I'm not sure if this special, featuring the voices of Leonard Nimoy and Ray Bradbury (author of the book on which it's based) himself, was made for video or made for TV. In any case, it was released on video in 1993 and was a late 90s staple of cable TV around Halloween.
It's a shame that it drags a bit in the middle, because it starts out brilliantly, with the best Spooky House on the Edge of Town in the business, and a genuinely spooky old man residing inside it - finally, a spooky old man who actually DOES turn out to be a creep!
In fact, this is probably the scariest Halloween special of them all. And the most educational, despite the fact that Bradbury doesn't always get the facts right in the historical stuff. Don't get pagans started on his description of Druids (which isn't the worst one out there, honestly, but the fact is that we know next to nothing about what kind of guys the Druids were. Not a single Druidic document survives, and most contemporary accounts were written by Roman conquerors who were probably trying to make them look bad). Bradbury/Moundshroud suggest that the Druids had no "powers" at all, but acted all spooky so no one would mess with them. It's a reasonable guess, but it sure didn't scare the Romans away.
But for one thing, in particular, THE HALLOWEEN TREE deserves a lot of credit: the ending (which I won't spoil), is just about the best ending of all the Halloween specials, and certainly the least predictable. Bradbury may have been sentimental, but he certainly didn't pull any punches. Suffice it to say that the ending certainly doesn't involve Moundshroud, the weird old guy in the spooky old house, turning out to be a sweet old man who gives away great Halloween candy, and it certainly doesn't involve a case of disco fever, though it WOULD be hilarious to see Moundshroud do the New York hustle.
|This came out a few years too late to be noticed the same way other Halloween specials were - by 1993, most of them were no longer being aired regularly, especially not in prime time or on networks. It's a shame, too. This (especially edited down to fit an hourlong format) would have ranked among the best of 'em. Cartoon Network aired it for a while in the late 90s, and probably for a while thereafter. There was a VHS release in the 90s, and got really rare for a while until 2012, when Warner Archive released it as a "dvd on demand" that you can order from amazon.|
* - see, for instance, the first few chapters (and the Miss Havisham scenes) of Great Expectations, the chapter of Bleak House where Mr. Krook spontaneously combusts, etc. Halloween wasn't nearly as much of a "thing" in Dickens' day, but no one did "spooky" quite like him.
Okay. I'll stop playing "Captain Readmore" now. Thanks for your time.