Monday, November 13, 2017

EL BRENDEL MEETS LAUREL & HARDY’S HAUNTED DEAN!

Greetings Scared Silly fans! Hope you are all enjoying what’s left of 2017.

I wanted to share this episode of the TV show, My Little Margie, which comes to us courtesy of the public domain.

My Little Margie, originally a summer replacement series for I Love Lucy, was one of the sitcoms following in Lucy’s wake with the focus being on a female character. It, too proved successful and the cast (with Gale Storm in the title role) even performed in a concurrent radio show version.

For horror-comedy fans, My Little Margie is notable for a few reasons:

- It was produced by Hal Roach and filmed on the Hal Roach Studios lot... where so many classic horror-comedies starring Laurel & Hardy, Our Gang/The Little Rascals, Harold Lloyd, and more were filmed before.

- One of the regulars was Hillary Brooke, famous co-star for those other horror-comedy stalwarts, Abbott & Costello (whose TV show was also filmed on the Hal Roach Studios lot); and another was Willie Best (who figures prominently in several horror-comedy classics including Wheeler & Woolsey’s The Nitwits and Mummy’s Boys, The Ghost Breakers with Bob Hope, The Smiling Ghost, Milton Berle’s Whispering Ghosts, and Laurel & Hardy’s A-Haunting We Will Go);

- Guest stars included Zasu Pitts, another Hal Roach Studios regular who, when teamed with the luminous Thelma Todd, appeared in the horror-comedy short, Sealskin; Gil Lamb (a veteran of comedy shorts who appeared in two episodes of the show), Frank Ferguson - immortalized as MacDougal in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein; and Andy Clyde, ever-popular star of decades’ worth of short subjects (for the likes of Mack Sennett, Columbia and others), including a number of horror-comedy efforts including Spook to Me.

What makes this episode, Corpus Delecti of particular interest:

- It was directed by Hal Yates, veteran short subject director whose horror-comedy entries include Host to a Ghost (starring Edgar Kennedy), Ghost Buster (featuring Gil Lamb), and a pair of Leon Errol horror-comedy shorts, The Spook Speaks and Spooky Wooky.

- This episode's guest-star is El Brendel, the Swedish-dialect comic who was a stalwart of Columbia short subjects including such horror-comedy efforts as Sweet Spirits of the Nighter and Boobs in the Night.

- The episode features the old “a pair of human eyes peeping through the eye holes cut out of a painting” gag. Notable here is that the painting is actually of the character Dean Williams from Laurel & Hardy’s A Chump at Oxford, which has an “horror-onable mention” spooky scene of its own.

The thing about the painting is that the eyes were intact for A Chump at Oxford, but were actually cut out for this particular gag to be used in the 1948 Hal Roach Jr./Robert F. McGowan feature, Who Killed Doc Robbin (an unsuccessful attempt to jumpstart a new series of “kid gang” comedies along the lines of Our Gang/The Little Rascals), and this 1955 My Little Margie episode.

(Incidentally, my friends Josh and Danny Bacher, very talented performers in their own right, actually own the painting in question and I’ve been privileged to see it, complete with its souless eyeholes, up close and personal-like).

So now, without further ado, please enjoy Corpus Delecti!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A HALLOWEEN GREETING FROM SCARED SILLY!

Happy Halloween, Scared Silly fans! I figured this was the most appropriate day for me to de-lurk.

Alas, this year has been my most challenging yet. As it has played out, I’ve been dealing with both professional and personal issues that have prevented me from digging back into the Scared Silly project with the fervor I’d hoped for this year. For that I am truly sorry.

As previously mentioned, Scared Silly is a labor of love and a hobby project. I have no publisher lined up yet, so there’s no real deadline. And… unfortunately… life happens. This year will go down as the one that really took a lot out of me, probably more than any year since I became an adult (in a manner of speaking). Here’s hoping I can get back on track in a big way in 2018.

Additionally, if you’ve been looking at the blog lately and wondering where all the photos went, well, google “Photobucket charges” and you’ll find out why. Photobucket changed their policy from being a free photo host to charging a significant fee. I’m still trying to figure out how to proceed. I’d like this blog to have a robust selection of images as it always has. I’ll work out some solution.

In the meantime, thank you, everyone, for all your continued support, and understanding. And remember, this Halloween and always, there’s a fine line between laughing and screaming, screaming and laughing… so whatever you’re doing, scream with laughter today and every day!!!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

THE SPIRITS OF '76 - 2017 EDITION!

Bud Abbott Lou Costello

NOTE: This is an encore edition of a post I originally wrote in 2010:

Here’s a film that will be going into the “horror-onable mention” section of my book. It’s not a “horror-comedy” per se – it’s more of a fantasy-romance, but it does involve ghosts (albeit friendly ghosts) who take the opportunity to put a good scare in some folks as needed. For me, Abbott & Costello’s “The Time of Their Lives” is every bit as classic a movie as “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein;” even if it has more in common with “Topper.”

