Hey all, in continuing with the halloween trend we started with the Grinch, I’ve got some more good stuff for ya. If you remember the Super Mario Brothers Super Show from the very early 90’s, you’ll get a kick out of this. It’s stupid, it’s lame, but it’s your childhood.
By the way, most of these are coming from good ol’ www.x-entertainment.com. You should go check it out. I’ll be bringin’ the best stuff over here, so don’t worry if you too scared to leave this nice comfortable site and go out onto the big scarey internet. We got ya covered.
There Steve, you lousy pile of unpleasantness. I linked. GET OFF MY BACK!!!!
Enough from me… Bring on Mario!!!
Looking back on “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show,” it’s arguably the most idiotic program I’ve ever been devoted to. Of course, it didn’t seem that way then, and yet, the now apparent idiocy running insanely rampant on the series only adds to its charm. Where else were you going to find a pro-wrestling manager dressed up like Nintendo’s most popular hero? Where else were you going to see a live-action Mario and Luigi rap, dance, and parlay all from the sanctity of the lower level Mexican pawn shop they lived in? Looking back at it now, the show plays out more like some strange performing art I’m this close to understanding, but not quite there yet. The cartoon portions of the show were fun, but nothing out of the ordinary. Lou Albano and Danny Wells’ portrayal of Mario and Luigi was something else entirely, and try as I might, there’s no good way to describe it. You just had to be there.
A reader was nice enough to send me a video full of old episodes taped off television, and I was elated to see that there were a couple of shows that fit in perfectly with the Halloween season. Okay, not perfectly, but if you stretched and yanked, lied, cheated, and twisted a few of the facts, YES — these are the “Halloween episodes” of “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.” For those who don’t remember, most of the live action skits involved a house guest dropping in on the plumbers. From what I remember, these guests ran the gamut from Albano’s pro-wrestling buddies to Elvis lookalikes to Danica McKellar from “The Wonder Years” — you just never knew who was going to show up.
Today, we take a look at two of the spookier episodes. Two new guests, two new sets of horrors, two plumbers, and a screencap quality so shitty I feel obligated to apologize in advance for it. Sorry! I’ve cut out the cartoon portions of the show from these mini-reviews, in part because they’re not Halloweeny, but mostly because I loved the color scheme of post-fireflower Mario’s outfit way too much to make fun of it. I’ve also chucked in five mini-reviews of the ads that aired during SMBSS’s commercial breaks, as they’ll tell the tale of the time period a lot better than me just saying “stuff’s from the early 90s!” Okay, longwinded intro done — let’s get started. Our first spooky guest will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Amy Monkey chase away the gray gorillas or a bunch of naked prison inmates on HBO. And oh yeah, he’s a Ghostbuster, too…
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That’s right — Ernie Hudson. I’m guessing his appearance was meant to promote “Ghostbusters II,” not that it took a lot of detective work since he’s wearing the damn outfit and carrying around makeshift GB equipment that seems to have been crafted out of various brooms and saucepans found on the set. To his credit, Hudson doesn’t put on the “I’m too good for this” face we so often see when celebs get stuck with a project like this. It looked like he had fun, and best of all, I’ve never seen Lou Albano so nervous as he was in the presence of today’s special guest. Seriously — this is a guy who used to manage wild Samoans who ate live chickens during wrestling shows, but for whatever reason, Ernie Hudson sends him into a fit of fidgeting silence where he’s quite clearly afraid to make a move. You could argue that this was Albano’s idea of “acting” — after all, there’s supposed to be a ghost hiding in their house during this episode. Look closer and you’ll find the truth. Lou Albano is scared to death of Ernie Hudson.
I’d say that he was subversively trying out for Tim Curry’s role in “Congo,” but really, the screenplay hadn’t even been adapted yet. Look Lou, I tried to make an excuse for you, but there really isn’t one. You have an unnatural fear — a phobia — of Ernie Hudson. The bright side? Someone will probably have to conjure up a name for the disease now that it exists. Winstophobia? Ernsonobia? Cynophobia? Wait, that last one means “fear of rabies.” Did Ernie Hudson have rabies?
