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Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly DVD Review

Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly
Show & DVD Details

Creator/Executive Producer: Jim Henson / Creative Producer: Jerry Juhl

Directors: Douglas Williams, George Bloomfield, Norman Campbell / Writers: Jocelyn Stevenson, Sugith Varughese / Producers: Lawrence S. Mirkin, Duncan Kenworthy

Starring Cast: Jerry Nelson (Gobo, voice of Pa Gorg, Marjory the Trash Heap), Dave Goelz (Boober, Uncle Traveling Matt, Philo), Steve Whitmire (Wembley, Sprocket, Sir Blunderbrain), Kathryn Mullen (Mokey), Karen Prell (Red), Richard Hunt (The Storyteller, voice of Junior Gorg, Gunge), Gerry Parkes (Doc)

Supporting Performers: Patricia Leeper (Ma Gorg), Robert Mills (Junior Gorg), Gordon Robertson (Pa Gorg), Cheryl Wagner (voice of Ma Gorg), Bob Stutt, Tim Gosley, Terry Angus, Myra Fried, Tom Vandenberg, Sandra Shamas, Mike Petersen, John Pattison, Lee Armstrong, Nikki Tilroe

Running Time: 75 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio) / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned; Extras Not Captioned or Subtitled
DVD Release Date: September 14, 2010 / Episodes Originally Aired February 1983 - May 1985
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

Buy from Amazon.com Buy the Complete Series Collection

Second only to Christmas in consumer spending, Halloween is just too lucrative a holiday to not exploit. Movie studios aren't about to let a small fact like having nothing explicitly to do with the autumnal celebration
get in the way of a stab at the orange & black retail market. Lionsgate leaves the H-word off the title and front cover of "Fraggle Rock": Scared Silly. But the back of the case claims this new DVD is bursting with "Halloween fun", as if the pumpkins, spiderwebs, bats and timing didn't already suggest that.

Diehard fans of this Jim Henson children's television series, which ran for 96 episodes in the 1980s, can already tell you that no Halloween episode or special was ever created. They can also tell you that all 96 of those episodes have been available on DVD for nearly two years now. All 96 were also reissued last year in four season sets and a 20-disc Complete Series Collection after ownership of The Jim Henson Company library moved from HiT Entertainment to Lionsgate. That makes Scared Silly a low-priced alternative to completism, aimed at the moderate fans, particularly those with children.

Gobo, Wembley, and Red Fraggle barely emerge from The Terrible Tunnel intact. Eccentric inventor Doc (Gerry Parkes) claims the horseshoe found by his dog Sprockett isn't special, but he'd still like to trade for it.

Those less in the know must still be somewhat familiar with "Fraggle Rock", which came about less than two years after "The Muppet Show" had been retired. That syndicated variety series had made Henson's distinctive entertainment popular with general audiences. Canadian-produced "Fraggle" skews a little younger, but its similar blend of music and character-driven comedy also found a wide, appreciative international fanbase. It is fondly recalled by members of Generations X and Y, most of whom caught it after its initial run (which was on pay movie channel HBO in the US).

The morally instructive series is set in a number of overlapping worlds. The primary one is that of the title, an underground cave universe that's home to the colorful, wild-haired Fraggles. The five leading creatures -- Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober, and Red -- are not unlike eccentric humans. Our point of entry to their world is through a wall hole in the house of a real eccentric human, inventor Doc (played by Gerry Parkes), and his emotive dog Sprocket. Other species featured include the industrious, pint-sized Doozers; a royal family of ogre-like Gorgs; and Marjory the wise, inflatable Trash Heap and her two rodent subjects. Easily the most consistently funny aspect of the show are the postcards from Gobo's Uncle Traveling Matt, who is seen out and about exploring "outer space" (the human world) and heard reporting on his findings in the most incongruous way.

There is a bit of a New Age feel to the series, whose lessons are founded on such ideals as harmony, tradition, peace, and understanding. It doesn't pander to or interact with viewers the way today's child-oriented fare does, and it also doesn't shy from depicting frightening situations (the theme to this disc's selections), complex emotions, and unbecoming behavior. It's a sweet if somewhat slow program that charms and comforts with more bite than its Sesame Street kin but less humor and irony than the more familiar Muppet Show troupe.

In his second postcard video, Uncle Traveling Matt reports on creatures trying to rid the world of holes (who sort of look like old human fishermen). A Fraggle intrusion interrupts big boy Junior Gorg's first night home alone, an occasion he celebrates -- against his mother's advice -- with garlic popcorn.

Here's a look at the three episodes included on this DVD...

