Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Stan Laurel

Today marks 46 years since the passing of Stan Laurel. If you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity, you know I consider Laurel the single greatest comedy mind ever. That’s high praise indeed considering the massive talents of Chaplin, Keaton, Fields and several others, but when you know Laurel’s background it makes sense. This man ate, drank and slept comedy. He was always working out “bits of business” – he wasn’t just a performer but also a writer, gagman, scenarist and director.

Chaplin and Keaton of course were also amazing comedy architects, but with them I was often aware of "the performance" - I could see the technique at work. For me, watching Laurel is like watching someone that is the subject of a documentary. It really feels like someone took their camera outside and started filming this real, flesh and blood person named Stanley. You get a lot of that same cineme verite feel with Fields, who I also love but ultimately Stan's endearing, childlike humanity wins out for me.

Laurel & Hardy made their fair share of horror-comedies, all of which will ultimately be explored on the Scared Silly blog and the eventual accompanying book. But it went a little deeper than that. It was well-known that Stan had a fondness for black humor. Brilliant tactical artist that he was, he used black humor sparingly. He knew it lacked its punch if overused.

Laurel was famous for his “shock endings.” These were gags that had an edge, a bite to them that was often macabre or just plain bizarre and unsettling. The type of gags that would populate an entire half hour episode of “The Addams Family” but which just appeared suddenly in Laurel & Hardy films to finish off the proceedings with a(n often horrific) bang. Such endings included a blood transfusion that makes Ollie thin and Stan fat in “Thicker than Water,” Stan and Ollie tortured resulting in Ollie stretched on the rack and Stan shrunk in a compressor at the finish of “The Bohemian Girl,” and the duo skinned alive (their intact heads atop dangling marionette-like skeletons) in their final Hollywood film, “The Bullfighters.”

Among Laurel & Hardy fans the most legendary “shock ending” is one that never saw the light of day (indeed, there is some debate over whether it truly is “legend” and was never actually conceived/considered in the first place). In the film “Blockheads,” Laurel & Hardy find themselves facing the ire of jealous husband and master big game hunter Billy Gilbert (I’ll allow you the wonderful privilege of seeking out the film to find out just how they incurred his wrath).

According to the legend, the original ending Laurel conceived faded on the boys’ mounted heads, Ollie bemoaning his familiar, “here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into” lament as punctuation.

All of this is to underscore that Laurel understood that line where laughing and being scared meets, overlaps and ultimately blends together. And that’s really what “Scared Silly” is all about, isn’t it? Facing the fear of death and the unknown head-on, with laughter. Thanks for all the laughs, Stan!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Rondo Hatton

Well here’s a nice surprise. While reviewing stats on my aggregator I noticed that a few folks had been referred to the “Scared Silly” blog via a link on the current Rondo Awards site. Yes, it appears that for the second year in a row “Scared Silly” has been nominated for a Rondo award! 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.

Of course, "Scared Silly" isn't the only reason to vote. There are so many great nominees in so many categories, including several friends of "Scared Silly." Among them are the gang from Trailers From Hell in the “Best Website” category as well as "Zombo's Closet of Horror," and "Frankensteinia" and the irrepressible “Drunken Severed Head” rubbing shoulders with “Scared Silly” in the “Best Blog” category. Not to mention Gary J. Svehla of Midnight Marquee Press to whom I am quite grateful – a few years back he and wife Sue invited me to contribute an essay on the Vincent Price/Peter Lorre horror-comedies to the Vincent Price edition of their “Actors” series of books. Gary has a blog called “Mad About Movies.”

There are a few other nominations that will be of interest to “Scared Silly” fans as well – here’s a handy checklist:

• In the “Best Classic DVD Collection” category, the WARNER BROS. HORROR/MYSTERY DVD set is nominated. This is the set that includes the classic Hugh Herbert-Allen Jenkins horror-comedy, “Sh! The Octopus!

• Nominated in the “Best Restoration” category is Bob Hope’s classic horror-comedy, “The Cat & the Canary,” released on DVD as part of a recent Bob Hope Collection.

