Reviews: Its The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

A gift from the Great Pumpkin to a less-than-sincere race.

What A Charlie Brown Christmas did for Christmas specials, It's the Great Pumpkin... does for Halloween; namely, creating an absolute, undying staple of the genre. And considering the competition for supremacy in this idiom is a little less, shall we say... existent, it may very well be the One True Spoop to Rule Them All. Though clad in naught but Defanged Horrors, it has its own gloomy and spooky atmosphere that captures the essence of our beloved impish tradition in phantasmagorical shades of autumn leaves and soulful water colour skies.

Beneath its seasonal veneer (or "costume", if you must), it's Peanuts at its best—simple, heartfelt, and direct—with a galvanizing message about sticking to your beliefs no matter what you may or may not miss out on, and without the "guarantee" of any sort of reward for your devotion. And that doesn't even necessarily have to be applied solely to religion. Aside from this, Great Pumpkin is definitely a more levity-laden (leviticous?) special than ACBC, with Schulz' blithe snark-lite making for a top-heavy candy sack of classic Peanuts humor. Lucy—bereft of any level of self-insight, as always—claims that the crux of a good costume is to choose a motif in direct opposition to one's real personality, before donning a witch mask. Real talk though: Luce, there's no nicer witch than you! (Y'know, on the scale of comparative relativity and whatnot.) GOCB's Running Gag of only being given rocks for treats is equal parts funny and sad. But lose ye not heart, Charles; you'll be the one having the last laugh when Dia'bee'tus, Lord of the Netherrealm (and coincidentally, a good friend of the titular deity) inevitably comes for thy careless friends...

And I'd be remiss to review a Peanuts special made during his lifetime without giving some dues to the late, great Vince Guaraldi, joined here by an equally on-point John Scott Trotter. I've always thought jazz flute was a little spooky-sounding, and its copious usage here make for more than half of the special's inimitable atmosphere. Guaraldi provides another masterpiece of minor-based chord progression with "The Great Pumpkin Waltz", while Trotter's minimalist counterbalance renders Snoopy's behind-enemy-lines trek through the French countryside as tense and nail-biting as any "real" film on the subject. Of all the lamentably unreleased Peanuts scores, this is one that fans are clamoring for the most; and for good reason, as the special's heartwarming ending features the most dynamic version of "Linus and Lucy" heard yet, if not ever.

From beginning to end, it's pure Halloween. More of a rewarding experience than any candied treat, year in and year out... and who knows? This could be the year the Great Pumpkin will appear before us, in an effulgent light of Halloween orange and chimney red! Only the faithful will e'er know...
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