In 1985, as a child at the tender age of eight, I sat down to watch the premiere of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo, probably the 136th spin-off of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? I’d been a fan of Scooby Doo longer than I could remember, racing home every day to watch it after school as it aired five days a week in syndication – the days before The Disney Afternoon when they would just throw on whatever thirty year old cartoon they had collecting dust in the vaults. He-Man, Thundercats, and GI Joe had put an end to that, though, and now we only got our Scooby fix on Saturday mornings where the Scrappy-soaked newer episodes were already showing how long in the tooth old Scooby had gotten.
But, hey… I was eight and I didn’t know any better though, even at that age, I would have happily traded Scrappy Doo to have Fred and Velma back as the show had mysteriously dropped them for no reason other than to give the demon puppy more screen time.
And so, in 1985, the makers behind Scooby Doo decided to mess with the formula and debut The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo. While it was still a Scrappy Doo era series, this program not only brought in the legendary Vincent Price, who I positively adored as a kid, but also brought a new Mystery Machine, made Daphnie the defacto leader, and introduced a story arch that connected every episode of the series.
Scooby and Shaggy accidentally open The Chest of Demons that sets thirteen ghosts lose on the mortal plane and so, with the help of Vincent Van Ghoul and a con artist kid named Flim-Flam who was not as bad as Scrappy but pretty close, Shaggy, Scooby, and Velma travel the world to recapture the ghosts in the chest before the world burns… or something.
It was a short lived program as it was 1985 and no one cared about television programming for children, so we never got a resolution… twelve ghosts were captured, but the thirteenth remained on the loose.
And, in 2019, they decided to give this almost forgotten television series a resolution. I’m not sure why as anyone who remembered The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo are in their 40s now, but what the hey? I decided to check it out Scooby Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost and see how the series from my childhood ended.
The timeline is a little screwy… I’m thinking that it takes place a few months after the original series, but Mystery Inc., is retiring after messing up one case and being told to stop their vigilantism by the local police. You’d think that, after 50 years of being a teenage crime-fighting force, the local PD would give them more slack, but there appears to be no place in Coolsville for teenagers with a half-century of investigative experience.
So, whilst selling all of their crimefighting stuff at a garage sale, they come across Vincent Van Ghoul’s crystal ball that he used to communicate with the gang and he appears in a message warning them that the 13th ghost has appeared and that he needs their help to capture this final spirit.
Velma and Fred are confused because they’ve never heard of their friend’s adventures with the Chest of Demons as the events with real honest-to-goodness ghosts left Scooby so traumatized that Daphnie and Shaggy vowed never to speak of it again.
Soon, Mystery Inc. is on their way on a world-spanning adventure to save Vincent and capture the final ghost once and for all.
There’s certainly a lot of tongue in cheek humor in this movie. The fact that Daphnie assumes the role as leader leaves Fred wondering about his place in the group though, I will say, this is resolved in a very annoying way that largely falls flat on its face. There’s some funny dialogue that will go over the heads of anyone who never watched the original series, such as when Flim-Flam asks Shaggy when he started to wear green shirts because he’s never seen him in anything but red. Astonishingly enough, this film was not made for a modern audience but genuinely for fans who wanted to see an ending for The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo which is amazing considering that there are probably only a few dozen of us. The point is, though, that this is a labor of love and it shows, even though I cannot imagine many will be completely interested in what it represents.
I did enjoy the movie, though. As I said, I loved the original series and I’m a sucker for competition and nostalgia and complete lack of Scrappy Doo, which The Curse of the 13th Ghost not only extracts Scrappy, but also retcons him so that, apparently, Fred has no idea who he is.
I like that.
I also have to say that Maurice LaMarche does a very good job replacing the late Vincent Price even though he does wander very closely to Orson Welles/The Brain during the dialogue. Still, given that Price had one of the most iconic voices of all time, I think LaMarche did his legacy well.
Sure, there’s some humor that falls flat, the revelation of exactly where Fred was during the events of the original series was dumb, was handled even dumber, and then hits warp 10 towards dumbest when they won’t stop revisiting the joke. The mysterious teenager who turns out to be Flim-Flam was also ludicrously stupid as he was wearing almost the exact same yellow jacket he wore on the series, and the revelation of the identity of the 13th Ghost was obvious.
Still… it’s Scooby Doo. You don’t watch Scooby Doo for the enrapturing mystery or timeless comedy.
It does its job and does it satisfactorily and that’s all I could hope for.