Be Kind Rewind: 1986 MTV Elvira's Halloween Special
Submitted for your approval on this Halloween edition of Be Kind Rewind we have a tricky treat known as the 1986 MTV Halloween Special hosted by Elvira, mistress of the dark. You may notice these photos are unfortunately pretty bad, that is because this comes from a YouTube video transferred from a VHS tape that an utter genius had the foresight to record from it's original live broadcast on Halloween night in 1986. At the beginning of the YouTube video the gentleman who uploaded it explained that he popped in the VHS tape, pressed record, then went out to have a Halloween night of fun with his friends. The Elvira Halloween Special was a four hour production that consisted of music videos and random skits spread throughout all featuring the talents of Elvira. These skits are split between Elvira doing some ad-lib shtick and some scripted skits. Because this was taped from television the original commercials are here and they are just as much (in retrospect) part of the show. The music videos are unfortunately removed to eliminate copyright entanglements, but the beginning and the end of each video is there so you can research and seek out the songs if you like. The music represented here for the most part is an odd but refreshingly progressive collection of moody almost goth-rock that was probably chosen to fit in with a Halloween theme. At the end of the four hour show Elvira herself gets into the groove with her oddly ambiguous "countdown" of songs, we will get into that later.
As I stated, this Halloween special features the talents (plural) of Elvira who is portrayed by Cassandra Peterson. Elvira first appeared as a horror hostess on a weekly Los Angeles television show in the early 80's called Movie Macabre. The character seems to be a combination of the classic 50's Vampira character portrayed by Malia Nurmi (Plan 9 from Outer Space) and an 80's valley girl. The character began to quickly resonate with fans and Elvira became quite a star in the 80's. The basic premise of the Halloween Special is that Elvira is visiting Salem, Massachusetts. Half of the show is "Elvira on the street" style remotes, but she also appears on her familiar set lounging on her red velvet couch. Here in this photo we see her patronizing (in more ways than one) a Salem gift shop. She picks up random items in the gift shop and attempts (unsuccessfully) to make jokes about them. Although Elvira is witty and likable most of her improvised jokes miss the mark and throughout the special you will see a marked difference between the skits that are scripted and the parts that are winged.
In another unscripted segment we see Elvira interviewing people on the street in Salem. These segments too, rely on Elviras ad-libbing for humor and unfortunately often fall short. Perhaps it was because of the long duration of the broadcast, but the segments like these felt like filler.
Here is a particularly cool bumper graphic that seems to be influenced by Robert Palmer's iconic 1985 "Addicted to Love" music video.
This is from one of the more amusing scripted skits spoofing a commercial for a Salem School of Witchcraft. You may recognize the woman in this photo as Saturday Night Live alum Julia Sweeny who briefly portrayed a satisfied recent graduate of the school. Cassandra Peterson and Julia Sweeny were both members of the legendary comedy improve troupe, The Groundlings. This comedy troupe paved the way for several comics to find fame. Among those most notable are; Phil Hartman, Kristen Wigg, Paul Ruebens, Jon Lovitz, Craig T Nelson, Taran Killam, Maya Rudolph, Lisa Kudrow, Micheal McDonald, Will Ferrell and many more.
In another of the funnier moments Elvira spoofs a commercial for a Christmas album with this collection of Halloween Carols complete with parody songs and funny song titles. My favorite might be "Almond Joy to the World". Here we see Elvira mug for the camera as she places a Halloween ornament on a Halloween tree?
There must have been at least 49 commercials for YUGO in this Halloween Special! In the summer of 1985 the YUGO debuted as the cheapest car sold in America! The ads boast it's price is less then that of most used cars. This set off a price war for new import and compact cars in America. Saturday Night Live spoofed this development brilliantly with a commercial for the fictional new car the "Adobe". In the skit we see a Hyundai that costs 4999.99, the YUGO that cost 3999.00. Those prices were bested by the Adobe, a Mexican imported car made of clay that cost 179.99. Despite the obvious push to heavily promote the YUGO, as evident for the frequent and varied amount of commercials that were aired during this Halloween Special, the car did not sell and YUGO America went bankrupt in 1989.
Wierd Science is a 1985 John Hughs movie starring Anthony Micheal Hall (pictured mouth breathing), Kelly LeBrach and Robert Downy Junior. In it two nerdy high school boys use a computer to create a sexy woman, who for some reason has magical powers. The title song Wierd Science, performed by Oingo Boingo, was one of the more mainstream music videos featured on the Halloween Special. I did not realize till now that Danny Elfman, famous for creating the score for Pee Wee's Big Adventure, creating the Simpsons and the 1989 Batman movie themes, and providing the singing voice of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas was the lead singer from this band.
Here is a commercial inspired by Weird Science where a milquetoast virgin encounters a hot babe that emerges from his computer. I believe this is a commercial for Certs, I cant remember. This was a common practice in the 80"s where specific movies would be paralleled in contemporary commercials. But I ask you, how successful is a commercial that reminds me of a movie but not the actual product?
There was a surprising appearance of a commercial for the Troma film The Toxic Avenger. Troma Entertainment is an independent film production and distribution company know for making low-budget, polarizing, ultra-violent dark comedies. The Toxic Avenger was an underground success that made a name for Troma. Whats significant here is, there aren't likely to be televised commercials for many Troma movies as they generally depend on "word of mouth" and Troma's reputation for promotion, especially after this film. This film actually marked the debut of Marissa Tomei who appears briefly and unrecognizably in the movie.
