This fairly little-known sequel to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" came out in 1978 as a TV special, featuring Hans Conried as the voice of the Grinch - Seuss fans might recognize his voice from his role as Dr. Terwilliger in The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, a Suess-written film from 25 years before. The Grinch here sounds EXACTLY like Dr. T, and it works. If they had to replace Boris Karloff, who voiced the Grinch in the Christmas special, Hans* was the way to go.
Anyway, on to the special, which is one of my favorites....it's worth noting that the only mention of Halloween in "Halloween is Grinch Night" is in the title (indeed, starting in the late 90's, it was released under the name "It's Grinch Night," leaving Halloween out altogether, perhaps to avoid offending the 700 Club crowd). However, the events portrayed here clearly take place in autumn. Grinch Night, perhaps, is the Whoville equivalent of Halloween. Pardon my lack of knowledge of Who culture.
Apparently, every now and then, environmental evidence points to a coming "grinch night" in Whoville. A soursweet wind is detected in the air, the gree grumps start a-growlin', the hackencracks starts yowlin', and every one is warned to stay indoors, for the Grinch will be coming down from Mount Crumpet (alias "The Euphemism") in his "paraphernalia wagon" (boy, don't you wish you had one of those?).
Exactly what will happen when the Grinch gets there is never made clear, but you can't bet your sweet bippy it ain't gonna be pleasant. In one song, Whos claim they wouldn't go out on such a night for a dollar and fifty cents (which was more back in the late 1970s than it is now, of course).
Eucharia, a young bespectacled Who, decides to take matters into his own hands, and enters the Grinch's wagon to see a real freak-out of a spook show with cool music to match, effectively stalling the Grinch. By the time he emerges from the wagon, the sour-sweet wind has died down, leaving the Grinch with nothing to do but turn around and go home. "Well, I'll be grinched," he says. Add this to snugglepupping on the list of terms and phrases I'm trying to bring back.
The visual style of HALLOWEEN IS GRINCH NIGHT is a bit more sophisticated that the Christmas special (albeit a bit less stylized, perhaps), but it's unmistakably Seussian. The music, while not spawning any hits that still get a lot of radio play nowadays, is pretty catchy, too. It was written by the great Joe Raposo, who is best known for his work on Sesame Street in the 70's. Most of it is sung by those same studio singers who appeared in just about every animated special and movie in the 1960s and 70s (or, anyway, it SOUNDS like the same group). You know the kind - it sounds like that same mixed chorus that sang songs in "Snoopy Come Home, "Charlotte's Web," "The Lorax," etc.
The special may not be as well-known as its predecessor (we will surely not be seeing a live-action version any time soon, which is our loss), but it's as watchable today as it ever was, and deserves to be re-discovered. It may very well be my favorite Halloween special, in fact. My first band named its album Grinch Night Wind, and I was still mentioning "sour sweet wind" in songs I wrote a decade later. That's how much I like it. It may not be considered a landmark of Halloween specials by most people today, but it was sure a landmark for me.
This was aired on TBS, TNT and the Disney Channel many times over the years, up until about the mid-to-late 90's, but it hasn't been aired in a while, to my knowledge. It is available on DVD as part of the Dr. Seuss 4 pack linked on the left, in which it's relegated to "also-ran" status behind Green Eggs and Ham. You can, however, watch it right here:
Incidentally, Hans also appeared in The Great Bear Scare, a rather inferior Halloween special, a few years later, and was the voice of the magic mirror in the later versions of Disney's Halloween Treat (as well as doing the voice of Captain Hook, who appears in the "Villains" anthology that accompanied it). Truly, this man was an icon of Halloween Specialdom. If I ever start a religion based around this stuff, there'll have to be a Feast Of St. Hans.