By David Weiner
“Come a little closer, madam — I want you to save 25 cents on Monster Vitamins.”
In the early ’70s, aging horror legend Vincent Price was the perfect pitchman for Monster Vitamins, chewable fortified vitamins for kiddies from Bristol-Myers, the makers of the beloved Pals Vitamins.
A healthy Monster Kid was a happy Monster Kid. The whimsical Monster Vitamins came in seven “monstrous shapes and colors”: There was Babbly Bat. Screaming Mimi. The Blob. Gorgonzola. Fedorable. Sneaky & Squeaky. And the Monstermobile (they had to have a ride!).
There were two types of product that included a Monster Vitamins Plus Iron option as well.
In addition to doing Monster Vitamins print ads, a fun commercial featuring Price aired in 1974, featuring animated versions of the various characters. Warren Godfrey, the Clio Award–winning art director on the commercial, recalled that particular shoot to be a highlight over his 50-year career, telling Todd Franklin’s Neato Coolville blog, “I came up with the idea of using Vincent Price as the spooky spokesperson at home in his Gothic castle, sitting in a huge Gothic chair by the fireplace. … Vincent was a pleasure to work with. I do remember in the pre-production meeting with his agent that he requested a prune Danish for his breakfast at the shoot.”
My father worked for Bristol-Myers in the ’70s, and so Monster Vitamins were very much part of my daily Monster Kid meal regimen, along with a promotional perk or two. I loved the haunted house–style packaging, and I have fond memories of putting colorful Babbly Bat and Blob stickers on my bedroom door. Gorgonzola, Screaming Mimi, Fedorable, and the Monstermobile took residence in my older sister’s room, permanently affixed to her vanity mirror, which she still has.
One day, a giant package was delivered to our door, and inside was a fold-out, cardboard Monster Vitamins clubhouse that we could play in, putting all refrigerator-box clubhouses to shame. Imagine the excitement, having our own haunted house within our home. It resided in our basement for a good amount of time — until I destroyed it, as most kids are want to do.
Interestingly, the success of Monster Vitamins was almost destroyed — alongside Pals, Spider-Man, The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, and similar vitamin character products — by a league of justifiably concerned parents in the early ’70s. Subsequent to a number of children who overdosed on the products thinking they were candy, a campaign by the Boston-based ACT — Action for Children’s Television — petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to have networks remove kiddie vitamin commercials from children’s TV programming blocks. Bristol-Myers was among the select corporations that voluntarily withdrew their ads.
Luckily, we still have many fond memories and even a few relics left of Monster Vitamins, from intact bottles and packaging held by collectors to cardboard-cutout masks and an ultra-rare promotional record, shared courtesy of Todd Franklin’s Neato Coolville blog.
And, of course, we briefly had that priceless Vincent Price commercial. Godfrey remarks, “What was funny at the end, after he talked about the vitamins and we showed the vitamins animated, he reached down and pulled up a trap door as light came from below. He yelled down, ‘Right, kids?’ and the kids replied all together as a voiceover, ‘RIGHT!!!’ The lawyers today probably wouldn’t let us do that. Cruelty to kids.”
(This article first appeared in Famous Monsters of Filmland issue #288)
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