The Great Saturday Morning Experience

Show Spotlight: Monster Squad

Monster Squad

Monster Squad was created by Stanley Ralph Ross who wrote for “Batman”, made by D’Angelo Productions, and aired Saturday mornings on NBC from September 11th, 1976 to September 3rd, 1977. The basic premise of the show is a trio of classic monsters fighting colorful criminals with the help of a criminology student. It’s all laid out right there in the opening credits of the show: “My name’s Walt. I work as night watchman here at Fred’s Wax Museum to put myself through Criminology College. It used to be very lonely, until recently when I plugged in my crime computer. Suddenly, oscillating vibrations brought to life three legendary monsters; Dracula, The Werewolf, and Frankenstein.  Creatures hated and feared for centuries, now determined to make up for their past misbehaving by fighting crime wherever they find it. Together, we’re the Monster Squad!” What else did you need to know?

Monster Squad starred Henry Polic II as Dracula, Buck Kartalian as Bruce W. Wolf, Michael Lane as Frank N. Stein, and Fred Grandy as Walt. The show was very reminiscent of Batman although aimed at a much younger audience. The villains the squad would face were every bit as colorful as the rogue’s gallery of Batman and each had a pair of theme named henchmen such as Spelling Bee and Bumble Bee for Queen Bee; Twitter and Snicker for the Tickler; and Toil and Trouble for the Ultra Witch. The goofy traps set for the heroes were even bolder and more colorful than those on “Batman”.

Despite being aimed at kids they were not averse to inserting a little political humor as when the Ultra Witch used a Ronald ray gun to zap the heroes from 3D to 2D and drain them of color and made a comment about bleeding heart liberals. I imagine those jokes went right over the heads of most mid 1970s kids despite the laugh track.

Some of the licensed products based on the show

The humor on the show was quite juvenile to fit the target audience of course. While playing a monster themed version of Monopoly, Frank picks a chance card that says: Go directly to the dungeon, do not pass ghoul. Bruce liked to crack jokes to Walter’s dismay. One example was when Walter was getting info from his crime computer about all the cows no longer giving milk, Frank replied “Maybe the cows are just on strike.” Bruce then answered. “No, there has to be some udder reason.”  Another example of the humor of the show is this bit between Dracula and Ultra Witch:

Count Dracula: “You recognized me.”

Ultra Witch: “Of course. Who would not recognize Count Dracula?”

Count Dracula:  “I wouldn’t. I have never seen myself. I am probably the only person in the world who wouldn’t recognize me. If I were to walk in a room right now I’d say, who’s that?”

Sid Haig/Avery Schreiber/Julie Newmar/Alice Ghostly/Jonathan Harris/Vito Scotti/Ivor Francis

Just as Batman had guest stars playing villains, so too did “Monster Squad” have its share of familiar faces playing the bad guys. Dr. Smith from “Lost in Space” himself, Jonathan Harris, played the Astrologer.  Frank Cady, better known to most of us as Sam Drucker was the Farmer. Alice Ghostly from “Bewitched” played Queen Bee. Batman’s own Catwoman, Julie Newmar, was Ultra Witch. Jack Burns’ comedy partner and later Doritos pitchman, Avery Schreiber, was The Weatherman. From “Jason of Star Command”, Sid Haig, played Chief Running Nose. Veteran of the late night talk shows and comedy clubs, Marty Allen, was Lorenzo Musica, and Vito Scotti, who may just be one of the most familiar faces on 60s and 70s TV, was Albert/Alberta.

Fred/Mike/Buck/Henry

I remember Henry Polic II best as Jerry Silver on “Webster”, he was also the Sheriff of Nottingham in “When Things Were Rotten”, and the voice of the Scarecrow on “Batman: The Animated Series”. He also popped up on many prime time shows over the years including “The Bionic Woman”, “Alice”, “Mork & Mindy”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “The Love Boat”, “Eight is Enough”, “Fantasy Island”, “Cagney & Lacey”, and “Murder, She Wrote”. Besides his many on screen roles he did a lot of voice over work providing additional voices on such shows as “Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo”, “The Richie Rich/Scooby-Doo Show”, “The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang”, “Shirt Tales”, “The Dukes”, “The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries”, “The New Yogi Bear Show”, “The Smurfs” and “Yo Yogi!”.

Buck Kartalian was a regular on “Here Come the Brides” and had small roles on shows like “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, “The Munsters”, “McHale’s Navy”, “Batman”, “Run, Joe, Run”, “Even Stevens”, and “How I Met Your Mother”. He also appeared in many movies (usually in smaller roles) like “Planet of the Apes”, “Cool Hand Luke”, “Myra Breckinridge”, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”, “Please Don’t Eat my Mother!” (I have no idea what this movie is but I thought the name was interesting enough to include it), and “The Outlaw Josey Wales”.

 Mike Lane had previous experience playing the monster as he had done it in the movie “Frankenstein 1970” (which was made in 1958). He played Hans Himmler in the same film. He also played Frankenstein’s monster in “The Monkees” episode Monstrous Monkee Mash and once more (sort of) as Frank N. Stein in the 80s movie “Grotesque” starring Linda Blair. He showed up on all kinds of shows like “Death Valley Days”, “Maverick”, “Have Gun – Will Travel”, “The Untouchables”, “The Outer Limits”, “Batman”, “Daniel Boone”, “Love, American Style” “Get Smart”, “Mission: Impossible”, “Adam-12”, “Emergency!”, “The Rockford Files”, “Starsky & Hutch”, “Simon & Simon”, “Matt Houston, and “Knight Rider”.

It’s hard to imagine anyone not remembering Fred Grandy  as your yeoman purser, Gopher, on “The Love Boat” but he has had a quite a career before and after his Pacific Princess cruising days. He was actually in the movie “Death Race 2000” and early on in his TV career had a recurring role as Chris on several episodes of “Maude”. Other TV shows he’s been in include “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “Phyllis”, “Welcome Back, Kotter”, “Fernwood Tonight”, Charlie’s Angels (as Gopher), “Fantasy Island”, and Cagney & Lacey”. He then went on to serve four terms in Congress from the state of Iowa, after which he lost a very close race for governor. He moved on to radio but has recently returned to acting appearing  on shows such as “The Mindy Project”, “General Hospital”, the Nickelodeon show “Knight Squad”, and “Fuller House”.

These days if you mention the title “Monster Squad” people are more apt to remember the movie from the 80s. At least that’s been my experience and I have still yet to see that movie, believe it or not, so whenever I hear people bring up the name, my mind automatically travels back a decade earlier to those wonderful Saturday mornings and that cheesy sitcom made for kids.

There was a release of the series on a 2 disc DVD set in 2012. At the time of my research there was one full episode on YouTube which was the Ultra Witch episode starring Julie Newmar.

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