Wednesday, March 18, 2020

GHOST BUSTER (1952)


RATING: ** & 1/2 Out of ****

PLOT: Slim (Gil Lamb), an earnest and accident-prone window washer, longs to be a journalist. Fortunately, he just so happens to be assigned to the building that houses the Evening Star newspaper. Catching wind of the mysterious disappearance of a young gadabout set to inherit a fortune the moment his sickly uncle passes away, Slim decides to investigate the case for himself. When the trail leads to what appears to be a very haunted house, Slim starts to wonder if that name will be a byline in the paper, or a marker on a headstone!

REVIEW: This RKO short from 1952 will seem very familiar. First, as a horror-comedy, it plays with all the well-worn set-ups, gags and tropes that fans of horror-comedies are used to. It will also feel familiar to fans of short subjects from Columbia Pictures. Its pace seems a little faster than a typical RKO short, and some of the more frantic, freewheeling moments recall the madcap mayhem typical of a Three Stooges or Schilling & Lane short. Right down to some sound effects that sound like they could have been sampled right from a Columbia short. To top it all off, the lead comic spends most of the short in drag (after all, that’s his way into the house in the first place – masquerading as a nurse when the in-house nurse quits over claims the place is haunted).

To go deeper into the plot would be meaningless as it’s boiler-plate. Namely, things aren’t as they seem, and some nefarious types are going out of their way to purposely scare the wits out of anyone who might interfere with their get-rich-quick scheme. In other words, it’s Scooby Doo meets Knives Out, “and they would have gotten away with it, if not for that meddling, gangly comic in drag!”

This is not to say it’s bad – it moves swiftly and is enjoyable enough in the unfolding, if only average in the grand scheme of things. I’ve given it a slightly above-average grade for its energy and performances, particularly that of Gil Lamb. A lot of your enjoyment will depend upon whether you can appreciate Lamb’s persona, which echoes such other tall, lanky, amiable types as Ben Blue, Joe E. Brown and the aforementioned Gus Schilling of Schilling and Lane.

BEST GAGS: Slim sits at a desk in the newspaper office and accidentally switches on the intercom with his foot. He then proceeds to lambaste the newspaper editor… who hears it all from the intercom in his office next door!

The haunted house segment of the film is full of tried-and-true “scare” routines to startle our hero and his co-stars. They include:

- A moving painting with peering eyes
- Random scary noises
- A monster-masked character
- A bottle of poison
- A wayward cat
- A disappearing body
- Revolving door panels

SPOTTED IN THE CAST: The main cast member with serious comedy cred is Donald MacBride, playing the newspaper editor, J.C. Vaughn. His work as a foil includes films and TV episodes starring Buster Keaton, The Marx Brothers, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Abbott & Costello, Shemp Howard, Lupe Velez, Joan Davis, Leon Errol, the Bowery Boys, Gracie Allen, Phil Silvers, Hugh Herbert, Percy Kilbride, Marjorie Main, Martin & Lewis, Jimmy Durante, Red Skelton... is that enough comedy cred for you?

Playing Vaughn's daughter and Slim's love interest is Carol Hughes. Ghost Buster was one of several shorts where she played Gil Lamb's love interest. Apart from the Gil Lamb shorts, Hughes was mostly a bit player (and often uncredited). Her biggest claim to fame is probably the meaty role of Dale Arden in the serial, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. She also appeared in such bona fide classics as Mighty Joe Young and the highly influential noir, D.O.A. She ended up in several comedy features, too with folks like Abbott & Costello, Cary Grant and Red Skelton, and appeared in one of the Blondie series of films, too.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

ANOTHER ROUND OF RONDO AWARDS!


Springtime means new beginnings... and another round of Rondo Award nominations! The latest nominations (for achievements in horror entertainment, merchandising, journalism and fandom during 2019) were recently announced. And yes, for at least the ninth (I think) time (!!!), this humble little blog about spooks and kooks, ghouls and fools, and creeps and clowns has been nominated for a Rondo award!!!

Like some previous years, I don't necessarily think this blog is worthy of such an honor for my 2019 output. Due to many factors in my life including some unforeseen medical setbacks (happy to say I'm feeling very much on the mend these days), it was not one of my more prolific years. But being nominated for my modest output gives me the impetus to do what I can to get this project back on track here in 2020.

The Rondo Awards are the brainchild of David Colton. They are named after Rondo Hatton (you can learn more about Rondo Hatton by watching the video clip below) 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 Rondo Awards and view this year's ballot by clicking here.

