(originally aired October 29, 1992)
The Treehouse of Horror specials are always just so fun. The Simpsons universe is crazy enough, but there are still established rules to be followed. In the Halloween shows, all rules go out the window, and we’re treated to creepier and wilder stories involving everything from aliens to zombies. It’s hard to write analyses for these specials since there’s not much to really dissect, they’re just really funny. The first segment “Clown Without Pity” is a great parody of the old Twilight Zone segment with the killer doll, here being a Krusty doll hell bent on killing Homer. There’s the classic opening with the shopkeeper at the House of Evil (why exactly would Homer decide to look in there for Bart’s gift?) We have the great line from Patty after Homer runs naked through the kitchen (“There goes the last lingering thread of my heterosexuality.”) And we have the wonderfully dumb resolution of simply switching the Krusty doll from “Evil” to “Good.” It’s not one of the series’ most dynamic stories, but it’s funny in its own right.
“King Homer,” however, is very ambitious and spectacularly done, one of the best in the series. It condenses the original film perfectly into a slim seven minute story, featuring Burns’ expedition to Ape Island to capture the giant ape known as Homer. Homer already has the appearance of a big, dumb gorilla, so the great design of him as King Homer must not have been a huge stretch. The segment honors the original film, but also pokes at it, with Burns laying out the specifics of his new Broadway show (“Well, the Ape’s going to stand around for three hours or so. Then we’ll close with the ethnic comedy of Duggan and Dirschwitz.”) The segment looks great, done in black-and-white of course, with all of the in-period characters and set designs looking fantastic. We also get our first fatalities in Treehouse of Horror history with King Homer eating Lenny, Smithers, and Shirley Temple (love the small bit where her little shoes fall off as Homer picks her up to eat her.) The twist on Homer not being able to climb one story is great, as is the eventual wedding between him and Marge, the church divided by monkey and man.
“Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies” is sort of a riff on Night of the Living Dead; in the early 90s, zombies weren’t quite as ubiquitous in macabre culture as they are now. This is another I can’t comment much about, but has a lot of great bits in it. Bart wearing the Thriller record jacket on his head, zombies acknowledging Homer is actually brainless, “To the book depository!” and of course, Homer shooting a zombified Flanders (“He was a zombie?”) We also have a brief bit from Kang and Kodos; out of place, but it wouldn’t be a Halloween special without them. Then Homer mows down George Washington, Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare, who I guess happen to have been buried near Springfield. I’ve not much to say about this one, other than it’s got plenty of clever, hilarious moments to cover the entire running time.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The wrap-arounds will soon be lost due to time constraints, but this one is definitely my favorite featuring a Halloween party at the Simpson house. There’s a lot of great jokes, like Homer eating the grapes and spaghetti (“It was an evil game,”) his failed attempt to tell a scary story, and Flanders’ surprisingly gruesome costume.
– Also very evident is this episode has a large number of voiced-over lines where the lip sync doesn’t match. The commentary reveals that this episode had an huge number of retake lines they did after the animation was complete that they had to cut from existing footage. But hey, the show’s hilarious, so it worked in the end.
– Great response from Grampa on where he got all the money he gave to Bart: “The Government. I didn’t earn it, I don’t need it, but if they miss one payment, I’ll raise hell!” Also later when he claims each present is evil because he wants attention.
– The bottomless pit is a ridiculous set piece where Homer disposes of the doll, a mobster tosses a body, and some poor schmoe tries to get rid of a box full of nude photos of Whoopi Goldberg… only to have the pit toss it back up.
– One more last(?) inappropriate hold music gag where Marge calls regarding the killer Krusty doll, only to have “Everybody Loves a Clown” play on the other end.
– An early, absolutely brilliant hinting at Smithers’ sexuality, where he comments how he doesn’t think women and sea men mix. Burns snidely retorts, “We know what you think.”
– Barney gets two great moments during the Broadway show: when King Homer is first revealed (“Look at the size of that platform!”) and when the ape snatches all of his peanuts and he proceeds to kick his gigantic foot futilely (“I said one!!”)
– Burns is full of great lines in the “King Homer” segment: his lament in the hotel room after the fiasco (“I’m dreading the reviews, I can tell you that”) and his comments after Homer’s fall (“I remember when Al Jolson ran amok at the Winter Garden and climbed the Chrysler building. After that, he couldn’t get arrested in this town.”)
– Very biting sight gags of having ‘Capital Critters,’ ‘Family Dog’ and ‘Fish Police’ tombstones in the Pet Cemetery, referring to two incredibly short lived animated shows that sprung following the success of the Simpsons.
– Bart’s incantations of four similar items in a row are great, like “Collin, Rayburn, Nars, Trebek” being game show hosts, and best of all at the end, “Trojan, Ramses, Magnum, Shiek” being all brands of condoms.
– Willie’s cavalier attitude toward the zombies is hilarious. I occasionally still quote, “Pretty as a picture!” Also, Homer’s cavalier attitude about not having barricaded the door (“Why? …..oh right, the zombies.”)
– Favorite part of the show is probably the zombies’ unusually cordial nature upon re-entering their graves (“Excuse me, I’m John Smith.” “John Smith, 1882?” “My mistake!”)