1. (3.13) Scared Silly (24:43) (Originally aired March 25, 1985)
After Boober scares him to test his baloobius, Wembley becomes determined to spook him back.
But, Wembley fears he should have heeded Madame Heap's warning about revenge, after he thinks he's blown Boober up. This titular episode comes closest to conveying a Halloween feeling.
Songs: "Scare Them Boo!", "Very Scary (If This Doesn't Getcha)"

2. (1.08) The Terrible Tunnel (24:45) (Originally aired February 28, 1983)
Inspired by superstitious Boober and a cautionary song by The Storyteller, Wembley is convinced he wandered into the infamous Terrible Tunnel. He gets his friends to face their fears and join him on a return visit.
Songs: "The Ballad of Sir Blunderbrain", "I'm Not Scared", "Bad News", "The Ballad of Sir Blunderbrain (reprise)"

3. (3.21) The Dark and Stormy Night (24:44) (Originally aired May 20, 1985)
Gobo is excited to take an expedition to the one place he hasn't already visited and mapped: inside the Gorgs' castle. It's the perfect night for such a trip, as the Gorgs will be away at their cottage for a second honeymoon. What Gobo doesn't know is that Junior Gorg gets to stay home alone for the first time.
Songs: "Big Boy Now"

One large gripe that applies to this entire DVD: Lionsgate's loud, long animated churning gears logo plays after each episode if chosen individually and every bonus feature (even the short sing-along). I've always felt that the studio's standard post-movie iteration of the 20-second logo play is excessive; here it is practically torturous.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Fraggle Rock" appears in its native 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio. It looks comparable to its previous DVD releases, which is to say it's about as presentable as 25-year-old television episodes can be. There is some slight inherent softness and blurriness to the video, but no major shortcomings enter the picture or detract from the experience. The stereo soundtrack is also adequate. There is some evidence of age, but no problems more specific than that. Unfortunately, this disc doesn't upset the series' tradition of forgoing subtitles and foreign language dubs. Closed captions, however, are provided.

To help their friend Wembley, Red, Boober, and Mokey transform Gobo into the fabled Bemble in the bonus animated episode included. Jake the polar bear and Stinky the skunk interview their joke-cracking guest Natasha the tarantula in the bonus episode of the mid-1990s' "Jim Henson's Animal Show."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

For most studios, slapping three episodes on a disc would be the extent of the effort spent on such a niche title. Lionsgate and Henson tend to take an additional step to include something of worth. In this case, there are three additional things of worth that are relevant but not meaningless (the way that designating a fourth episode as a bonus would have been).

First up comes "Wembley and the Bemble" (11:52; Originally aired November 28, 1987), a half-episode of the short-lived NBC Saturday morning "Fraggle Rock" animated series.
Hearing The Storyteller's legend of the Bemble leaves Wembley sleepless with fright. To help him conquer his fears, the gang decides to dress Gobo up like the Bemble.

Less valuable but still nice is a sing-along of The Storyteller's song "The Ballad of Sir Blunderbrain" (2:20) from the featured episode "Terrible Tunnel"; lyrics are laid over the clip via a tiny animated shield bouncing along a sword.

The final inclusion is "Tarantula & Mole" (24:30), an episode of the 1990s series "Jim Henson's Animal Show with Stinky and Jake." This all-animal educational talk show has puppet hosts and guests but real nature clips. It's a nice idea, but one I'm surprised sustained a standard 65-episode run between Fox Kids and Animal Planet engagements. This episode has polar bear Jake and skunk Stinky welcoming Natasha the Tarantula and Morley the Mole for lessons about their kind. As usual, Tizzy the Bee has some edifying trivia questions. This is a good way to offer a taste to fans of Henson fare who might otherwise never encounter this show.

"Also From Lionsgate" plays previews for Alpha and Omega, Speed Racer: The Next Generation - The Fast Track: The Movie, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles": Season 7 - Parts 1-4, and LeapFrog titles Let's Go to School and Math Adventure to the Moon. The trailer for Alpha and Omega also plays at disc insertion, where it's followed by a promo for Happily N'ever After 2: Snow White (Another Bite @ the Apple).

After a nifty introduction, the DVD's animated main menu plays a pumpkin-shaped montage and the "Fraggle Rock" theme song. The episode selection menu is also animated with clips from the featured shows.

Inside the black Eco-Box keepcase, an insert promotes new Fraggle Rock comic books.

Wembley fails to heed Madame Trash Heap's cautionary wisdom on vengeance, instead listening to Philo and Grunge and pursuing payback on Boober. Dance your cares away / Worries for another day / Let the music play / Down at Fraggle Rock / Down at Fraggle Rock / Down at Fraggle Rock

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I can appreciate liking "Fraggle Rock" but not enough to want to own the whole series; I'm content having only the first season myself and I never even made it to the end of that. With that said, while Scared Silly is a nice little thematically consistent disc with a welcome handful of extras, it doesn't make much sense to spend $12 or so on when you could get eight times as many episodes for an extra $10 by buying any one of the more substantial season sets. It seems to me that a better bridge between the "don't like it" and "gotta have 'em all" crowds would be a fuller disc of 6-7 episodes at this price. But the $15 SRP, hour-long casual impulse buy compilation is already a fixture at most studios and isn't likely to disappear anytime soon.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy the Complete Series / 2010 Halloween Costumes

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Reviewed August 29, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1983-85 Jim Henson Television and 2010 Lionsgate Home Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company.
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