Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Revisiting 'The Last Halloween' TV Special from 1991!

A loooooong-forgotten early 1990s Hanna-Barbera production about CGI Martians with a hard-on for candy - starring Carla Tortelli from Cheers and Bull from Night Court, of all people.

By: Jimbo X

By and large, I don't really care for the usual array of Halloween TV specials. Yes, I loved watching the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes of The Simpsons and the annual All Hallows Eve installment of Roseanne when I was a kid, but stuff like The Great Pumpkin and Garfield's Halloween Adventure never had that much appeal to me. Shit, even the Halloween-themed episodes of shows I normally loved - Pete and Pete, Ghostbusters, Family Matters, etc. - never really struck that much of a chord, and that's coming from a guy who absolutely, positively fucking loves all things Halloween more than any adult person ever should. In fact, I struggle to name ten Halloween TV specials I've seen over the years that weren't connected to some pre-existing television show, and of those - Here Comes The Munsters, I'm looking squarely at you, you motherfucker - were really, really unmemorable. 

So I was cruising around the YouTubes a while back and got sucked into a nostalgia vortex and somehow, someway, I stumbled upon a Halloween TV special I literally haven't thought about in 20-something years. As soon as I saw the little icon picture in the suggested videos panel, something in my amygdala just clicked. "Huh ... why does this thing seem familiar?" I thought out loud. With a couple of minutes to spare, I clicked on the video, and about three minutes in it all come roaring back to me. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: The Last Halloween from 1991. 

This was one of those things I had half hazy and half crystal clear recollections of. I clearly remembered the general premise of the special, and kinda sorta recalled what the aliens looked like, and I remembered one of them made the most adorable sound when it moved, but as for the plot gluing everything together, I couldn't remember doo-doo. That said, I vividly recall watching it one dark and dreary late October evening in the year of our lord 1991, covered up in blankets and being really, really bummed out because I thought the title literally meant there wouldn't be another Halloween ever again in real life. Like, if I focus, I can even recall what the pajama fabric felt like that evening. How the fuck - or why the fuck - I've stored that data in the back of my head for a quarter fucking century, I just can't explain ... especially since I'm pretty sure I fell asleep halfway through the movie. 

Of course, we here at The Internet Is In America relish any and all opportunities to revisit obscurities from days long since gone, and this being the formal Halloween season and all, why the hell shouldn't we revisit the 27-year old Hanna-Barbera special and analyze it through our older, sager adult sensibilities

We begin the special with a prologue, narrated by William Hanna himself (and if I'm not mistaken, this is the only live-action TV special with CGI effects Hanna-Barbera ever produced.) He tells us the Martians were happy until, one day, the whole planet ran out of "coobi," which he pronounces dangerously close to "coochie." So they sent four Martians in a rocket ship to Earth to get some more "coobi," whatever the hell that is. Oh, and the day they sent them was Halloween on Earth. And I just know one of you science nerds is going to say some shit about it taking 162 days to travel from planet to planet, or make some snide comment about NASA radar not picking up the craft as it enter the Earth's orbit, so before you do, I just want to say this: fuck you and your mother, you worthless, buzzkilling piece of shit

So these two dorky kids get off a school bus and talk about the local candy factory closing down and being so poor they have to wear shitty hand-me-down clothes. One of the kids' sister drops her candy bag and he makes fun of her for wearing the same Wonder Woman-like costume every year, but then he realizes it was made by their dead mom so that makes him STFU real quick. Also, their pet dog is named "Digger," so be careful saying that one five times fast.

So the girl is almost run over by a dude in this old ass car. He gets out and he looks like a white George Zimmerman (funny, because he's played by Richard Moll - i.e., fucking Bull from Night Court.) Then this Cruella DeVille looking bitch in the backseat calls the kids a bunch of yard monsters and tells them to not even think about trick or treating at her place, or goddamn else. And what do you know, she lives in a spooky mansion, on top of a hill, that's apparently a matte painting.

