By now, I'm sure you've all seen the classic 1988 flick, The Monster Squad. If you haven't, you need to remedy that immediately, because it's basically what it would be like if The Goonies had a run in with all of the Universal Monsters. You just can't go wrong with that.
Now what most of you probably don't know, is that there was a TV series that first aired back in 1976 called Monster Squad, and the premise was quite different. You see, instead of the monsters being hunted, Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein's Monster have been brought back to life to fight crime. That's right... crime fighting monsters. I'll let that sink in for a minute as you watch the Monster Squad title swirl onto the screen:
If the plot sounds a bit corny and ridiculous, that's because this show was created by Stanley Ralph Ross who was one of the primary writers for the old 1960s Batman TV series that starred Adam West. After watching just one episode, you can definitely see strong ties to those classic Batman episodes, right down to the campy villains and comical sets.
Each episode kicks off with a fun little intro explaining how the Monster Squad came to be. Walt, the guy in the yellow sweater that Mr. Rogers would surely approve of, is a criminology student who happens to be a night guard at "Fred's Wax Museum". During his time there, he built a crime computer (not unlike the "Batcomputer") that he keeps hidden in a sarcophagus. Well, it turns out that the "oscillating vibrations" from the computer actually brought the wax statues of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolfman to life. SCIENCE!
Fortunately for Walt, these three monsters feel bad for all the wrongdoings from their past, so they decide to help him fight crime using their unique monster abilities. How did the real monsters ever become wax statues, or how did the wax statues ever gain the memories of the monsters their sculpts were based on? I'm sure there's a perfectly good, technical explanation behind it. I just don't happen to have it. Don't worry though; there's no way that could be a plot hole or anything.
The cast consisted of Dracula, played by Henry Polic II; Bruce W. Wolf (aka: the Wolfman), played by Buck Kartalian, Frank N. Stein (har! har!), played by Michael Lane; and Walt, played by Fred Grandy. Yes, that's the same Fred Grandy who played "Gopher" on The Love Boat.
Today I thought it'd be nice to take a look back at the pilot episode of Monster Squad called "Queen Bee" featuring Alice Ghostley, so those of you who've never seen it can witness just how amazing this forgotten gem from the 70s really is. Alrighty, let's begin:
It all starts with Frank N. Stein trying to listen to his pocket radio while Wolfman sleeps on the floor (apparently he was out late last night, howling at the moon), but all he's hearing is an annoying buzzing sound on every station. Dracula shows up after a late night run to the Transylvania branch blood bank, nearly tripping down the stairs in the process, and tells the gang that he was attacked by a swarm of bees. He even managed to catch the bee that stung him in a glass, and Walt says it's strange that the bee is still alive since, according to the encyclopedia, they always die shortly after stinging their victims. "Maybe this one can't read!" cracks the Wolfman. HAR!
Walt then proceeds to load the bee into the crime computer to analyze it, and it determines it's a South American Killer Bee that uses a language similar to Morse code. "Instead of dots and dashes, they use buzz and buzzes." Whatever you say, Walt... whatever you say. Next, he pulls out his bee decoding book (because who doesn't have one of those lying around in a wax museum, right?), and figures out that the bees of the world are telling each other to attack. It's Walt's guess that the bees that stung Dracula were just scout bees, sent in before the rest of the bee armada. "Boy Scout bees, or Girl Scout bees?" asks Frank. Yeah, even the laugh track had trouble with that line.
So just who is behind this nefarious scheme?
Why, it's none other than Queen Bee (Alice Ghostly), wearing an incredibly sparkly costume and holding a "royal stinger" staff! She's also kept company by her two henchmen, Bumble Bee and Spelling Bee. So the shtick with this lady and her gang, is just about every line they speak has some kind of play on the word "bee". You know... lines like, "I beeseech you!", "beelieve me!", "beeware", and "you'd better beelieve it, your majesty!" Yes indeed, if you came in search of bee one-liners, you've certainly hit the jackpot. Or should I say, the honey pot? Crap... now I'm doing it too. Anyway, the point is, whether it's a play on the word "bee" or talking about how her henchmen are bumbling her plans, you'll hear more than your fair share of bee-themed dialogue. Buzz, buzz.
