Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Monster Squad: "Lawrence of Moravia" (1976)

In “Lawrence of Moravia,” an Arab super-criminal -- the aforementioned Lawrence (Joseph Masoli) --plans to steal a famous pearl the size of a basket-ball from the Belgravian Embassy. 

The Monster Squad attempts to stop the villain, but Frankenstein and the Wolf Man are captured and locked inside a vat of boiling oil…

It’s not always so great to go back and revisit a TV series that you enjoyed as a kid. 

For one thing, as a kid (with relatively little viewing experience…) you don’t notice bad performances or lousy production design, or a campy tone so much.

And for another thing, as a kid, you aren’t necessarily aware of social stereotyping or other bothersome factors.

Watching Monster Squad (1976) today, in 2014, is a weird and uncomfortable reminder of how bad kid’s TV could be in the 1970s.

Fortunately, that awareness is balanced by knowledge that other Saturday morning series were far superior to this one. 

The general lousiness of Monster Squad thus serves to remind us that Sid and Marty Krofft (Land of the Lost) and Filmation (Ark II, Jason of Star Command, Space Academy) deserve some credits for not actively attempting to insult our intelligence.  Their programs are filled with great concepts, and don’t talk down to kids.

And in terms of social stereotypes, a Monster Squad episode like “Lawrence of Moravia” just doesn’t hold up by today’s standards.  Lawrence -- an Arab super-villain – is accompanied by two henchman who are clearly Caucasians painted in swarthy make-up.  Yikes. I hate political correctness as much as the next guy, but there's a difference between being politically incorrect and being offensive.

And at the end of the episode, Walt has occasion to speak with Officer McMacMac, the Irish night-watchman at the Wax Museum.

Naturally, McMacMac speaks in a thick Irish brogue, and in his own way is as bigoted a portrayal of the Irish as Lawrence is of Arabs. We all know that cops are always Irish, right?

McMacMac also looks and sounds like a direct knock-off of Batman’s Chief O’Hara.

Of course, the seventies were a different time, with different standards and different mores.  It’s important to remember that. Accordingly, I don’t believe anybody was setting out to depict Arabs or Irishmen in stereotypical terms.   But it still happened.

Both characters prove my point, simply, that you can’t go home again.  You can’t re-visit Monster Squad now without seeing and register some overt flaws, or without acknowledging that time has passed it by.

To wit, the series’ approach to superheroes -- high camp -- is insulting.  And the sense of humor is pretty antique. In episodes like “Lawrence of Moravia” and “No Face” (with Chief Runny Nose…) the humor is borderline insulting.

Next week: the last episode of Monster Squad: “Albert/Alberta.” 


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