Retroplex Cinema: The Monster Squad (1987)

As The Mummy makes it's return to theaters this week, we look back at one our all time favorite movies featuring the character.  The Mummy has appeared in a lot of film's over the years but nothing is quite as nostalgic and fun as 1987's The Monster Squad.  Most of you have seen it and while you may not totally remember it, you probably will have some fond memories of it and maybe even we bring those memories back as we look back on this cult classic film.

The Monster Squad (1987) in some ways was meant to be The Goonies meets Ghostbusters but instead of pirates it was monsters.  The movie is directed by Fred Dekker and written by him and Shane Black who went on to direct Iron Man 3.  The film's plot is quite simple.  A group of young boys idolize monsters from the movies, comics, and books they read.  They form a club that meets in a tree house where they discuss their monster obsession and just be boys while leader of the group Sean tries to keep his little 5-year old sister away who so desperately wants to join the club.  Their monster obsession is in creased when Sean's mom gives him the diary of the monster hunter Van Hesling but when they find out it's in German, the excitement is quickly turned to disappointment.  They soon ask for the help of the "scary German guy" at a neighboring house who helps them translate the book.  It turns out there is an amulet that will allow Dracula to take over the world if he gets his hands on it but it can only happen every 100 years.  As it turns out the 100 year mark is coming up the next day and while the boys are finding this out, Dracula is all ready in town gathering his forces!  He recruits the likes of The Wolfman, Gil-Man, The Mummy, and Frankenstein's monster to help him in his quest!  Dracula also finds three girls to be his vampire cohorts.  With his army of monsters complete Dracula seeks to find the amulet and take over the world!  The Monster Squad has a different idea however as the boys hatch a plan to stop Dracula and his army because why not, they are The Monster Squad!  What ensues is a total blast of a film that is part comedy and part horror but a lot of fun to watch!  It may have not done well at the box office in the summer of 1987 but it has found it's home on video and television showings over the years.  If you haven't seen The Monster Squad then this is one you should seek out if you enjoy good fun monster adventure movies!

Production Notes - Opening Changes & Liam Neeson Was Almost Dracula!
The Monster Squad was released by Tri-Star pictures and is an obvious take off or even a homage to Universal's classic monsters.  Therefore the special effects team had to make each monster have subtle differences as to keep Universal from saying they infringed on copyrights.  Master special effects wizard Stan Winston worked on the film and the differences included things such as moving the bolts on Frankenstein's neck to different places and giving The Wolfman pointy ears.  It was these small differences that allowed the movie to work on it's own and not infringe on Universal's library of monster characters.  The film's opening was also drastically different in the original script.  It would have included Van Helsing and his followers in an epic battle with Dracula and his vampire brides.  It would have included Helsing on a zeppelin firing machine guns at Dracula's castle but director Fred Dekker realized it just wasn't possible due to costs and cut it from the script to the opening that is now in the film.  Liam Neeson was an unknown in 1986 when the film was being casts.  He like many other new actors went out to audition for a horror film and was very close to being cast as Dracula.  Duncan Regehr though came in and blew the production team away and was ultimately cast as Dracula.  To think that Liam Neeson was almost in this film is quite incredible.  We are sure he would have brought a particular set of skills and made his version of Dracula just as memorable as Regehr's is.  Speaking of, many critics even today consider Regehr's Dracula to be amongst the best portrayal's of Dracula on screen.  His red contacts and make up were even so scary to the young stars that he stayed in character while filming.  The young star that played Phoebe was so scared of him that when he picks her up towards the film's end her scream is genuine as she was truly frightened by his look as Dracula!   Tom Noonan who played Frankenstein also stayed in character while filming and only answered the children in grunts while on breaks from shooting.

Critically and commercially the film was a failure at the time.  It only stayed in theaters a few weeks and very few people saw it.  Through it's VHS release in 1988 and through syndicated showings on television the film built an audience over the years.  In 2006 Alamo Drafthouse Cinema's held a special screening of the film along with a reunion of the cast for it's 20th Anniversary.  Two screenings sold out and it lead to a petition to get the film released on DVD which it did.  In 2007 Lionsgate released a two-disc special edition on DVD and Blu-Ray.  The disc featured multiple special features and more.  It is since out of print but Olive Films released the film last year on Blu-Ray and DVD however there are no special features on the disc.  You can order that edition of the film right here if you wish.  The Monster Squad is a good fun film and one that found it's audience over the years as it deserved.  It brings back fond memories for many of us that remember seeing it on Saturday television matinees and now it looks like a new generation has a chance to discover it!