While Bumble Bee acts as Queen Bee's assistant, taking dictation on the Bee Line Teletype machine, Spelling Bee comes in to help him out when he admits he doesn't know how to spell the word "adhere". Go easy on the guy; they didn't have AutoCorrect back in those days. Anyway, Spelling Bee then calls out to the royal armada on his radio and asks, "what's buzzin', cousin?" Turns out all the bees will be ready to attack all the citizens of the world within two hours unless Queen Bees demands to be declared "Queen of the Entire Universe" by the government are met. And you thought the world governments laughed at Dr. Evil when he demanded one-million dollars? Wow.
Back at the Fred's Wax Museum, Walt's crime computer receives the message that Queen Bee sent out to the governments of the world. He then removes the bee that stung Dracula from the computer and sets it free, as it flies out a window and into the night.
Dracula then transforms into a vampire bat, as he's the only one capable of following the bee. It's their hope that it'll lead the Monster Squad straight to Queen Bee's hive hideout. Dracula's transformation is pretty spectacular too; one second he's a vampire, then with a quick flip of his cape, he's a novelty Halloween bat prop, dangling from a string. Spectacular! He then flies out the window after the bee, as Frank remarks with a wink, "He really moves his tail for us!" He sure does, Frank... he sure does.
After a silhouette shot of the toy bat atop the backdrop of a full moon, we cut back to Queen Bee's hive where Bumble is having her taste test his latest batch of honey. "I think it's needs a pinch more oregano." Hey, it's hard to please the royal taste buds of a queen.
Spelling Bee shows up shortly after and starts kissing ass with compliments like "beeautiful", "beedazzling", etc. until even Queen Bee herself even gets sick of the one-liners, and finally jabs him with her royal stinger staff. It's apparently an electrical stinger, because it sends out some sparks when she shocks him in the rump. Anyway, he's come with the news that all the governments of the world have decided to meet to discuss her demands, so it sounds as if their plans are going accordingly.
Next, the scout bee flies into the hive, ranting about something called a "Monster Squad". While its rants bewilder (sorry, I meant beewilder) Queen Bee, she quickly forgets about it, because Dracula soon flies in and transforms back into his human form. He introduces himself to Queen Bee and woos her saying he likes her style, "I would like to rock wings with you; get a piece of the honeycomb so to speak." Smooth, Drac... smooth!
While she invites Drac to negotiate with her, the rest of the Monster Squad wonders why they haven't heard from Drac in a while, so they try beeping him with the crime computer.
Back at the hive, Queen Bee and Drac seem to be hitting it off nicely, despite him telling her that her honey has a bit too much oregano. He continues to tempt her by talking about how he'd love to be her king, and how maybe someday they'd hear the sound of little wings flapping around the beehive.
It's all going really well, until Walt (CB radio code "Chamber of Horrors") pages Dracula (CB radio code "Nightflyer") on his radio utility belt - another item clearly influenced by Batman. But come on, you can't tell me the idea of Dracula and the other monsters wearing shiny gold utility belts wherever they go isn't a fantastic idea.
Unfortunately, Queen Bee hears the communicator on Drac's belt and has her henchmen grab him while she pokes at him with the royal stinger. They drag him up to the vat of honey, which is very small and non-threatening in appearance, but they sure do make a big deal out of it. It's the kind of basin you'd go bobbing for apples in at best.
What surprised me here was how scared and helpless Dracula was at the hands of her bumbling henchmen. Isn't he supposed to have super powers? Couldn't he just stare into their eyes and make them do as he commands? Hmm, perhaps his powers don't work on members of the insect kingdom. Either way, she decides to "throw that bat in the vat!" so his wings will be too sticky to fly for a quick getaway.
As Dracula is dropped in the honey vat, which appears to be filled with water and multi-colored pieces of foam rather than honey, Queen Bee has a good hearty laugh at the sight of Dracula covered in the stuff.
The rest of the Monster Squad decide they can no longer wait to hear back from Dracula. Walt uses the crime computer to trace Dracula's location, and then tells Frank and Bruce Wolf to go find him. And just how do they plan to get there? They take the Monster Van, of course!
Yes indeed, just as Batman has his Batmobile, the Monster Squad has their Monster Van - complete with a vanity license plate that reads "DRACLA". It's a jet black van with "Monster Squad" written on the sides, beneath some other artwork; including four skulls, which I presume are meant to represent each of the members of the squad, and a ghost bat above a sword for some unknown reason. It also comes equipped with a flashing light and alarm siren, and it's a good thing too; I'm sure you'd want to know in advance if two monsters driving a van were speeding down the road towards you, so you could get the hell out of the way. I can't say for certain, but I'm guessing they're not insured.
