Friday, March 21, 2014
Well here we are again with some nice, albeit surprising news. At the beginning of this week, it turns out the latest round of Rondo Award nominations (for achievements in horror during 2013) were announced. I'd been so busy elsewhere (a long story) that I managed to miss the news - but it's come to my attention that yes, for at least the third time, this humble little blog about spooks and kooks, ghouls and fools, and creeps and clowns has been nominated for a Rondo award!
While I don't necessarily think this blog is worthy of such an honor this year (due to circumstances beyond my control my output was sparse at best), I am honored to be nominated - it is both a vote of confidence and encouragement to me. I want to thank whoever recommended “Scared Silly” for the nomination – I truly appreciate it!
The Rondo Awards are named after Rondo Hatton (you can learn more about Rondo when you click here) and are awards given to those who in some way are keeping the love for and appreciation of classic horror alive. You can learn more details about the awards and view this year's ballot by clicking here.
"Scared Silly" has been nominated in the "best blog" category, and it is my hope that if you like this blog, you will vote for it.
There are TONS of friends of Scared Silly who have been nominated in various categories, and in the coming days I hope to post more about them and encourage you to check out all their great projects, and to vote for them if you're so inclined.
Until then, here's a nice montage of Rondo Hatton movie scenes incongruously set to a jaunty tune - ENJOY:
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Friday, January 3, 2014
As I mentioned in my previous post, I begin the New Year with an exciting announcement: on Sunday, January 12th at 2PM I will be introducing and doing a post-screening talk/Q&A on the ultimate classic horror-comedy film, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN!
It’s part of the annual West Orange Classic Film Festival, whose organizer Ken Mandel I must thank for arranging my appearance.
After my talk, I’ll have a little table set up where fans can purchase autographed copies of some of my books, such as the VINCENT PRICE book to which I contributed an essay and the ARCHIE’S WEIRD MYSTERIES paperback collection.
Available for the first time will be the brand-new, FREE Scared Silly bookmark! A little something to tied us all over until we actually have a completed Scared Silly book to read.
Tickets for this special event are NOW AVAILABLE for pre-order at the following link:
Fandango – A&C Meet Frankenstein W.O. Classic Film Fest – order tickets here
Just click on the showtime within the above link (2:00 p) to order.
Be advised that this theater sells reserved ticket seats only (like a Broadway show or concert). This means you get to pick your seats when you purchase your ticket. You can do that as a "walk-in" same day as the show or you can do it by pre-ordering. Pre-ordering of course gets you an earlier shot at better available seats but either way works (NOTE: The event organizer feels this show has a chance of seeing out so he recommends pre-ordering your tickets).
Of course, my screening isn’t the only one happening in the festival – there are several amazing films screening, all with a special guest-speaker. You can see the line-up here:
...and you can watch the trailer for ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN here:
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Hmmmm…. Father Time is kinda’ scary, isn’t he?
Speaking of time, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for making the past few years so much fun for me. Thank you to all those who have tweeted about my blog, chosen to “follow” the blog, have left comments on posts and told others about the project. I am especially grateful to all the blogs and websites who have publicized this wacky endeavor over the past 12 months.
Special thanks goes to Brian Solomon of The Vault of Horror who invited me to join him on-stage at The Bijou Theatre in Connecticut for a double-feature screening of Mad Monster Party and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Brian has been one of the great supporters of the Scared Silly project, and it's always great to have an opportunity to be a guest-speaker at screenings of classic films (teaser: watch this blog for a special announcement about my next guest-speaking gig which is happening very soon).
Another round of special thanks goes to master (and celebrity) chef and restaurateur Francesco Palmieri of the Orange Squirrel restaurant in New Jersey. For the second year in a row, Francesco hosted a special Halloween dinner comprised of entrees from Vincent Price's cookbook... and once again he invited me to participate and give a short presentation on Price including a fun trivia contest! Francesco and his family and staff are all wonderful people and I am grateful for the friendship and camaraderie we have formed.
Paul Castiglia, Francesco Palmieri
Of course, there's no blog without you readers out there so thank you to ALL SCARED SILLY FANS! (And if I’ve left anyone out please know it wasn’t intentional)!
Last but certainly not least I also have to thank my wife for letting the TV be commandeered by all these movies (some of which were just downright painful for her to sit through), my friend Brent for being a terrific fact-checker and of course everyone’s favorite current-day character actor, carrying the torch for all who’ve gone before, the ubiquitous Daniel Roebuck, who graciously agreed to write the foreword for the book that will (hopefully) ultimately result from this blog!
Thank you also for bearing with my erratic schedule – due to other commitments I can’t always post on a regular basis. Please hang in there and keep checking back… you’re bound to see a new review every now and then.
Until the next review, here is Vagabond Opera performing “New Year’s Eve in a Haunted House,” composed by avant garde jazz legend Raymond Scott, the man behind many of the melodies heard in Looney Tunes cartoons - enjoy your New Year's Eve!
Monday, December 30, 2013
RATING: ** out of ****
PLOT: Pete Smith is called away to investigate mysterious going-ons at a haunted mansion. While there, every manner of menace and horror flies at him – literally – in this 3D short. Chief among the terrors: the Frankenstein monster!
REVIEW: Pete Smith’s specialty was specialty shorts – literally. Like Robert Benchley, his shorts were early examples of “mockumentaries” where anything went, the visuals accompanied by copious narration that ranged from mildly amusing to screamingly funny.