• In the “Best Independent Film or Documentary” category not one but two of Larry Blamire's films featuring his own brand of horror-comedy (namely spoofery) in the form of “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” and “A Dark & Stormy Night” get a nod while our friends at Trailers From Hell get additional recognition for their collection of commentaries on “The Best of Trailers From Hell Volume 1.”

• “Mystery Movie Series of 1940s Hollywood” is a book I haven’t read yet but as many of the mystery series mixed in laughs and scares (Charlie Chan entries like “Dark Alibi” and “Meeting at Midnight” come to mind) it is apropos to mention here. (Plus since originally posting this entry I've learned it includes the Red Skelton "Whistling" series of which "Whistling in the Dark" is a horror-comedy). Naturally, it’s nominated in the “Book of the Year” category.

• Speaking of Larry Blamire, Martin Arlt interviewed the filmmaker in “Mad Scientist Magazine #22” and his efforts netted him a “Best Interview” nomination.

• Other “Best Blog” nominees that I feel “Scared Silly” fans will enjoy greatly include award-winning sci-fi author August Ragone’s “The Good, the Bad & the Godzilla,” “Monster Island News” and the “Secret Fun Blog.”

…and “Best Toy, Model or Collectible?” Well, really, who could resist Funko’s Universal Monster Plushies?

Funko Universal Monsters

I can’t… can you?!

So that’s the skinny. You can vote for as few or as many categories as you like. I encourage you to take a good look at the ballot, and once you make your choices, email your votes to and be sure to include your name (the awards has a one vote per person rule) by Midnight, March 27, 2011.

Meanwhile, here's a nice montage of Rondo Hatton movie posters:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Kenneth Mars Producers

One of the most hilarious character actors ever has left us. Kenneth Mars is one of those performers that appeared in many projects and was always excellent, but had he done nothing else but his two most famous roles, his place in comedy history would be ensured.

Those roles? Misguided playwright Franz Liebkind from one of the funniest (if not the funniest) films of all time, Mel Brooks' "The Producers." Brooks also provided Mars with his other most famous role, that of Inspector Kemp in the 1970s horror-comedy homage to Universal monster movies, "Young Frankenstein."

Mars did a myriad of other work (many fans cite "What's Up Doc" as another Mars highlight), including several genre and fantasy shows like "Get Smart" and "The Ghost of Mrs. Muir" but his only other forays into horror comedy were doing voices for Scooby Doo and Teen Wolf cartoons. His performances were always top-notch and professional even when the scripts and productions he appeared in weren't.

Here then is a clip from "Young Frankenstein" with Mars spoofing the clueless inspector roles that often populated the Universal monster films. Rest in peace, funny man!

Monday, February 14, 2011



Vincent Price

One of my all time favorite films is the Vincent Price classic “The Abominable Dr. Phibes.” I won’t be reviewing it for the “Scared Silly” project because it really isn’t a horror-comedy – it’s more of a horror film with some comedic aspects - dark, black comedy (juxtaposed against some wonderfully colorful art direction). And even if it was a full-fledged horror-comedy it was made in 1971, a full five years after my cut-off date of 1966 (which I’ve designated as the year of the last traditional horror-comedy, Don Knotts’ “The Ghost & Mr. Chicken”). “Phibes” really is a one-of-a-kind not to be missed film, however – check out its trailer:

The reason I’m talking about “Dr. Phibes” on Valentine’s Day is because the “Phibes” movie poster based its wonderful “Love means never having to say you’re ugly” tagline on the tagline of one of the biggest hits of the prior year, “Love Story” starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw.

Ryan O'Neal Ali McGraw

That melodramatic weeper’s tagline “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” became a mantra for many men who were sorry they had to sit through the whole treacly affair, but too afraid to admit as much to their wives and girlfriends! Years later, a shopping mall offered free La-Z Boy recliners to any man who could actually sit through the whole “Love Story” - multiple times in a row - without falling asleep or bailing out completely, as detailed in this news report:

I’ve always found it hard to warm up to love stories about dullard and/or self-centered humans – and there seem to be so many. When love stories show up in comedies, action or horror films, they just seem more real to me (even if the trappings are pure fantasy) because the mettle required to truly sacrifice yourself for your loved one just seems more sincere when you have to face a horrible monster, dangerous villain or even a guy in a bad gorilla suit to do so.