It’s also tied into the American Revolution, hence this post falling on America’s Independence Day. The film’s script is very well written. It tells the tale of Horatio Prim (Costello), a bumbling but masterful tinker in 1780 who longs to marry Nora, the housemaid of wealthy estate owner Tom Danbury. To that end, Horatio procures a letter of commendation from General George Washington in hopes of obtaining permission to marry Nora from Tom. Unfortunately, Horatio has a rival for Nora in butler Cuthbert (Abbott), who causes him trouble no end. But the real trouble comes from Danbury himself, who is secretly a traitor out to aid Benedict Arnold. Both Nora and Danbury’s fiancé, Melody (the luminous Marjorie Reynolds) learn of Danbury’s plot. Nora is captured and Danbury confiscates the commendation letter from her (she had been holding it for Horatio) and hides it in the mantelpiece clock, but Melody manages to escape on horseback in an effort to warn George Washington. She soon encounters Horatio, and the two are framed as traitors, executed and dumped into a well.

It’s here that the fantasy element kicks in. Horatio and Melody are now ghosts who haunt the grounds of the estate and will continue to do so until they can prove their innocence. They just need to somehow get the letter into the hands of the authorities who can rewrite the history books so the truth can be known. This becomes a more hopeful quest 166 years later when the estate is restored to its original condition, and that includes the original furniture. When the restoration is complete, the new owner invites some guests for the weekend to celebrate. Among the guests are psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenway, a descendent of Cuthbert (also played by Abbott). Horatio and Melody decide to have some fun “scaring” the guests. Horatio takes particular delight in spooking Greenway. A séance is held wherein the identity of the ghosts and their plight is revealed, resulting in the living doing what they can to help set Horatio and Melody free.

The film has grown in status over the years and has quite a following (and may have even inspired a line in the classic Gordon Lightfoot song, "If You Could Read My Mind"). In fact, while embraced by many Bud & Lou fans, it’s also been touted as “the Abbott & Costello movie for people who hate Abbott & Costello movies.” This is due to the exceptional dramatic acting of both Lou and Bud that full-bloodedly brings their well-written roles to life. They are both so good in this that it’s hard to say whether one outshines the other (although I might give the slight edge to Abbott whose rarely used talent for character acting is on full display here). It stands out from the majority of the team’s other films which primarily feature a variation on their con man/patsy burlesque characters. It’s one of the few films where the team stretched beyond their usual archetypes and managed to pull it off (for examples where this departure from the norm didn’t work in my opinion, catch “Little Giant” and “Dance With Me Henry.” Or don’t). It also includes a wonderful supporting cast, including horror-comedy stalwart Gale Sondergaard as the maid of the restored estate who definitely believes in ghosts. And it features beautiful sets, wonderful costume designs and marvelous special effects - a top-notch production all around.

If you haven't guessed by now, I consider "The Time of Their Lives" a wonderful film to watch on Independence Day... or any day, for that matter! Here’s the trailer for your enjoyment:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

HEY ALL YOU MUGS… DON’T MISS THIS EVENT OF CINEDRAMATIC PROPORTIONS!

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Greetings Scared Silly fans. With my apologies for the break I’ve been taking from the project, there are, as always, several reasons it is on the backburner. One is my continued work on the Bowery Boys documentary, Bowery Rhapsody: the Rise & Redemption of Hollywood’s Original ‘Brat Pack,’ whose creator (and my fellow Executive Producer on the film as well as President/Owner of Handshake Away Productions), Colette Joel graciously brought me on-board. The moving parts needed to create a documentary film are many, and time-consuming. Being deeply involved in the inner workings, however, I can assure everyone that the final result will be more than worth the wait.

As readers of this blog know, I am a major fan of the Bowery Boys movie team as well as their earlier iterations, the Dead End Kids, Little Tough Guys and East Side Kids. Naturally, I am particularly fond of the East Side Kids and Bowery Boys films where the gang got mixed up with (both real and imagined) ghosts, monsters, haunted houses and all manner of macabre mayhem. But of course, with a career (counting all their incarnations) spanning 20 years and nearly 100 films, their horror-comedy output only tells part of the tale,

This year marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Leo Gorcey, one of the two actors (along with Huntz Hall) who are arguably the most well-known (and for a majority of fans, most popular) among the ever-rotating cast of gang members. One of the true joys of working on the documentary project for me has been getting to know the children and grandchildren of the original Dead End Kids. All of them are terrific folks with unique perspectives on their famous forebearers’ legacies, both as performers and patriarchs.

