Bob Burns' Hollywood Halloween

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Oct 30, 2013
  • Format: DVD
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Director

Lindsey Keith Jackson

Release Date(s)

2011 (Distribution TBD)

Studio(s)

Bob's Basement Productions

Review

For most kids, trick-or-treating isn’t just a tradition or a ritual.  It’s a well-organized campaign, carefully planned in advance and abetted by our fellow trick-or-treaters.  Our years of experience taught us which were the good houses (those that gave out full-size candy bars instead of the little fun-size ones) and which were to be avoided (one word: raisins).  Above all, there was The House. You know the one.  The people who lived in The House seemed to enjoy Halloween just a little more than everyone else.  The House would be decked out with tombstones and cobwebs and its owners would be costumed, often more elaborately than the kids.  The candy was beside the point at The House.  You went to The House to get scared.

If you lived in Burbank during the 1970s, The House belonged to Bob and Kathy Burns.  Beginning in the late 60s, Bob and Kathy turned their home into an annual Halloween spook-tacular, creating increasingly immersive experiences that soon spilled out of the living room and into the backyard.  Inspired by such classic movies as Forbidden Planet, The Time Machine, The Exorcist, Alien and others, the shows were works of art in their own right, totally transforming the Burns home into a Halloween playground.

Even with their legendary collection of props, masks and memorabilia at their disposal, Bob and Kathy couldn’t do it alone.  Fortunately, they had an equally legendary group of friends to lend a hand.  Their Halloween co-conspirators included people who either were or were on their way to becoming some of the most talented makeup and visual effects artists, production designers, model builders and writers in Hollywood history.  The astonishing list includes Dennis Muren, Rick Baker, Mike Minor, Tom Scherman, Robert Skotak, Dennis Skotak, D.C. Fontana and many more.

Directed by Lindsey Keith Jackson, this documentary is an invaluable record of those extraordinary shows.  Through archive footage, new interviews and animated recreations for the earliest shows, the film goes show-by-show up through the amazing 2002 extravaganza inspired by The Thing.  It reveals just how much love, hard work and fun went into these celebrations.  And perhaps even more than the terrific Beast Wishes documentary, it reveals what truly wonderful and generous people Bob and Kathy Burns are.  Bob and Kathy are, of course, dear friends of The Bits and this truly captures their boundless enthusiasm and contagious joy.  Who else could get so many people to contribute so much time and energy with no reward other than the sheer fun of doing it and making kids happy?  That infectious love of the holiday is what really shines through here.  If Bob and Kathy ever decide to put on another show, I’ll be there in a heartbeat, doing whatever I can to lend a hand.

Like the Halloween shows themselves, this DVD is a labor of love for all involved.  The disc was produced by Van Ling and boasts a beautiful cover by artist Vincent Di Fate.  The feature is presented in 4x3 standard definition with stereo audio on the first disc and the technical aspects are perfectly fine.  Disc two is jam-packed with great bonus features, starting with the Halloween shows themselves.  Beginning in 1969, the shows were filmed for posterity and while we get glimpses of them in the feature, disc two provides the real deal.  A couple of shows (The Time Machine and The Thing) featured rotating casts and, in those cases, both versions are presented.  This is the next best thing to being there and it’s an absolute treat.

The disc also includes additional footage and interviews from the feature, including profiles of Bob, Kathy and the late Tom Scherman and Mike Minor, and even footage from Bob and Kathy’s 50th Anniversary party.  Space Video Transmissions include brief additional interview segments from Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, Ann Robinson, Angus Scrimm and William Self.  It Came From Landis includes half an hour of audio clips with John Landis holding court on various movies and the business.  Having interviewed Landis myself, I’m sure they could have included even more and it still would have been entertaining and interesting.  Finally, the disc includes a trailer and three still galleries including one in red-blue anaglyph 3-D (and the glassed are included)!

Final distribution details are still being ironed out and rest assured, the moment you can get your hands on this disc, you’ll hear it here first.  Let’s hope it’s soon because this is a very special Halloween treat.  If you were lucky enough to be a part of Bob Burns’ Hollywood Halloween, this will open a floodgate of wonderful memories.  Even if you weren’t, you’ll feel like you’re in Bob and Kathy’s backyard, happily waiting for a monster to pop out of the shadows and go “Boo!”

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

 

Be sure to read more of my reviews in this year’s Hell Plaza Oktoberfest! by clicking on the image below...

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest Se7en!

 

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