Anyway, the episode is titled “Slime Busters,” and yes, Mario’s abode is currently haunted by what you can almost see in the almost completely distorted picture above — a puddle of green muck, topped off with smaller trails of brown muck. Muck seems so much more devastating when it’s two-tone. The puddle, for its part, sporadically chucks pieces of itself at the plumbers’ walls, so the dilemma seems more rooted in cleanliness than in actual ghostliness. Ernie Hudson knocks on the door, and upon entering, Mario hits one of the lines that truly illustrates why this show rocked: “Hey, it’s Ernie Hudson!” Okay, now picture it from Lou Albano trying his damnedest to sound like an Italian plumber. With red overalls on. While a pile of muck is throwing slime at his ass. The scope of showbiz lays an ill-defined meaning on the word “entertainment,” but watching Lou Albano fend off slimeballs while trying to greet Ernie Hudson simultaneously? That’s entertainment.
Ernie uses some of his ghostbustin’ equipment to locate the source of the haunting, and boy, you’d think Columbia would’ve at least let him use some of the actual movie props. Remember that thing Egon used to check the levels of ghastly spirits in a particular area? That little handheld device? Well, Ernie’s got one, only now it’s a modified ping pong paddle, painted black with pieces of raw potato tacked on. Could just be the fuzzy picture, though I’m like 85% sure it was pong and potatoes. Our hero du jour bravely enters one of the many smoke-filled caves littering the plumbers basement, but instead of finding the ghost, he finds…Luigi.
I’ve always had trouble deciding if the Luigi on this show sucked, or if he was just poorly scripted. The laugh-track on SMBSH is at least on par with “Full House” — virtually everything inspires scores of electronic laughter, from Mario scratching his arm to Mario talking about his mother’s spaghetti sauce. The only thing that doesn’t get the requisite laugh-track? Luigi. The poor guy will stand there throwing everything he can at the audience, and nobody will hit that damn button for him. At home, this led us to believe that Luigi was just terminally unfunny; a second fiddle so fiddling secondary that it’d be downright criminal to find any amusement in his antics. Of course, there’s still the other option to consider. Maybe Luigi just sucked.
Though, this time, Luigi’s exploits go well past mere suckage. He’s been possessed by the spirit of the green muck! Waltzing out of the smoky tunnel doing the worst impression of a zombie in history, Luigi sits himself at the table and begins pounding his slime-covered fist down with all the might of a cat being photographed for those feline leukemia collection cans. They even shine green light beams on him to emphasize the point. The scene drags on forever and ever, dispersed between Mario’s animated adventures and a Zelda cartoon, but when push comes to shove and it’s finally time to end the insanity, Ernie knows just what to do. Zap Luigi with a barrage of crude laser effects!
And, it works! Luigi is successfully separated from the ghastly slime, which is now forever trapped in…a trash can lid? God bless the Super Mario Super Show. The ghost even breaks character by speaking, surrendering to Ernie in trade for “being taken away from these two Goombas!” That line, by the way, was followed up by a laugh-track so intense that you’d swear Gallagher just smashed the world’s biggest watermelon while Carrot Top exploded into thirteen smaller Carrot Tops at the same time. Even the ghost trash can lid gets a laugh. Poor, poor Luigi.
The plumbers thank Not-Winston for his help, ending the episode on a high note. Doesn’t this just scream “Halloween?” Okay, maybe not, but the next episode does. Set to a score of ominous chamber music and off-camera howls, our next adventure puts Mario and Luigi in the unenviable position of playing humble hosts to the Prince of Darkness himself. Yes, Dracula was on the Super Mario Super Show. For what it’s worth, so was Sergeant Slaughter. It’s not that odd.
His name? “Count Zoltan Dracula.” His game? CHECKERS. Actually, it’s a pretty good representation of the classic Dracula, with everything from the Widow’s Peak to the Converse sneakers faithfully covered. Drac’s played by a guy named Jim Ward, who hasn’t had many live action roles, but boasts a lengthy resume nonetheless with years worth of voicework for cartoons and video games. I just hope he didn’t see this little role as his doorway to something bigger, because even ten years later, he still wasn’t doing much more than voicing “The Announcer” for episodes of “Hey Arnold!” But hey — the guy’s made a living throwing silly voices into a microphone, and that’s way more impressive than what most of us got going. The episode is titled “Bats in the Basement,” but 2-to-1, you probably could’ve guessed that anyway.