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Leo Gorcey’s son, Leo Jr., and his daughter, Brandy are both very active in helping to keep their father’s memory alive. Leo Jr.’s memoir, Me and the Dead End Kid, has been in print for nearly 15 years. Brandy has made some personal appearances bringing special, one-of-a-kind memorabilia relating to her dad and his cohorts to events across the country This Memorial Day weekend, Brandy and Leo’s granddaughter, Madonna will be in attendance at the classic movie showcase and convention, Cinevent in Columbus, Ohio to help celebrate Leo Gorcey Sr.’s birthday.

Brandy and Madonna will display their prized collection of personal photos and memories of Gorcey at their booth. They’ll also offer select merchandise for sale, including Leo Gorcey’s tongue-in-cheek autobiography, An Original Dead End Kid Presents: Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockle Shells, and Dizzy Spells; Best of all, to commemorate what would be her father’s 100th birthday, Brandy will give a brief introduction to a screening of the East Side Kids classic, Clancy Street Boys. The fun-filled film will be preceded by the first public showing of a teaser trailer for the upcoming documentary on Gorcey and his cinematic cohorts, Bowery Rhapsody: the Rise & Redemption of Hollywood’s Original ‘Brat Pack.’

Joining Brandy and Madonna at their booth will be author Leonard Getz, who wrote a fine book on the team entitled, From Broadway to the Bowery. I originally met Len at a book signing and subsequently during filming of our documentary, of which Len is a part. Click here to read more about Len and his book.

It’s shaping up to be quite the event, and if you’ve never attended Cinevent before, they are offering a ticket give-away for first time attendees. Just click here and here for details.

In the meantime, here are some great East Side Kids and Bowery Boys trailers for films in the horror-comedy genre… ENJOY!

EAST SIDE KIDS:



BOWERY BOYS:






“HORROR-ONABLE" MENTIONS:



Monday, March 20, 2017

HERE WE GO 'RONDO-GAIN!

Rondo Hatton

Springtime means new beginnings... and another round of Rondo Award nominations! The latest nominations (for achievements in horror entertainment, merchandising, journalism and fandom during 2016) were recently announced.  And yes, for at least the sixth 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 2016 output. Due to working hard on Colette Joel's Bowery Boys documentary which I'm helping to produce, as well as a Thomas & Friendsweb series I'm co-writing, 2016's Scared Silly efforts were limited to "encore posts," vintage trailers and cartoons, and just a smattering of new reviews. 

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 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 before the voting is through I hope I can post more about them and encourage you to check out all their great projects, and to vote for them if you're so inclined.

Votes are due by midnight, Sunday, April 16th, 2017. 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:

Monday, January 16, 2017

THE EAST COAST IS THE MOST FOR FUN SCREENINGS OF GOOFY GHOSTS!

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If you live in the New York/New Jersey area, you’ll soon have not one but two chances to enjoy classic horror-comedy films on the big screen, including another screening introduced by yours, truly!

First up is “Scared Silent,” which is part of the annual “Cruel and Unusual Comedy” film festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This series has been going on for a number of years now and features hilarious and often astonishing silent comedy shorts (not to mention fascinating from a historical standpoint). As usual, the films feature sublime live keyboard accompaniment by Ben Model, and commentary/intros (sometimes even post-screening Q&A) from Ben and film historian Steve Massa, who are both major experts on the subject. The series is facilitated by MOMA's film curator, a noted film historian/critic in his own right, Dave Kehr. Each screening features a group of shorts programmed around a clever, connecting theme. On Thursday, January 19th at 4PM, and again on Wednesday, January 25th at 7PM, the “Scared Silent” program will be shown. Featured stars include Our Gang (aka The Little Rascals), Alice Howell, Edward Everett Horton, Gale Henry and the Ton of Fun (pictured below – they were a comedy trio long before the Three Stooges – if you can imagine a knockabout teaming of Fatty Arbuckle, Oliver Hardy and Curly Howard you’ll get the idea). Click on this link for more details.

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Next up, on Sunday, February 5th at 2PM is my annual guest-speaking gig at the West Orange Classic Film Festival. This will be my fourth year in a row speaking at the festival. It all began for me in 2014 with a sold-out screening of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, and now it’s coming full circle with this year’s presentation of Abbott & Costello’s Hold That Ghost. As always, I’ll be introducing the film and doing a Q&A afterward. It’s one of Bud and Lou’s best, and simply one of the greatest horror-comedy films of all-time. Thanks go out once again to the festival’s organizer, Ken Mandel for inviting me to take part. Note that this is a “reserved seat” screening so it’s encouraged that you purchase your tickets ahead of time on Fandango. Just click here, then click on “2:00pm” to reserve your seat (NOTE: you might also have to enter the zip code, 07052). See you there!

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

SATURDAY 'TOON!

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Greetings, fans... please enjoy this classic cartoon from the public domain while I prepare another Scared Silly review soon. Consider it a "Cartoonission."