Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Monster Squad (1976): "Music Man"

In this week’s installment of Monster Squad (1976), called “Music Man,” the monsters and Walt (Fred Grandy) watch a telethon being held for the “scourge of all scourges” and mankind’s “greatest ailment:” death by natural causes.

Unfortunately, the telethon is interrupted by a super villain, The Music Man (Marty Allen), who steals all the money raised and makes off with it.

The Monster Squad tracks the Music Man to the Lorenzo Music Academy, and Drac, Frank and the Werewolf pretend to be students seeking music lessons.

The Music Man sees through this ruse, however, and traps the Squad in a diabolical “Echo Chamber,” leaving Walt, back at the wax museum, to figure a way out of the crisis.

“The Music Man” is notable primarily for the central presence of Marty Allen (1922 - ), a performer who was an American hero in World War II, and later became part of the famous comedy duo, Allen and Rossi.  Marty Allen also appeared on The Ed Sullivan show more than three dozen times.

Genre fans may also recognize Allen from the Rod Serling’s Night Gallery episode “Make Me Laugh,” directed by Steven Spielberg.

Unfortunately, Allen isn’t given much of a character to play here, and he comes across as one of the series more generic villains. No doubt, he deserved better. 

In fact, “Music Man” is one of the least interesting episodes of Monster Squad.  The heroes show up at the Lorenzo Music Academy (perhaps named for Batman writer Lorenzo Semple Jr.), and (ineffectually) attempt to go undercover there…even while donning their full monster regalia.  They are then, predictably, captured and held prisoner for the remainder of the episode.

“Music Man” reveals that the creative arteries of the series have hardened into an unchanging and unchangeable formula. Every week we learn of a new crime at the wax museum, meet the villain of the week, and the Monsters investigate him or her.  The monsters are then captured, and held in some diabolical trap until one of the squad (and sometimes Walt…) figures out a way to turn the tables.

Here, all the jokes about death by natural causes are a little mystifying. They play, perhaps, as a critique of telethons. In other words, people will raise many for any cause if the heart-strings are pulled, even dumb ones.  In my opinion, this is a bit ungenerous…

Only two other things of significance left to note in this review. 

First, when the Werewolf climbs the wall of the Music Academy, the visual is a retread of the famous Batman and Robin wall-climbing trick from the Batman TV series of the 1960s, yet another way in which Monster Squad apes that (far superior…) series.

And finally, there’s a nice bit of continuity here as Music Man notes that his favorite performing venue is Madison Round Garden, the city locale we saw in the episode “The Ringmaster.”

Next week, a slightly better episode: “No Face.”

1 comment:

  1. Is the Academy not a joke on the name of Lorenzo Music, who was, I think, already voice of Carlton the Doorman on _Rhoda_ by this time, or is this an interesting coincidence?


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