One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Monster Squad: "The Ringmaster"
“The Ringmaster,” Frank’N’Stein (Michael Lane) wants to visit the circus while
it is in town, but Walt (Fred Grandy) learns that a terrible crime is in the
evil Ringmaster (Billy Curtis) and his sidekicks, Sam Strongman (H.B. Haggerty)
and Bonnie Bon (Simone Griffeth) have captured 20,000 orphans attending the
circus, and are holding them hostage for ten thousand dollars apiece.
the city doesn’t pay up, the Ringmaster plans to poison the children with “stupid gas,” transforming even the
smartest kids into “dumb dumbs.”
up as clowns, Walt and the Monster Squad infiltrate the circus and confront the
Ringmaster, but Drac, Frank, and the Wolf Man (Buck Kartalian) are captured and
put into a jail cage with a lion.
they can tame the lion, the stupid gas will activate and a generation will succumb to utter stupidity…
high-camp hijinks are afoot in “The Ringmaster,” as the gang of monsters and
Walt confront a villain with “stupid gas,” “the wheel of misfortune,” and other
menaces at an arena called “Madison Round Garden.”
before, the format of Monster Squad deliberately and relentlessly apes Batman (1966 – 1969), and
all the laughs -- and props -- are cheap ones.
The episode also borders on bad taste with the presence of Bonnie Bon,
an obese woman constantly seen eating food -- messily -- including chocolate
bars, ice cream, and, suggestively, a banana.
As is par for the course, the villain’s plan doesn’t make much sense. The Ringmaster plans to
ransom 20,000 orphans for ten thousand a piece (or 200 million, total…) so that
he can buy up and then close-down all the toy stores in the country. His motivation to do so stems from his hatred
of all children after years spent performing for the little brats.
for the Monster Squad -- here termed the “Quixotic Quartet” -- it tangles with a
very sedate-looking lion in this episode, and the confrontation with the
Ringmaster ends in what appears to be a glitter-filled pillow fight. The Ringmaster is defeated when Drac jams a
tuba over his head.
than all these bizarre touches, there isn’t much else to talk about here,
except the notion that high camp, vetted poorly, is often excruciating to
watch, and ultimately turns every effort -- including good performances -- to
the end of “The Ringmaster,” Frank’N’Stein is exposed to the stupid gas and he
becomes brilliant. One can only hope
that the kids exposed to Monster Squad in 1976 ended up the same way And
seriously, I loved this show as a kid, and was heart-broken when it was