(update in 2014: Mr Boogedy movie is now available legally, in perfect quality, on instant video!)
In the 80s, the Disney Channel was THE place to see Halloween specials. A few, like Garfield and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, continued to get some airplay on the networks, but Disney was the king of Halloween for a while there. They even made their own. Some, like Tim Burton's awesome Frankenweenie, were regular trademarks of quality. Others, like Mr. Boogedy, were just solid family entertainment.
|The movie takes place in the town of Lucifer Falls, which may be the best name for a town with a haunted house in it ever. The family bought the house from Devil May Care Realty - talk about your predatory housing markets! Would YOU buy a house from Devil May Care Realty? I would. They sound like the kind of outfit that might actually give me a mortgage.|
Funnily enough, saying "not really haunted" could get Devil May Care in trouble. In some states, if a house is even rumored to be haunted, that has to be listed as a pre-existing condition.
The plot here involves a family who owns a novelty shop (leading to plenty of built-in gags about fake vomit and stuff, though it never goes so far out of its way to be funny that it forgets to be scary.) The family moves into a house in Lucifer Falls , where there won't be any competition for a novelty shop. A guy named Neal (John Astin, the original Gomez Addams, who SHINES in this role and played a similar role a few years later on "Eerie, Indiana.") is waiting for them when they arrive, spooky as you please and saying he's from the chamber of commerce.
|Neil warns them that the house is, despite what it said on the sign, haunted by The Boogedy Man, a colonial-era ghost who is given to shouting "Boogedy!" and shooting green light at people. The mother and father make the most of it, even though the kids are upset. And they should be - even if the place ISN'T haunted, it's still the kind of town where you might come home and find the creepy old guy from the chamber of commerce poking around in your living room.|
The Boogedy man has chased several families away from the house like this. This annoys me - as a pro ghost investigator myself, I respect ghosts' right to exist (if they do), but not their right to push people around. Once you're dead, it's time to stop taking up space. If you want to float down a hallway or hang out in the basement, it's no skin off my back, but the first time my audio recorder picks up a ghost telling me to get out (which seems to happen to me a lot less than it does to people on TV), that ghost is getting it right in the kisser.
The family in this is pretty cool - a fairly realistic portrayal of a family, which isn't something you see every day in tv movies. Except for all of the funny nose glasses, they seem pretty much like normal people who might have lived on your block in the 80s. The kids aren't thrilled with the house or the town, but set about exploring before they even unpack. While the boys go off ghost hunting, the teenage daughter laments "I'll bet nobody here ever heard of Bruce Springsteen!" (in New England? ha!) The spooky house comes complete with lots of old stuff - enough antiques that the sale of them could probably cover the cost of the house. The daughter is the first to see The Boogedy man - she describes him as having a face like a sandwich. I wouldn't be the first to suggest that the ghost was Mayor McCheese.
|Naturally, the dad assumes it was just Neal from the chamber of commerce playing a joke on them. But Mr. Boogedy is real. Soon, he's showing up to everybody, and Neal explains that he's the ghost of a pilgrim who hated jokes and sold his soul to the devil to get a magic cloak. THis is NOT a ghost who is going to want to live with a family that sells novelties, and he begins to do his best to scare them away. His favorite trick is to shout "boogedy" and shoot green light at them.|
This is a WAY above-average ghost show, finding a good balance between spookiness and silliness. I wasn't allowed to watch it in the 80s; my mom thought it would be too scary for me (plenty of people have told me they had nightmares about it). I DO remember the commercials showing Mr. Boogedy shouting "boogedy" and shooting green light out of his fingers; he reminded me of The Emperor from "Return of the Jedi" (to whom he bares more than a passing resemblance). But watching it now doesn't bring back memories for me - it's just an above-average made-for-tv disney movie to me, and many of these specials are useless without the nostalgia factor. I enjoyed this one, though. It doesn't have the humor or visual style of, say, Frankenweenie, but it's solid family entertainment. If I HAD seen it as a kid, I'm sure it would make me awfully nostalgic to see it again. As it is, though, I can enjoy it on its own terms. If "Mr. Boogedy" has a major flaw, it's that it tries to cram a feature-length story in about 45 minutes. Soon after this, they'd abandon specials in favor of straight-to-tv/video movies like Halloweentown, which eventually replaced this one in the Halloween lineup.
This classic haunted house special still attracts a wide following today, and many are dying for Disney to just release the thing on DVD already - or at least put it up online as a digital download. The fact that ANYTHING is out of print in this day and age is just silly. However, Disney seems pretty uninterested in putting ANY of their made-for-TV things from the 20th century out on DVD. (update in 2014: you can now get the movie as a legal digital download!)
The 45 minute special even spawned a sequel, "Bride of Boogedy," that was more than twice as long as the original and featured about half of the original cast (others were replaced with mixed results). There are enough threads to the plot in the sequel that I suspect they were planning a tv series, but ended up just doing a movie.
This tends to get removed from youtube pretty regularly, but here it is(working as of June 09). Filmed off a TV set, so the quality isn't great, but it works for nostalgics or the curious. If you want it in better quality, torrents of VHS rips float around freely, especially around October, and bootleg DVDs (again, VHS rips) show up from time to time. (update 2014: or via new legal download!)
Here's a compilation of Mr. Boogedy doing his stuff: