The Last Halloween (1991)

By 1991, the half hour Halloween special was a dying breed, as home video sales made it a better bet for companies to make feature length specials (which were an easier sell than shorts in the stores - half hour specials are almost padded with other cartoons on VHS releases) . But Hanna Barbara made a stab at one with this - "The Last Halloween," one of very few such specials to feature space aliens. William Hanna himself does the narration. The special effects are terrific, but the whole thing is a bit of a mess, plot-wise. Plot holes are almost inevitable when you try to create a whole world and tell a story inside of it in 22 minutes, but in a superior special, they don't really bug me much. In this one, I found myself asking "what the hell?" a few too many times.

The young hero here is furious, for some reason, that his sister always wears the same costume for Halloween (it was made by her late mother). After nearly getting killed herself by a car after leaving her candy in the street (for some reason), the two kids are terrified by an old lady (Rhea Perlman) who warns them not to be seen trick or treating near her place that night. Naturally, she lives in a crumbling old Victorian manor.

Now, the town looks great. There are brown leaves and Halloween decorations and kids everywhere. Just watching it makes me thirsty for a good cup of cider. A few minutes in, it looks like we're in for a painstakingly standard "spooky old lady' special with above-average visuals. But then the flying saucer shows up.

After being teased with the saucer, we find out that the candy store owned by the kids' family is about to close, which will make this the last halloween in town (for some reason). But their grandfather, the owner, tells them that their late mother believed that anything could happen on Halloween (perhaps she was a fan of "The Worst Witch.")

Then come the aliens, which look ALMOST cgi. I'm very impressed. This special represents a colossal leap forward in special effects. Unfortunately, the special starts to go down hill, plot-wise, once they show up. As is fairly standard practice for ghosts and monsters in these things, they wander through the streets among people who assume they're just kids in costume. This guys do NOT look like kids in costumes. They look like miniature clay dinosaurs and talk like they were written by guys who wanted to steal some of the Ninja Turtles' thunder.

The martians have come to collect candy. They help the kids to save Halloween, both from the candy company closure AND the creepy old lady (who, at least, turns out to be just as creepy as she seems, though she doesn't get enough screen time for me to figure out what the point of having her around was or what the deal was with her, other than wanting to write in a part for Rhea Perlman).

This probably SOUNDS awful. And in some ways, it is - every time anyone mentions the dead mother, you can prepare yourself for a really sappy speech about motherhood. "Mothers are more beautiful than fairies." Stuff like that. (The punch line here should be "until they become mothers-in law!" Am I right, stand-up comedians from the 1950s?).

However, if you can ignore the bad parts, there are plenty of genuinely funny moments here - even the line about fairies sets the martians up to think a boy dressed as a fairy (for some reason) must be a mother. People who saw it in the early 90s remember it fondly, and kids today would probably enjoy it if they were to release it on DVD. Even as an adult watching it for the first time, I got a kick out of it, despite its' myriad problems. This is not one of those specials you'll track down only to marvel at how easily amused you were in 1991. It's very much a "kids" show, but there's no shame in that. Outside of the sappy stuff (did they plan to make this both a special for Halloween AND Mother's Day?), the worst I can really say is that this whole story feels rather rushed - I would have liked to see more of the creepy old lady and get a better feel for her backstory, motivations, and all of that. It's a shame it wasn't an hour long - and there are plenty of specials I wouldn't say that about. Some of them could've stood to be a lot SHORTER.

This was REALLY rare for years, as it was never released on video. Thank goodness for youtube!


Seamus Stimpson said...

Brilliant blog you've got here Adam. It takes me back and gives me that wonderful warm nostalgia that few things do.
Keep it up and I'll be sure to keep following.

Sakata said...

This also ran with a promotion via Mars candy.
I remember advertisementsin children magazines that featured the aliens before the special actually aired.

Anonymous said...

I loved this movie as a kid.

Anonymous said...

I just had to say thank you. I have been looking for any info on this tv movie for years. I had the costume of Beeper(yellow alien) when I was a child. And I haven't been able to find anything but this page with any clips, pics, or even the name of the movie.

Anonymous said...

"Then come the aliens, which look ALMOST cgi."

From what I looked up, the movie did use cgi-effects.

Heather said...

I emailed CBS to see if they can play it this year. Maybe if a lot of people bug them, they're air it. :-)


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