Anyway, back at Queen Bee's hive hideaway, things get even more ridiculous for poor ol' Dracula. Not only has he been dipped in a vat of honey, but Queen Bee also just so happens to be holding a bona fide honey bear in captivity! "Bears love honey even more than I do! You've been a bad bat, and now you're going to get a licking you'll never forget!", she laughs. Bumble and Spelling Bee shove the honey-drenched Dracula into the window box clearly marked "Honey Bear" (just like everything in the Batman series was clearly labeled), so their queen can enjoy the show. And what a show it is.
Whilst making jokes about Smokey the Bear, Dracula manages to dodge the bears advances despite the fact that they're locked in a very tight space together. It's clumsy and ill-rehearsed as can be, but MY GOD! We're seeing Dracula take on a hungry bear! He even semi-punches the bear in the shoulder at one point. This swapping positions in the box comedy act goes on for a solid two minutes while Queen Bee gives notice that her royal armada will attack soon due to the municipality of Lichtenstein being unwilling to declare her Queen of the Entire Universe. There's always a holdout.
Frank and Wolfman arrive at the scene, and Walt tells them the bee armada is about to attack, so they need to scrap Plan A (whatever that was) and move directly to Plan B (presumably "Plan Bee"). They then show up at the hive, dressed as beekeepers no less, and then force their way in by spraying them with smoke.
While the henchmen are helplessly coughing due to all the smoke, Queen Bee zaps Frank in the tuckus with her royal stinger, but it doesn't hurt him like she was hoping it would. It being an electrical stinger, makes Frank wide awake as he proclaims, "Oh! Oh it feels so good! It's just like back at the laboratory with Dr. Frankenstein!" Wolfy quickly tells him to stop enjoying himself and get mad so they can dispatch Queen Been and her henchmen.
Dracula dodges the honey bear once again, and this time it busts open the door in the process. It attacks Frank, but he simply tickles the bear to the point of utter frustration, when Dracula gives it a pot o' honey to enjoy. Meanwhile, Wolfman makes short work of the two henchmen by letting out an "aaaoooooooooh!!" as he dodges their attacks and tosses them to the ground. I always love it in TV shows when henchmen are thrown to the ground, and then they're unable to get up again; as if a tiny little fall is always guaranteed to completely incapacitate a person.
So just to recap what we've seen so far: a crazy lady dressed as a sparkling queen bee with an electric stinger has captured Dracula, dunked him in a vat of honey, and put him in a box with a hungry honey bear that he dodges and punches in the shoulder. Frank and the Wolfman then showed up dressed as beekeepers, sprayed her henchmen with smoke, and then Frank tickled the honey bear into submission.
Folks... you couldn't write this stuff if you were high as a kite in a hurricane. Goddamn, I LOVE this show!
With her henchmen tossed aside and the bear happily eating his pot o' honey, Queen Bee has nobody to help her as she runs up onto the platform where the vat of honey is. Bad idea. Frank scares her so much that she falls into the vat. Confessing that she's unable to swim, the monsters blackmail her into calling off her royal armada, and instead send them to the North Pole where they'll freeze to death.
Dracula and pals have a good laugh about the bee armada saying "adios", and then we cut back to the wax museum where they're all listening to the news on the radio about how Queen Bee is now in jail. Bruce Wolf shows up and says he's having a terrible time getting all the honey out of his fur, and wants to know what kind of shampoo Frank bought him. Frank then stutters while admitting he bought flea soap. And on that note, Drac says they should all celebrate with some Bloody Mary drinks. Cheesy monster jokes galore!
While Monster Squad was a fun Saturday morning kids show, it sadly only lasted for 13 episodes, but they were shows you'd never forget if you ever saw 'em. How could any kid say no to a bunch of crime fighting monsters? They did do a little merchandising for the show as well, including a Monster Squad board game by Milton Bradley, and some cheap toys. Ideal did plan on releasing a full toyline for the show, but it never actually happened.
There is good news, however. I'm happy to report that the entire Monster Squad TV series was released on DVD a few years back; now you can finally pick it up and watch all the amazingly corny episodes featuring other supervillains such as "The Astrologer", "The Wizard", "Ultra Witch", "The Skull", "The Weatherman", and many more.
Trust me, you'll bee glad you did!
Sorry... couldn't help it.
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