The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo! (1985)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/4/21
Cast: Vincent Price, Heather North, Casey Kasem, Don Messick

Contains 13 episodes

This short-lived show was a radical departure for the Scooby-Doo series, as it featured real ghosts, monsters, and magic. For reasons unexplained, Daphne, Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy take their private plane on a trip to Hawaii, but accidentally end up in the Himalayas instead because Scooby-Doo can't read a map. That's what you get for putting a dog in charge of navigation. As luck would have it, they come across the fabled Chest Of Demons in an abandoned temple and unwittingly open it, unleashing thirteen demons who plan to wreak havoc on the world. They also befriend a local warlock named Vincent Van Ghoul (Vincent Price) and a young con-artist named Flim Flam who help them recapture the demons. Each episode focuses on one of the escaped demons, but the show was cancelled mid-season and the thirteenth demon was never caught. (until much later in the 2019 "Scooby-Doo! And The Curse Of The 13th Ghost" movie)

Admittedly, it's not a very good show, but it does contain some clever social commentary and witty pop culture parodies. It also features Daphne in a pivotal role as the leader of the group, which I found very intriguing since she's my favorite character. It's unclear what happened to Fred and Velma, and equally unclear why Daphne is hanging out with Shaggy and traveling all over the world with him and Scooby. The first thing you notice about Daphne is her awful new hairdo, which is a strange inward-swept shaggy bob that makes her look like she belongs on some crappy 80's soap opera. She's also traded in her purple mod dress, green scarf, pink tights, and lavender heels for a more 80's styled lavender jumpsuit that's reminiscent of April O'Neil from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." However, she does mix things up a bit and has a variety of outfits, which I appreciated a lot. Heather North provides a pitch perfect performance, and it's wonderful to see Daphne as such a strong, smart, and capable young woman instead of just background eye candy. Shaggy's wardrobe hasn't changed, although his palette has shifted from green and brown to red and blue. Vincent Price is wonderful throughout and provides a lot of ghoulish gags and puns. Unfortunately, most of the humor is spoiled by the antics of Flim Flam and Scrappy. Having the universally reviled Scrappy in the show is bad enough, but adding the annoying and grating Flim Flam makes it even worse. I don't understand why they thought having two equally annoying characters was necessary.

The animation style and art direction is similar to the original series, but the writing is much more topical and self-aware. The show shrewdly criticizes the absurdity of excessive censorship and political correctness in the 80's, and Ronald Reagan even makes a cameo appearance in one episode. Also, as a result of coming out during the Reagan era, the show was heavily criticized by Christian Fundamentalists who claimed that it was corrupting the nation's youth with all of its Satanic mumbo jumbo and occult nonsense. Hypocritical religious pressure might have been what led to the show's premature cancellation. The show also breaks the fourth wall and regularly delves into psychedelia, which is both weird and disorienting, and keeps you constantly guessing where the show is going to go next. Overall, as many good things as it does, there are an equal number of bad things, which makes the show uneven and disappointing. However, if you go into it with an open mind, it can provide a good dose of nostalgia, a reflection of the times, and a few chuckles along the way.