Ask Chris #217: The Third Annual Power Rangers Halloween Spooktacular
Q: How spooky/goofy is the Power Rangers Zeo episode “It Came From Angel Grove”? -- @aleams
A: I didn't realize it until I went back to check, but I've written about Power Rangers Halloween episodes two years in a row in my spoooooky October Ask Chris columns. At this point, that's about the closest thing that ComicsAlliance has to an actual tradition, like carving a Jack O'Lantern that then attempts to get paid to write about superhero shows from the '90s.
So let's dive into it, but I'll tell you right now, folks: I'm going to go ahead and guess that this thing ends up leaning pretty heavily towards the "goofy" side of your proposed Spooky/Goofy axis.
The Power Rangers have always had a pretty weird relationship to Halloween. You'd think that a show that was about actual monsters fighting teenagers would lend itself pretty well to a Halloween story, but for some reason, it never quite clicks, presumably because they're dealing with monsters that are operating on an entirely different set of completely bonkers rules than your average wolfmans and draculas. Occasionally, stuff creeps through, like that one episode of Samurai where you find out that the damned souls of all the monsters the Samurai Rangers blow up gather on Halloween to talk about how frustrating it is that they always turn away dramatically during the explosion, but those episodes are few and far between.
You're far more likely to get stuff like "Trick Or Treat," the episode where the Pink Ranger goes on a Halloween-themed game show where the object is to ask the host "trick questions" (a genuinely terrible premise for a game show) and end up fighting the Pumpkin Rapper, an evil monster who will "try to distract you with his clever raps and rhymes."
I'm not sure I need to mention this, but the episode contains exactly zero clever raps or rhymes. And it doesn't even take place on Halloween!
Zeo on the other hand, is one of the few Power Rangers series to actually make the effort to throw in a few holiday episodes. There's "A Season to Remember," the Christmas episode with a plot that the Power Rangers wiki describes as "Mondo plots to use the Rangers' ethnic diversity against them," which is amazing, and which also serves to wreck the continuity of the show for any obsessives out there keeping track. And then there's this one.
Before I sat down to watch it at your suggestion, I actually didn't remember this episode, and that's surprising. I mean, yes, I spent a good chunk of 2014 blasting through all 800ish episodes of Power Rangers and there's only so much tokusatsu a brain can take before it just cold gives up on you, but you'd think if I was going to remember anything, it'd be the one where Tommy became a Dracula. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. In the interest of answering your question as accurately as possible, I'm going to be keeping track of what's goofy and what's spooky, so let's begin.
We start off with Adam and Tanya -- the Black and Yellow Rangers, respectively -- pulling a late-night study session at the Youth Center, and when Tanya gets up to leave, she is informed by Junior Police Officers Bulk and Skull that there is a scaaaaary full moon out tonight, and right away I'm at a loss for how to classify this. I mean, there's no getting around that this is a pretty goofy setup, but full moons are traditionally pretty spooky. I think I'm going to give Spooky the edge, if only because of this shot:
Adam decides to stay, and when a storm breaks out, he goes to check the news and finds himself watching a movie about a vampire, a werewolf, a mummy, and a witch teaming up to fight a Frankenstein called The Bride of Hackensack. Congratulations, Goofy Points: You have just pulled ahead with triple points, especially since even the nine year-old target audience can see how this one's going to end up.
Adam is "awoken" by a black cat (1 Spooky Point), heading out to the hallway where Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd (2 SP on account of being a space witch and a horrifying monster with no skin and a giant metal grin and exposed brain that was actually pretty terrifying) show up to inform him that the season's villains, the Machine Kingdom, conquered the Earth while he was sleeping and turned his friends into monsters. He can save them, but he needs some Castlevania II style spell components to do it: The cape of a vampire, the wrapping of a mummy, and the eye of a cat, all of which is pretty metal. Let's throw on two more SP for the potential of eye trauma and Dutch angles.
Adam is told that he needs to follow around the black cat to navigate through this dream world -- SPOILER WARNING -- but when he does so, he finds himself in a foggy, black-and-white sound stage full of open flames and gargoyles, both of which are worth another Spooky Point each. I actually really like the effect of putting most of this episode in black-and-white, too, although that's more or less value-neutral.
Before long, Adam runs into Tommy, who speaks with a cartoonish Wallachian accent and refers to himself as "Tommacula," and while I am loath to disparage anything involving a teenage space karate superhero who is also a vampire, this entire setup is worth a good four Goofy Points for the accent alone. Ernie the kindly juice jockey as a dead-eyed zombie bartender, however, is actually pretty scary.
King Mondo appears, prompting Adam to do a completely unnecessary/radical backflip down a flight of three stairs (2 GP). Tommy attempts to drink Adam's blood, but gets distracted by hearing the word "garlic," giving Adam the chance to escape by climbing a rope that magically appears (1 GP).
The rope leads to Rocky, the Blue Ranger, who is decked out in the finest Victorian finery from the Hammer Films backlot, and claims to be "Lord Henry, master of Henry Hall." Or, as his friends call him, Harry. You know, like "Hairy?" Like a werewolf? (5 GP). This prompts a chase scene involving stock footage of wolves (1 GP), the end of which finds the Rocky Hairy Picture Show turning into a reasonably passable Teen Wolf, illuminated by bolts of lightning:
(Equally Spooky and Goofy and therefore disregarded.)
Fleeing the werewolf, Adam encounters Lt. Stone, the chief of police who's helping Bulk and Skull turn their lives around, who will be playing the role of the Burgermeister with exactly the accent that Meisterburger has in Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. He directs Adam to a visiting professor, and while Adam assumes that will be genius and former ranger Billy, it's actually Bulk and Skull:
Bulk is a rather unconvincing mummy (2 GP), but Adam steals a bit of the wrappings and heads off to yet another soundstage. This time, he finds Billy in a fright wig stitching Tanya up into a monster made of reanimated dead flesh (3 SP), with Alpha 5 standing in for Igor, with a set of THREE HUMAN EYEBALLS glued to its dome (5 SP)!
Listen, Alpha 5 is hard to take at the best of times. I don't need it having people eyes added onto all that mess.
The doctor and his monster(s) disappear in a flash of lightning, and the cat suddenly turns into Kat, the Pink Ranger, who announces herself as "Valencia, Queen of the Witches" (6 GP), revealing in the process that she has a necklace with an eye on it, which Adam takes for "cat's eye" and promptly steals. Please note that this is not the only time Kat has been a literal evil cat. It's a weird show.
Having completed his recipe, Adam is suddenly confronted by a sorcerer, played here by Zordon, a giant floating head that yells at everyone and makes them go fight monsters. Under normal circumstances, this would earn some Spooky Points for the show, but at this point, I think we're all pretty used to Zordon and his weird tube. Zordon claims that Adam must select one of his friends to fight a monster called the Drill Master (3 GP), and Adam accidentally picks Tommy, kicking off a fight scene composed of Japanese footage that makes even less sense than it usually does.
Tommy wins through the power of backflips, but then King Mondo shows up to reveal that it was all a trap, but it actually wasn't because it was all a dream! (Automatic 10 GP penalty, unless you are the Notorious B.I.G.).
Or was it!
Yes. Yes it was.
Let's see here, totaling up what I have written down, it looks like we've got an even 20 Spooky Points and a whopping 36 Goofy Points, for a final answer of a 5:9 Spookiness/Goofiness ratio. Which is actually a whole lot closer than I thought it would be.