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DVD SAVANT

Monsters Crash
the Pajama Party


Monsters Crash the Pajama Party
Something Weird Video
1965, and much earlier
Color & B&W & 3:D
1:37
214m.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This eclectic bag of oddities is a Halloween-themed grouping of scores of strange bits of film - weird short subjects, artifacts, and found fragments of some really odd and rare-looking footage. Something Weird mountebank-producer Mike Vraney has swept the vault floors of everything with a ghost or haunted house or spook show pedigree ... plus two feature films thrown in for good measure!

Synopsis:

Some, uh girls are in a haunted house, and soon they wander about in babydoll pajamas and are inconvenienced by a mad gorilla, a mad doctor, and other threats. It just plays and plays for about 45 minutes, and then it's over (but not this disc, keep reading!)

The disc comes up on a moving spiral, which serves as a background to a HYPNOSCOPE lecture which supposedly will tranform us all into vampires and werewolves. The only menu is a drawing of a haunted landscape ... everything to be accessed on the disc is basically an easter egg of one sort or another hidden in the several 'areas' of this landscape, and it's hard to be sure of what exactly you're watching until you stumble upon it. Call it a voyage of discovery.

Here's the rundown:

Monsters Crash the Pajama Party. Found it. It's in color and in good condition, but it's truly terrible. David L. Hewitt helped make the reasonable The Time Travellers, but I've yet to see anything else by him that's watchable, and this 45-minute featurette is no exception.

Asylum of the Insane is apparently a few minutes of 3D footage, some of which is monsters in masks but other unedited material is simply a kid throwing a football at the camera. The 3D barely worked, I'm sorry to say. The DVD case contains one pair of 3D Glasses.

Spooks A Poppin' Trailer Show is 45 minutes of trailers for Spook Shows, travelling live-action magic and hokum shows that turned local theaters into carnival sideshows on special nights. A booklet extra with the DVD has a ten page memoir of the Spook Show circuit written by Jim Ridenour, and it's a very interesting and little-known part of exhibition history. The trailers themselves are graphics-driven, very naive, and lots of fun, if a little repetitious.

Spooky Musical Soundies are terrific - essentially music video-like musical short subjects. They're creative and well-shot, and appear to date from the forties, with great black musical talent, none of them credited. One bit with a dancing marionette skeleton is very good.

Horror Home Productions are monster home movies from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s that are rather amusing. One 1930s amateur shoot features a vampire based on Lon Chaney in London After Midnight, that looks rather good; an actor in another short uses the same red-greasepaint trick from the Mamoulian Jekyll & Hyde, and mimics Fredric March!

Don't Be Afraid is supposedly an educational short subject. Didn't find it, or didn't recognize it when I found it.

One very long and interesting section is a huge collection of Spook Show Art and Stills, accompanied by radio spots hyping the various shows. This one's rather mind-warping if you leave it on too long.

There are two audio commentaries, by Philip Morris and Harry Wise, that I didn't sample. You're on your own. Chances are, every question I had about the disc would have been answered by doing this, but I was feeling rebellious. Sorry, Phil & Harry.

Plus a lot of strange filler, some of which may have figured in actual Spook shows - footage of a Spook ride, brief views of werewolves and other monster-masked people waving their hands at us.

There were also two bonus items. The first is a NO PAY TV short subject, the actual one I saw in a theater about 1968, that uses animated monsters to frighten us into turning down cable television. Interesting that at the time, I never asked why Theaters would be running this scare campaign ... when it's obvious that movies would be run on pay TV.

And lastly is an entire bonus feature, Bert I. Gordon's 1960 ghost flick, Tormented, with Richard Carlson. It's crude, but actually good for a Gordon film. It's from a 16mm print, I'd say, with plenty of damage. It's 72 minutes long.


So, for curiosity value, Monsters Crash the Pajama Party is an oddity that many weird film addicts will find hard to resist. It is very interactive, as there doesn't seem to be any way to play the whole contents without being a remote control jockey, but there are some educational rewards to be had on the way. Also, unlike many Something Weird shows and the extras on them, all the content on this disc appears to be PG rated or even less threatening ... so it might be good Halloween subject matter, even if it only plays in the background while you carve pumpkins!


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Monsters Crash the Pajama Party rates:
Movie: Uh. Um.
Video: Just fine, with considerable variance in source quality
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: This whole disc is a supplement, Pilgrim.
Packaging: Amaray case. That I'm sure of.
Reviewed: September 5, 2001


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