"Scared Silly" has been nominated in the "best website" category, and it is my hope that if you like this blog, you will vote for it.

Votes are due by March 29th, 2020. All voting is done by email only so you must email your picks directly to David Colton at taraco@aol.com

Until then, here's a nice piece on Rondo Hatton courtesy of Me-TV's resident horror movie host, Svengoolie - ENJOY:

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

THE SKELETON (1912)

RATING: N/A















Well, here’s a review that’s not a review, folks! Because I find this film to be review-proof. It pretty much boils down to two kids getting a hold of a doctor’s training skeleton and using it to scare adults. With nothing else to hang onto it – and that’s saying a lot since many of the horror-comedies reviewed here have very little plot – I find it impossible to give this film a review!

Instead, I’ll let my friend, silent film historian Steve Massa weigh in on the behind-the-scenes details:

“Matty Roubert and Baby Early were the Powers Kids who in 1912 and 1913 tried to set their grandfather on fire and laid waste to a photographer's studio in shorts like INJUNS and HAVING THEIR PICTURE TOOK (both 1913) as the Powers Film Co.'s forerunners of Our Gang. Here they are in THE SKELETON ('12) which shows what happens when they get a hold of the titular item. The adults include Charles Manley, Mai Wells, Katherine Griffith, and Joe Burke, and was directed by Harry C. Mathews.”

Furthermore, I’ll let that great Hollywood trade publication of the early 1900s, teens and twenties called Moving Picture Worldsummarize the film as they did when the film was first released:

“Doctor Tilton, a well-known professor, orders a skeleton, so that he can better demonstrate to his students the various parts of the human anatomy. When the same is delivered by the express company, his two children, Matty and Early, are with him when he unpacks it, and again the scheming minds of the youngsters devise new plans to further test the patience of their elders. The incidents leading to the final downfall of both the skeleton and the children cause many a hearty laugh, as this time the children suffer more than the patience of the grown-ups.”

You can decide for yourself how hearty those laughs are if you’d like, by watching what’s left of the film. This particular version has a wonderfully intricate original score by composer Pablo Salazar, who gaciously granted permission to share this version of the film with his soundtrack.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

HAPPY NEW YEAR - 2020 EDITION!


Welcome to 2020... in the real world! Here in our world of reminiscing of decades past, welcome to 1950!:



We've finally made it back to an even match-up of years - and so hard to believe 1950 was 70 years ago! No matter how much time marches forward, let's always remember to keep the very best of the past alive... especially when it comes to classic horror-comedy films!

HERE'S WISHING YOU EVERY BLESSING FOR THE NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

NEW YEAR'S EVE IN A HAUNTED HOUSE - 2019 INTO 2020 EDITION


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 years. And most of all, there's no blog without you readers out there so thank you to ALL SCARED SILLY FANS!

Most especially, I want to thank everyone for their patience. As sometimes happens, "real life" truly got in the way of my ability to make headway on the project in 2019. A "perfect storm" of personal and professional challenges, coupled with the healing process of a quite-unexpected medical development that befell me in 2018, really brought changes to my world... but I know that circumstances will ultimately level out so that I can once again proceed with gusto on Scared Silly.

As always, it wouldn't be New Year's Eve here without 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!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

SOME DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS PRESENTS FROM ME TO YOU - 2019 EDITION!



















Hope your holidays were grand, friends! Here's a few additional goodies to keep you in the festive spirit!

(NOTE: Many of the feature films, shorts and animated cartoons discussed on this site, being from an earlier time, may contain elements considered insensitive and politically incorrect to us today. Any such controversial themes do not represent the thoughts and opinions of Paul Castiglia and the films discussed and presented here are done so purely for their inherent entertainment and historical value, apart from any such themes).

ENJOY!















Tuesday, December 24, 2019

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE FROM VINCENT PRICE!


Here's a curio: a rendtition of A Christmas Carol featuring as narrator one of our Scared Silly favorites, the Prince of Horror (often with tongue placed firmly-in-cheek), Mr. Vincent Price himself!

Believed to be the earliest television version of A Christmas Carol, it was produced as an advertising vehicle for Magnavox and aired on 22 stations across the nation on Christmas Day, 1949.

Dickens' venerable tale endures, much like the A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special, due to its underlying themes befitting from whom Christmas' name derives. In this case, we have repentence, redemption and re-birth at the core, all told to us in those dulcet tones that only Mr. Price could so eloquently deliver.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!