The Martian spaceship lands. The dog finds them. Then we cut to a black dude in a bow tie telling this dude at the candy factory that he can't meet production because the lake keeps drying up and that's what powers the whole fucking operation so it's going to be the "last Halloween" in town. Get it? Because the factory is going to close, and everybody who works there is going to lose their jobs and shit? So the kids enter the picture and grandpa tells them "your mom was the greatest wisher I ever saw" and the kids vow to make this last Halloween the best fuckin' one ever.

OK, I know I've seen that fat yellow guy with the red and blue stripes SOMEWHERE before. Help me out, readers: who does this motherfucker remind you of?

Then the aliens fall out of the spaceship. They're all CGI characters, which aren't all that terrible looking considering the primitive tech of the day. And here's our roll call:

Scoota - it's basically the baby from Eraserhead wearing a special needs helmet and burp-talking like a black dude. But the helmet is actually something called a "coob-a-meter," which helps him find all that sweet, sweet coobi.

Gleep - this multicolored Pikachu looking motherfucker with a sorta Southern accent that refers to himself as a "quasar-riding flap-dwap(!?!)" whatever the fuck that's supposed to be.

Romtu - the de facto leader, a blue guy in a giant helmet who reminds me a lot of The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones

Bing - a giant spring with eyeballs who makes the most adorable squeak every time it moves. I fucking love Bing and want him to live with me, and if any of you assholes ever say anything bad about him I'll fucking cut 'ya.

We return to the kids. After a brief cameo by a kid in a Fred Flintstone mask, the Martians introduce themselves to our sibling protagonists. The boy lays his plastic sword down and says he comes in peace and Rontu (who sounds just like he's saying "scrotum" whenver he mentions Scoota's name) gives them the rundown on all that "coobi" stuff and the girl says they are free to take as much broccoli from the planet as they want. Interestingly, for a super-intelligent alien race that understands English perfectly, the idea of "mothers" is a totally new concept to them, and Bing asks if he can go "probing" for a mom of his own.

Well, as it turns out, "coobi" is what we Earthlings call "candy." The kids explain how trick or treating work and the aliens start collecting free chocolate. A black woman pulls Rontu's head off and she laughs, thinking it's just an elaborate costume. Man, she is dumb as fuck. Then the nerdy boy at the bus stop from earlier comes out wearing a fairy costume and Bing thinks he is its mom. Oh, the 1990s, back when we still knew what the fuck "gender" meant.

We cut back to the old bitch from earlier. She's trying to find a cure for old age by experimenting on bugs or something. She's making some sort of contraption that's drying up the lake to power her experiments, and she asks her sidekick to go out and find the biggest bug he can get his hands on. 

"How many domiciles have we approached?" Rontu asks. The kid tells him he's worried about his dad's factory. Then he tells Rontu how wishing works and shows him how to skip rocks. Bing, unfortunately, winds up hopping all the way to the old bitch's house. Then her retard sidekick finds him, thinks he's a giant bug and puts him in a burlap sack. The boy learns the old bitch is the one stealing all the town's water. The girl falls down a chute and the retard butler apprehends her. Her brother slides in on a hook and rams a table right into the retard's pelvis. The old bitch then promises to treat the kids to "a trick they'll never forget," but they escape down a sewer drain before she can lay her nasty ass hands on 'em. Then the sidekick guy pours bug extract slime all over his head, because he's a stupid piece of shit and you shouldn't feel sorry for him for any reason

Then the boy tells his dad about the old bitch stealing water, and in direct defiance of made-for-TV kids' Halloween special conventions, he actually believes them. The Martians then find the candy factory and go fucking ape-shit, literally taking everything in the facility. Then the cops pull up at the factory, and the old bitch and her servant (Or is it her son? They never really make their relationship all that explicitly known) have already been arrested, entirely off-screen. So, uh, hooray for budget restraints, I guess?

Bing still thinks the little girl is his mom and he thanks her for helping them get all the candy and she gives him her tiara. Then the Martians give the boy some sort of Martian rock and the aliens say they'll come back every Halloween for more coobi. Of course, the dad shows up so the aliens have to vamoose. The kid makes an unstated wish on the alien rock and throws it into the lake. "Guess I need more practice," he lugubriously states.

