Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Monster Squad (1976): "The Astrologer"

In “The Astrologer,” The Monster Squad is shocked when an often-wrong prognosticator (Jonathan Harris) predicts that an Earthquake will strike the West Coast in less than twenty-four hours, separating California permanently from the body of the United States.

(Fred Grandy) and the monsters investigate, only to learn that the Astrologer is determined to make this prediction come true.  In fact, he is taking steps to assure its accuracy!  To that end, the super villain has stolen a thirty-year old atomic bomb, and deposited it in a well at just the right point of sensitive fault line…

Of all Monster Squad episodes thus far, “The Astrologer” just may be the worst, though “Music Man” remains in contention. 

All the familiar elements from Batman are recycled mercilessly here, and the late Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith on Lost in Space [1965 – 1968]) – in garish eye-make-up -- simply bellows all of his lines at the top of his lungs.

Harris’s poorly-modulated performance reveals the nasty pitfall of the high camp approach.  At some point, all the actors simply go so big that they can’t resist the temptation to out-shout one another.  He who shouts loudest is the funniest, I suppose.  Though “funniest” should be in air-quotes, because the material is amazingly unfunny, and proves even less funny when shouted at extreme volume.

The props and costumes look especially thread-bare this week, with the worst example being the Astrologer’s giant clam, Carlo, which attempts to eat the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man. The clam looks like it is made of poster board.

And perhaps I’m missing something, but what, precisely, does a clam have to do with astrology?

About the only amusing joke of the segment is Walt’s use of a reference book: How to Difuse [sic] a 30 Year Old Atom Bomb, the text by which he instructs Drac how to negate the threat of the week.

At the end of the episode, Walt reveals that the stolen atom bomb was actually a “dud,” and the same could be said of “The Astrologer,” a shrill, loud half-hour of Monster Squad that had the effect of making my wife leave the room while I was watching it.

This one is just dreadful.

Next week: “Ultra Witch.”

1 comment:

  1. Since this show apes the Batman series so much, the giant clam could be a shout out to a three part story where The Joker and Penguin team up for a series of Astrology themed crimes, and Joker fed the Dynamic duo to a giant clam.
    The Joker's giant clam was much better.


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