Saturday, March 7, 2015

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Meet THE GRUESOMES


Once upon a time, our SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS feature used to deal with cartoons that actually aired on Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, the Collinsport Historical Society sets its schedule using the unspeakable Lovecraft Calender, which has nine days in the work week (none of which are named "Saturday.") It makes thinks a little confusing, but the Old Ones demand obedience on the issue.

This week's feature first aired on Tuesday evening, Nov. 12, 1964, during the original run of THE FLINTSTONES. It's likely that most of us first saw this episode in Saturday morning re-runs, though, so I'm going to allow it.

If you've been following this blog closely, you'll take note of the year this episode debuted. Life Magazine dubbed 1964 "TV's Year of the Monster," a year that also included the first seasons of THE ADDAMS FAMILY and THE MUNSTERS. Not to be outdone, Hanna-Barbera added their own creepy family to primetime: The Gruesomes.

As a child, I was weirdly fascinated by the Flintstones' new neighbors Weirdly, Creepella and Goblin (aka "Gobby"). They seemed like my kind of people and were much more fun — and interesting —  than the vanilla stars of the series. I didn't have anything against Fred and Wilma ... I'd just rather have hung out with Gobby, is all.

The Gruesomes were clearly inspired by the work of Charles Addams, but I have my doubts that THE ADDAMS FAMILY television series provided any creative inspiration for the characters. THE ADDAMS FAMILY premiered just two months earlier, and it's unlikely that an animated episode could be produced in that short of a timeframe. The again, THE FLINTSTONES was a product of Hanna-Barbera, once called "The K-Mart of Animation." They might have crapped this out over the weekend for all I know.

The late Howard Morris (who played "Ernest T. Bass" on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) supplied the voice in Weirdly in this episode, as well as its 1965 follow-up, "The Hatrocks and the Gruesomes." Both episodes are available on DVD and streaming video from Amazon, but Stu's Show has provided a much more interesting artifact: A digital transfer of the Super 8 film edition of "The Gruesomes."

Here's some background on the video, taken from the Stu's Show Youtube channel:

Columbia Pictures had an 8mm home movie division during the 1960s and 1970s. They only released silent films during the 60s, but when Super 8 sound projectors came out in the early 70s, they started putting out their previously-released silent films with sound. This was the first of a series of Flintstones films - they originally subtitled this release and put this out as a test with sound in 1973. They merely grabbed the print they used to make the silent editions with subtitles and re-issued it with the soundtrack still intact, but no subtitles. Subsequent sound releases were much better edited, but this one in its sound version is a total mess.
You can watch the Super 8 version of the episode — in all its murky glory — at the top of this post.

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