BUT WAIT ONE GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKIN' MINUTE, YA'LL. The rock starts bouncing around like a ball of light, and it causes the lake to magically replenish itself and re-power the factory! All the townfolks come out to watch the miracle as it happens, as they all celebrate the notion they might still have jobs come Monday morning. Of course, since those Martians took literally their entire inventory, they'll probably go under anyway, but who knows - maybe the Martians refilled the factory with candy when they re-electrified it. Don't you just love it when the producers leave you to fill the plot holes in for 'em?

And we end the whole she-bang with a final quote from Hanna. "Whenever you begin to lose your way, stop and close your eyes. It may be hard to find, but a place where magic still exists is waiting when you let yourself believe." Uh, is that supposed to be about Jesus or something?

Holy shit, do I love me some Bing. So freakin' adorable! <3

So all in all, that was a pretty fun little trip down memory lane. It's amazing how minimalistic the whole thing is, in hindsight. There might be maybe a minute of action in the entire 21 minute movie, and the rest is characters simply exchanging dialogue - good luck doing that with today's ADD-addled young-uns.

Considering how weird some of the edits are, though, there has to be an extended director's cut out there somewhere. That, or else these guys were so poor they couldn't even film the part where the villains are brought to justice, which is a distinct possibility given the (probable) fact that 95 percent of the budget went towards animation costs. I kinda' sorta' think Hanna-Barbera expected the TV movie to pull in huge ratings and be popular enough to warrant a sequel, but to the best of my knowledge the movie aired just once and that was it. And according to the Internet hoi polloi, the thing never made it to VHS, so unless you had a recorded copy of the special in your possession, there was no way to ever re-experience this one. Thankfully, the wonderful advent of YouTube has empowered a legion of nostalgic sorts to violate all sorts of international copyright laws to bring this one back to life, and I, for one, applaud them for their brazen disregard of the intellectual property safeguards of others.

The movie was directed by Savage Steve Holland, who previously directed the John Cusack vehicle Better Off Dead and also created the animation for the Whammy on Press Your Luck. After this movie, he didn't really do shit for a decade, but then he directed a couple of Fairly Odd Parents movies, thus giving this guy quite possibly the single weirdest directorial career in the history of anything ever. It was also executive produced by David Kirschner, whose pedigree includes a fucking who's who list of Halloween-time staples, including Hocus Pocus, The Halloween Tree and ALL of the Child's Play movies to date. He also apparently produced a Monster in My Pocket animated special from 1992, which sounds like the kind of thing I should definitely get around to reviewing at some point.

As for the cast, it wasn't until I hit up the IMDB that I realized the evil old bitch was played by Rhea Perlman - i.e., that one ho from Cheers who also married Danny Devito, which is hilarious because every time I think of Danny Devito fucking anything all I can think of is that one scene from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where he made a home movie version of Lethal Weapon 5. Oh, and the guy who played Grandpa was Eugene Roche, who is probably best known for playing "The AJAX Man" in a series of commercials nobody reading this is old enough to remember. In case you're wondering, the kids in the movie were played by Will Estes (who grew up to play some dude on the TV show Blue Bloods) and Sarah Martineck, who doesn't have a single IMDB credit after 1996, so it's probably safe to assume somebody PizzaGated her and ruined her interest in the craft of filmmaking. But, uh, don't quote me on that, please. And lastly, pulling voiceover duties for the movie are Paul Williams, Don Messick and Frank Welker. Really, you're either the kind of person who already knows who those people are or people that don't give a shit they were ever born, so I suppose there's no need to trudge up their respective careers.

I really don't have a continuum in mind for grading the quality of Halloween TV specials, so I can't give you a decent qualitative verdict on the movie. At barely 20 minutes in length, however, it's not like you're wasting that much of your life catching it on YT, so even if you hate it the upfront investment wasn't that bad. I guess it's a historically significant film for the CGI characters, but story-wise, there isn't necessarily anything here you haven't already seen a trillion and a half times before. The Last Halloween isn't good, it isn't bad, it just is ... well, what it is, I suppose. There are better Halloween-themed slivers of pop cultural ephemera out there, and there are certainly worse; but hey, at least it has that whole obscurity factor working in its favor, don't it?


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