies are tougher.  You can fill this sleep timer with things like coffee and boomboxes.

Freddy screen

The title of the game was at the top center of the screen AT ALL TIMES.

The framework of the game is pretty solid; Castlevania II did the same thing and ended up being a great game.  A Nightmare on Elm Street, however, is not.  It’s maddeningly, artificially difficult – particularly when you’re just one player, which most people were.  Still, a better effort than Friday the 13th and the attempt at a four-player experience is nice.

Here’s an ad for the game:

Nightmare Ad

“ENTERACTIVE”.  And another one:

Nightmare Ad

I know these are probably stock pictures, but I like to think that Robert Englund was really excited about getting a NES game and went out of his way to make these ads happen.

Here’s a playthrough:


Interestingly enough, the original concept of the game was apparently that YOU were Freddy and you had to stop these kids from finding your bones.  A controversial premise to be sure, but that would have been pretty great.  Especially if they had integrated the Power Glove.

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Five Things – 10.20.14

1.  McDonaldland Fun Times - In the early ’80s, McDonalds had their own take on the kid’s magazine formula that Highlights made so popular.  Called the McDonaldland Fun Times, the magazines contained games and stories and probably kept kids quiet for at least ten minutes.

This cover is the obvious image choice here, it being almost Halloween and all…

McDonaldland Fun Times

…but I really think these covers are more fear-inducing:

McDonaldland Fun TImes McDonaldland Fun Times

Creepiness aside, you’ve got to admit that the effort that went into these covers was a cut above what they probably could have gotten away with.  I can’t remember if these were available for free in McDonalds or if they were a subscription thing. Anyone?

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