Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Monster Squad: "The Ringmaster"

In “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 offing there.

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.

If the city doesn’t pay up, the Ringmaster plans to poison the children with “stupid gas,” transforming even the smartest kids into “dumb dumbs.”

Dressed 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. 

Unless they can tame the lion, the stupid gas will activate and a generation will succumb to utter stupidity…

More 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.

As 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.

As 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.

Other 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 shit. 

In 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 canceled.

Next week: "The Music Man"

1 comment:

  1. My Monster Squad. They would so beat the heck out of that 1980s monster squad!


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