In the early 1940s, Smith’s home studio, MGM decided his shorts would be the perfect venue to introduce audiences to three dimensional films, a then still experimental process in its infancy. Smith made three such shorts, but only this one traded on the specialized thrills of horror-comedies.
As this short begins, the music behind the opening titles promises some spooky thrills. Then viewers are given a quick tutorial on the “audioscopiks” 3D process and how to use the glasses.
The scene opens on Smith at home in his study. As he narrates, “I seemed at peace, but my nerves were on edge. I was absorbed in scientific study.” Cut to a close-up of the book Smith is reading – a horror thriller called “The Living Corpse.”
Of course, it’s midnight. We know because Smith’s narration tells us. Midnight and all is still. Until of course, the phone rings just as Smith is in the middle of reading a harrowing chapter!
A female voice on the other end screams for help – there’s trouble at the country house, says Aunt Tillie.
Smith commences to the old spooky mansion to help. Initially, he is met with a typical horror-comedy trope: the front door opens on its own, and swings shut on its own, too.
But then, the short takes an unexpected turn. Smith looks up to the second floor (it’s one of those great old homes that has an atrium spanning the floors) where he sees a light. The light comes from a lantern… being carried by the Frankenstein monster!
Suddenly, Third Dimensional Murder takes on added importance as a milestone marker on the road to Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein! A road paved with several comedians’ encounters with the monster before Bud and Lou met him, including Olsen & Johnson, The Ritz Brothers (in two different films), Danny Kaye (a scene cut out of the original Secret Life Of Walter Mitty) and in newsreel footage, Karloff playing baseball in full monster make-up at a charity game featuring Buster Keaton and the Three Stooges! (Click here and here to read all about the above). Now we can add Pete Smith to the list of pioneers who crossed paths with the famed monster first.
Having said that, that’s pretty much all the distinction there is here, as the monster is not only erroneously referred to as “Frankenstein” (the name of his creator but not the name of the monster) but given precious little to do. He disappears briefly only to return to hurl items at the camera to perpetuate the 3D effect.
Smith is then left to fill the time between with more tropes that exploit 3D. Grabbing claws, hidden panels that open and close, diabolical laughter out of nowhere, a witch who tries to shove a tarantula in Pete’s face, cobwebs, a dungeon full of chains and a skeleton in the closet (complete with chattering teeth).
After this detour, Smith encounters the Frankenstein monster again. He’s wearing a vest as in Son Of Frankenstein, and his basic appearance is patterned after the Universal makeup, but almost an unintentional parody of a pro makeup job in the light and without red and green blurriness (take another look at the publicity shot at the top of the page).
For added scares, the filmmakers add a rather inexplicable and incongruous “masked archer” and sword swinging knight, and in keeping with the unenlightened times, not one but two weapons-wielding savages (one who is identified as “Zombie, the mad man of Magnesia”).
The climax has the Frankenstein monster drop objects off the roof in hopes of hitting Smith below. These objects include flaming logs. Because there’s a log fire on the roof on which rests a cauldron full of molten lead. I don’t get it, either but it sure does look cool to see the monster up on the roof with flames dancing everywhere! Of course, you know the monster wants to pour that lead down on Smith. After all, this isn’t the mostly benevolent creature from Bride Of Frankenstein. To prove it, the monster finishes Smith off by hurling the cauldron itself on top of Pete. That’s right, he kills Pete Smith. Kills him dead. Sort of...
Pete has the last laugh (well, he wants the audience to laugh at the end, but whether they will is up for debate): now a skeleton, Pete wishes everyone a good night as he hurls his skull at the screen!
The short provides an early example of 3D (consider that the Three Stooges’ 3D horror-comedy short Spooks came at the crest of the ‘50s 3D craze in 1953 – a dozen years after the Smith opus). It does the job it’s supposed to do, using the horror motif as a convenient springboard for in-your-face effects. It’s none too scary, and none too funny, but it gets points for its Frankenstein monster pedigree, landing it at a rather shaky two star rating from me (it’s a real close call here, but I’m grading on a curve as opposed to the Frankenstein monster’s flat top).
BEST VISUAL GAGS: No real sight gags here because we never really see Pete react to too many of the horrors. It’s just a lot of shoving things into the camera lens.
BEST VERBAL GAGS: Not many in this short, one of Smith’s weaker efforts in that department. The level of “humorous” dialogue doesn’t rise much above “a close shave… and I do mean shave” after Smith just misses plowing his car into a danger sign. If anything, the short is hampered by Smith narrating action we can see. However, before it’s all done, Smith does rattle off this gem, upon running into the Frankenstein monster yet again:
“Omigosh, it’s him! All right, it’s he – why worry about grammar at a time like this?!”
SPOTTED IN THE CAST: No one, unless a cast list turns up. The only credited player is Smith, and historians have identified stunt man/bit player Edward Payson as the Frankenstein monster. Payson’s other roles were as anonymous (and as uncredited) as this one (sample parts included “Al, the warehouse thug” in a couple chapters of a Green Hornet serial and “Wrestler,” “Athlete” and “Townsman” in various westerns and melodramas).
FURTHER READING: Pierre Fournier wrote about this short a few years’ back on his indispensable Frankensteinia blog. You can read what he wrote by clicking here (and really, you should be reading Pierre’s blog regularly anyhow)...
Now, don’t forget to DUCK!!!