Traditionally, the Grinch is associated with Christmas, hating the Whos, and wearing shoes that are too tight. However, while we’re well acquainted with the Grinch’s wintry antics, he emerged in the brisk, Autumnal air back in 1977. A TV special entitled “Halloween is Grinch Night” debuted on ABC, featuring the Grinch doing what he does best: terrorizing the Whos. Set in October, it’s not as popular as Dr. Seuss’ original Christmas tale, but the made for TV movie is a gorgeously rendered, clever, spooky twist on our favorite grump.
“Halloween is Grinch Night” finds Whoville looking drastically different than the winter wonderland found in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Rather than a coating of white, Whoville welcomes a “sour sweet wind” that signifies a particularly frightening evening, known as Grinch Night. Instead of the Whos, the Gree-Grumps and Hakken-Krakks irk the irritable Grinch, which doesn’t seem a difficult task.
The Mount Crumpit-dwelling Grinch (Hans Conried) prepares his so-called paraphernalia wagon, and orders his trusty dog Max (Henry Gibson) to begin pulling it toward Whoville. Contrary to the title, the wagon is not filled with implements for smoking green substances, but interestingly it does provide a series of hallucinations. Little Euchariah (Gary Shapiro), a small Who, wanders out to the bathroom and naturally the wind whisks him off to Mt. Crumpit.
Euchariah encounters the Grinch, recently tricked into a prickly bush by the Wuzzy Woozoo. The tiny Who talks to the Grinch, trying to keep him from reaching Whoville hometown. The Grinch dupes Euchariah into clambering aboard the paraphernalia wagon, where he witnesses an array of bizarre sightings.
While “Halloween is Grinch Night” may not be the classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is, there’s a reason the 1977 production won an Emmy. The animation is beautiful, with a festive fall orange hue to the environments. Multi-colored leaves bustle about, and Mt. Crumpit sans-snow appears as ominous as imaginable. There’s a great scene where the Grinch’s eyebrows fly off his face and transform into a bird. The undeniable highlight, however, is Euchariah’s paraphernalia wagon segment. Essentially, it’s an amalgamation of nightmarish visuals, ranging from spider webs and ghosts to images which seem plucked straight from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
Though the movie is aimed at a younger audience, there’s a lot of appeal to older viewers as well. Euchariah leaves his cozy home to use the bathroom, referred to in the film as the “euphemism.” A clever way to circumvent potty humor, and provide a chuckle for adults, it keeps the plot rolling without a hitch. Additionally, Euchariah mentions that he has an astigmatism, which kids likely won’t exactly understand, though he points to his glasses so the general idea is conveyed clearly.
The climax of the film is the real benefit, and “Halloween is Grinch Night” does not disappoint. Many of the songs building up aren’t as memorable as “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” but “Grinch is Gonna Get You” is truly phenomenal. Complimentary animations are fantastic, though small children may actually be frightened, unlike the brave Euchariah. Similarly, audience members are advised not to partake of anything from their own paraphernalia wagons beforehand. Their trips may not be as enjoyable as Euchariah’s journey.
While not quite the masterpiece of its predecessor, ABC’s 1977 production is a great Grinchy October treat. Unlike the many horror flicks that abound, “Halloween is Grinch Night” will entertain younger folks and mature audiences. Plus, Thurl Ravenscroft lends his recognizable vocal talents, a welcome addition to the cast. The movie is available on VHS and DVD, and on certain streaming services as well. Enjoy, and look out for that sweet sour wind.