The tape became even more fuzzy than usual during the opening sequence, but from what I could tell, Mario and Luigi were supposed to fix up a coffin. The roll it into place, but not before rolling it around in circles for a few minutes in a scene that wasn’t even passingly explained or justified, and only seems to be there as a way to confuse and possibly hypnotize children into obsessively buying anything with Mario, Luigi, or Dracula’s likeness on it. You might think I’m reaching, but this is coming from someone with two boxes of leftover Super Mario Ice Cream stock and at least fifty Bela Lugosi lobby cards — oddly, both items work together nicely; the ice cream as lunch, the glossy pictures as napkins. I’m not insane, I’m just tormented by the spinning oh so endlessly spinning Dracula coffin. Thanks, Mario. I’d thank Luigi too, but, you know, he sucks.
Of course, neither plumber is privy to the fact that this here coffin is populated, and actually, I’m not sure they even realize it’s a coffin. It’s a comedy show meant for six-year-olds, true, but why did they have to paint Mario and Luigi as such morons? They didn’t do that in the animated portions, so what gives? Is Mario just inherently funnier when stupid, or was it just too hard to script the character in a live action motif as anything but that? They should be handing Albano shells to throw around and bricks to smack his head into, not spinning coffins and Ernie Hudson. Then again, fans probably wouldn’t remember the show so well if the plumbers weren’t so dumb. What’s more memorable — a fat Mario pratfalling into puddles of slime, or a fat Mario solving the NY Times’ crossword? Shit, I think I just made an argument against my point. “What’s seven letters for flightless running bird?” would leave an impression, at least coming from Cap’n Fucking Lou Albano.
Within moments, Dracula reveals himself and tells the plumbers to wake him at night. It takes Mario two full animated segments to realize that the guy’s a vampire. (there’s even a scene with Luigi inspecting his blood-smeared clothes, deciding that he has a poor dry cleaner) Apparently, the episode is meant to take place over the span of a few weeks, with Dracula acting as the houseguest from Hell. His stuff is all over the basement, he’s in and out during all hours of the night, and though it’s more implied than outright said, he smells like shit. Our pals try to figure out how to get rid of him, but they keep getting interrupted by more cartoons and commercial breaks. Albano shaved his trademark beard for this? Danny Wells sacrificed his entire post-Luigi career for that? Jim Ward…eh, actually, he made out okay on the deal.
In the final moments, the boys consult a book on how to rid themselves of vampire guests, but it’s peppered with pasta recipes. Mario: “Drive a stake through his heart? That’s 4.99 a pound!” Cue laugh-track. Dracula returns from his nightly prowl, and is more than a little disappointed in how his “friends” are handling things. Drac explains that the best way to get rid of a vampire is to just ask. With that, he vanishes into the darkness, though not before a short clip showing him dancing with the plumbers. I believe the episode was meant more to capitalize on “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” than the Halloween season, explaining why there were so many Christmas commercials during the breaks.
There were a few other “spooky themed” episodes of the show, though I don’t have ’em on video. Sorry x2. Mario’s still picking up new fans as we speak, and if you’re one of them, I strongly recommend tracking down this junk. It’s absolutely surreal to see, and I can only imagine how unbelievable it’d seem to someone who wasn’t watching during the show’s heyday. The videos have obviously been discontinued by this point, but they’re not tough to find. You might even get lucky and find a few eps up for download on the web — it’s worth the hunt, trust me. “Captain N, The Game Master” seems to be the most championed of the ol’ NES toons, but this one will stick to your brains with eight times the voracity. Eight times! Mostly fun and always harmless, I looked forward to nothing more during my grade school days that coming home and settling in for a 4:30 PM visit with my favorite video game characters brought to life. Pretty stupid on the whole, but that’s half the appeal. The other half stems from watching Luigi cringe when nobody laughs at him. Actually, the appeal is more 60/40 in favor of that. Poor sucky Luigi.