A still from the commercial for the comedy film Soul Man where a young man poses as a black man in order to qualify for a black only college scholarship. C. Thomas Howell starred along with James Earl Jones, Leslie Nielsen, and Julia Louis Dreyfus. The movie was a financial success despite the poor critical reception and the controversy of the main character basically using blackface to steal a scholarship position from a deserving minority.
This is your stereotypical 80's soda commercial side shot of some guy tipping a sweaty aluminium can, enjoying a long, tall, crisp slurp of bubbly, syrupy goodness. This Sprite commercial features the tagline "Now more than ever, its Sprite". Lame. This predates their highly popular "I like the Sprite in You" campaign. That slogan and jingle continued on with various tweaking until grunge music existed (1994). According to Sprite, Lymon (a conceptual combination of lemon and lime) when consumed in a refreshing beverage, makes us different, livelier, special!
Basically a Lazy Susan that you can stand or sit on as you twist, twist, twist your way to healthier, happier you. The Trim Twister was billed as a core workout device.
Before the internet changed how we shopped at home this familiar blue screen was accompanied by the phrase "now here's how to order".
These innovative outdoor 360 degree omnidirectional speakers looked quite advanced for 1986, but were not inexpensive.
This futuristic and somewhat creepy commercial for Glowatch seemed fitting in an 80's Halloween special. The watches were stylish Swatch-like watches made of low tech glow in the dark rubber and plastic . Even the tag line "for creatures that come out at night" fit the Halloween mood.
This ad for Texas Instruments solar powered calculators combines a practical exhibition of the products main feature with a Halloween theme. Showing a Vampire using an low light solar powered calculator in his coffin is cheesy, but gets the point across in a fun way. The vampire here though looks just like John Turturro.
AND after... Epyx, a company that you probably don't recognize, went bankrupt in 1993. Epyx is advertising it's 500XJ Joystick that was meant to improve the performance when used with Atari compatible game systems. The company actually developed a complete handheld game system called the Handy but could not afford its continued development to market. Epyx sold the concept to Atari which turned it into Atari Lynx which is credited as being the first portable handheld game system! Here the man is so impressed with the Epyx 500XJ joystick game controller his head explodes an effect done very carefully with a blood-free quick edit as not to be gross or disturbing (see Scanners).
In one of the more successful skits Elvira spoofs Barbie with a commercial for her very own "Nightmare Mansion" The Elvira doll has a hotter than hell date her boyfriend Satan. A familiar blonde woman in pink is relentlessly tortured throughout the commercial. It is not so much the writing or even the imagery that makes this parody work for me, as much as the jingle which sounds exactly like Barbie commercials of the time.
Max Headroom was a temporary phenomenon billed as the first computer generated television host. The character portrayed by Matt Frewer was ironically not computer generated at all . The actor wore heavy makeup and prosthetics to give him a cubist look and a hand drawn cartoon background created his environment. Computer technology at the time was not advanced enough to actually generate the characterization. Max Headroom began its life as a character in a British TV movie, then went on to host a veejay television show, then a dramatic television series that lasted two seasons. Here he appears in a Coke commercial.
Levis 501 Jeans were heavily advertised throughout the eighties and throughout this Halloween special as well. They featured original songs of varying musical styles but mostly a modern type of rhythm and blues. The music was accompanied by a scenes of bedenimed stylish people in a gritty but lively urban environment. These commercials seemed to have aged allot better than others of the period. Here a man in his 501 jeans caries a duck down the street, who knows why.
Lazer Tag was created in 1986 from Worlds of Wonder, the company responsible for Teddy Ruxpin the story telling bear. This was a phenomenally popular toy that used infra red light to shoot and register "laser" hits between players. In 1987 a 19 year old boy was shot and killed by a police officer who mistook the gun for something real. Looking at the design of the gun it seems difficult to understand that mistake. This lead to some inevitable controversy and bad press about the product. The originating company, Worlds of Wonder dissolved the following year. The Lazer Tag name and toy line lived on however as it became owned first by Tiger Electronics and now by Hasbro under the banner of Nerf toys. Here in this introductory commercial the company feels the need to inform the public that an actual Lazer Tag stadium is not included in the box.
This commercial by Converse is for the "Weapon" basketball shoe. It is considered one of the first shoes marketed specifically for basketball and certainly predates Air Jordans. In this commercial the sports personalities (contradiction in terms) rap boastfully and awfully about the success the shoe has brought them. Airing during Larry Bird's final reign as MVP, he has the ultimate boast as he shows off his trophy.
As mentioned briefly before, the Elvira Halloween special culminates with songs supposedly chosen specifically by Elvira. Among the list is a few more mainstream songs like "Shot in the Dark" by Ozzy Osbourn and "He's Back (the Man behind the Mask)" by Alice Cooper. But in Elvira's number one position, what she calls the most frightening video of all time, is the Pia Zadora song "Rock It Out". This song features the the actress turned singer looking to move in on Samantha Fox's game as rock sex kitten. The video takes place in a woman's prison and features horrible lyrics, catchy guitar and a lot of repetition, it has become a bit of a guilty pleasure here in the poptechmotive offices. We play it whenever we run out of coffee but need a pick me up. Enjoy it below in this clip, complete with introduction by Elvira. Be sure to check out the entire Elvira Halloween Special on YouTube. Happy Halloween!