Today’s Halloween Horrors entry is the 1st of three in this year’s series to feature someone whose association with the Halloween season comes in at probably 2nd place, falling behind only Michael Myers. Of course, I can only be talking about the one and only Mistress of the Night, Elvira! From specials, to commercials and advertising, to theme park appearance, to television show guest spots, Elvira is the face and… um, personality.. of Halloween!
All that said, her appearance is only a brief moment in today’s post from returning contributor Sam Panico of BAndSAboutMovies.com and Drive-In Asylum. This entry also marks the first of a few to focus on so-called devil music as a central part of its plot. Unfortunately, it’s the only piece in this year’s series to feature Erik Estrada. I’m sure Erik is disappointed by that fact as well.
Here’s Sam with a look at a Halloween episode of the long-running series CHiPs. Be sure to check out Sam’s site this month where he is featuring a month full of slasher films!
CHiPs “Rock Devil Rock”
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 31st, 1982
When CHiPs (California Highway Patrol) debuted on September 15, 1977, it drove my five-year-old mind insane with excitement. However, by season 6, the show had weathered star Erik Estrada leaving over a dispute in regards to syndication profits (he came back after seven episodes) and co-star Larry Wilcox not returning for the final season, as he felt the show’s producers always favored Estrada. It was the typical story that would be repeated throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s (see Three’s Company, The Dukes of Hazzard) – fresh faces are discovered, a show becomes an overnight success, and then it all falls to pieces in just a few years due to the allure of movies, more money, and (one assumes) agents telling them all that they’re “better than this.”
Speaking of a show staying around for a long time, Donny Most — who guest stars in this episode — had just finished up the ninth season of Happy Days, mainly appearing in guest shots instead of being in the cast. Yes, the allure of something bigger had bitten him — or maybe just something different than being “Ralph Malph”, which led to voiceover work on the cartoons Teen Wolf, Dungeons & Dragons, and Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, as well as starring in the Police Academy-esque Stewardess School.
Most would be the absolutely last person you’d think would be playing a Satanic shock rocker, but 1982 was a crazy time to be alive. While I doubt the makers of this show had any idea who King Diamond is — it seems as they are more influenced by KISS for the star of the show — heavy metal was about to take over the hearts and minds of America, leading to a Satanic Panic that would last the rest of the decade.
That brings us to Most’s role as “Moloch”, as singer who our highway patrolmen must rescue when his hearse limo nearly crashes. It seems like someone wants him dead, as he’s nearly a proto-Marilyn Manson, what with all the protests before his shows (or a post-Alice Cooper, depending on when you were born). The threats come in the form of backmasked messages, so this episode trades hard and fast in the world of urban legend, taking this hoary chestnut and raising your kids overdosing on bad Halloween candy.
The Secret Chiefs of TV must have had their left hands all over this episode, as its replete with the type of trivia I mainline like a trick or treat bag filled with Chunky bars and all the Special Dark mini-bars that no one else likes but me. Peter Marshall — the host of Hollywood Squares — plays Moloch’s manager, and the episode is directed by John Astin, who in addition to directing most of Night Gallery, is best known for playing Gomez Addams. Even deeper, Ponch has a side story where he befriends a young kid named “Flippy”, who would grow up to become Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo. It’s almost like “just one piece of candy corn” when Elvira shows up at a police party and dances with a vampiric Ponch.
Another obsession of mine — fake punk and metal bands in pop culture — rears its head here, but I have to say that I love Moloch’s song “Devil Take Me”. Just take a look at these lyrics: “Devil take me / Heaven’s the pits/ They don’t party on the other side/ Devil take me, devil take me.”
Of course, our heroes save the day. And this is just another case in the files of the California Highway Patrol, which get progressively weirder in the final season as normal cases just don’t cut it anymore. There would be aliens and Dr. Joyce Brothers in “The Spaceman Made Me Do It“, Laura Branigan as a rocker in “Foxtrap“, a Sea Thing and another Elvira appearance in “Things That Go Creep in the Night“, the Maximum Efficiency Robotization Vector Series 1 (MERV) in “Day of the Robot“, and even an appearance by the horrific Richard Simmons in “Meet the New Guy.“
The final episode of season 5 pretty much sets the tone for this final season. “Force Seven” is a hidden pilot for Force Seven: The Deadly Arrow, all about a team of Fred Dwyer-led ninja LAPD cops with psychic powers that battle John Rhys-Davies within the Greystone Mansion (which was used for Picture Mommy Dead, Phantom of the Paradise, and the original Flowers in the Attic). In the pre-internet days, I told other kids about this episode for years, with Ponch and Jim stepping aside to let some karate kicking maniacs wrest the 666 code out of the hands of Rhys-Davies and prevent nuclear armageddon.
But I digress.
“Rock Devil Rock” is pure formula TV cheese circa 1982 and it tastes even better with 38 years of age. Make it a part of your Halloween festivities, as I do each and every year!