Stan Laurel Oliver Hardy

Here’s one of the all-time great examples of unrequited love. It comes from a sublime classic among horror films, “The Bride of Frankenstein.” Again, this isn’t a horror-comedy, but it is a horror film with ample doses of comedy thrown in (along with fantasy, sci-fi, romance, tragedy and all sorts of underlying meanings and themes). And it is required viewing.

There’s an offshoot of the “horror-comedy” film genre that I like to call the “supernatural romantic comedy.” These are films involving one or more partners in a love story who are either ghosts, witches or some sort of supernatural creature. They aren’t always “horror-comedies” because they tend to be on the light breezy side without any of the requisite creepy trappings although sometimes they do have scenes where those supernatural powers are being used to frighten an antagonist deserving of come-uppance. Some examples of films in the “supernatural romantic comedy” genre include “I Married a Witch” and the “Topper” movie series.

One of the all-time best “supernatural romantic comedies” also happens to be one of the best Abbott & Costello movies ever made as well. It’s a movie a lot of people remember - just check out the message boards at – at least once a month a visitor stops by to ask “what was that film where Costello was a ghost trapped in a wishing well?” Gordon Lightfoot even referenced it in a song – at least I think he did, as he sings “just like an old time movie ‘bout a ghost from a wishing well,” and I still haven’t found another film that fits that description (believe me, I’ve tried).

So to all my “Scared Silly” readers, here’s wishing you a very happy Valentine’s Day. And if you want to watch a good supernatural love story, skip “Ghost” this year and watch Abbott & Costello’s “The Time of Their Lives” instead. Lou Costello actually makes a believable and quite likeable romantic hero, and both he and partner Bud Abbott deliver some top-notch dramatic performances (and of course comedic bits as well). My experience has been that it’s the one Abbott & Costello film that people who don’t usually like Abbott & Costello actually enjoy. So what are you waiting for? Go enjoy it already!

(P.S.: It's a good one for President's Day, too)!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Bela Lugosi Dracula

I’ve been thinking about Dracula, specifically Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the character in the greatest horror-comedy of all-time, "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein." It dawns on me that the screenplay of that film and Lugosi's performance within it have done more to solidify Dracula's standing among monster-dom than perhaps anything else. By that I mean that it presents the bloodthirsty count as a major player who not only can wreak havoc in his own world (as in the original Lugosi "Dracula" from 1931) but is also an imposing figure on the world stage. He's not just Dracula terrorizing Transylvania; he's an ubelieveably formidible proponent of evil who can bring the entire world to its knees if not stopped.

Dr. Doom Marvel Comics

The Dracula of "A&C Meet Frankenstein" is akin to a James Bond villain, or a major comic book megalomaniacal fiend like Superman's Lex Luthor or the Fantastic Four's Doctor Doom. Someone who is cunning, intelligent and can have legions at his beck and call at any time… and manipulate them to enact his diabolical schemes. You see this played out specifically in "Mad Monster Party" and "The Monster Squad” and countless films from around the globe, be it the classy Hammer horrors from England to the bombastic Paul Naschy monster epics from Spain, from the slapdash cult curios like Al Adamson’s “Dracula vs. Frankenstein” to the big-budget actioner “Van Helsing.” Which is quite ironic when you take into account how many “die-hard” classic monster fans despise the Abbott & Costello film as what they label the “death-knell” of the Universal Monsters.

Dracula Mad Monster Party

The truth is, as I explored in my review of the film, the monsters were actually treated with respect and given a new lease on life via their encounters with Bud and Lou. And Dracula? He became the biggest baddie of them all in the process. He runs the show and strikes ultimate fear as the most evil of monsters. Which makes the heroes’ inevitable victories over him all the sweeter. Bravo, Frederic I. Rinaldo and Robert Lees (scribes behind “A&C Meet Frankenstein”) and bravo times ten to the irrepressible Bela – who at age 65 essayed the role of his most famous character with all the gusto (and maybe more so) that he did back in the original 1931 “Dracula” movie (when he was merely 48)!

oh chick part 2

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