Wednesday, December 31, 2014
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 Ken Mandel of the West Orange Classic Film Festival who invited me to be the guest-speaker at a special screening of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein at their 2014 festival early this year. 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).
I also want to give special thanks to Colette Joel and David Key, the owners, CEOs and Executive Producers at Handshake Away Productions, who, after seeing my work on this blog brought me on board a special documentary about the Bowery Boys as a fellow Executive Producer, Writer, Creative Consultant and Music Supervisor. The Bowery Boys' films are among my favorite classic comedies, and they did make several notable horror-comedy films, all of which will be reviewed in the Scared Silly book.
Another round of special thanks goes to the fine folks at the Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey, who had me as one of their special guests at their annual holiday dinner. It was a terrific time and I got to talk a lot about horror-comedies and Scared Silly.
This was a particularly busy year for me with personal appearances at both comic shops and and comic conventions. You can read about many of those appearances by clicking here. Special thanks goes out to Spiro Ballas of Superheroes For Hospice, Alex Simmons of Kids' Comic Con, Jeff Beck of East Side Mags, Chuck Kahl of Comic Book Market, Rene Rosa of Jim Hanley's Universe, John Belskis from Albany Comic Con, Dan Bear of Jersey Shore Comic Con and John Paul of NJ Comic Book Expo. Thanks to all the wonderful comics creators who I was able to appear alongside this year as well - too numerous to name. To them and to all all those who made those appearances happen, I say "thank you!"
Several projects kept me busy this year so of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fine folks at Archie Comics (particularly Duncan McLachlan) who inaugurated a new series of vintage reprint collections with a special Christmas book I compiled, Erica Schultz who edited a special "anti-bullying" story which will appear in schools sometime in 2015 courtesy of Northwest Press, the TwoMorrows Press team who have handed my colleague Rik Offenberger and I a choice assignment in putting together a history of the MLJ Heroes, for publication in 2015; and Dave Ryan of Red Anvil Press, who has let me run hog wild on the script for the all-star comedy opus, War of the Independents #4, also due out in 2015.
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)!
While my schedule didn't permit me to write any reviews this year, I still want to send a general thanks out to the following: 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!
More so than any previous year, I must say 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!
Friday, December 26, 2014
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).
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
THIS IS AN "ENCORE" POST - I ORIGINALLY POSTED THIS ENTRY IN 2009 AND THOUGHT I'D RE-POST IT FOR ANYONE WHO MAY HAVE MISSED IT - MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Christmas is almost here, and I wanted to share some of the foremost holiday monsters with you. Only I didn’t want to do so on Christmas itself, as I take the holiday seriously from a spiritual standpoint.
Anyway, in the fictional legends that have sprung up over the years around the holiday, ghosts and monsters have played a major role. Just think of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for starters. A pure ghost story… with one seriously scary Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come!
So in the world of holiday fantasies, a few monsters stand out, and we’ll take a look at them now (with one caveat that should be noted: I know the following are not technically "horror-comedies" but since all contain some humor and give folks warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia, I'm being a bit generous in this post).
We have to begin of course with the Bogeymen from Laurel & Hardy’s 1934 classic “Babes in Toyland” (aka “March of the Wooden Soldiers”). These creatures from Bogeyland live in the bowels of the earth, in a horrible, frightening place that is the polar opposite of bright, happy Toyland, where Santa and his workers make the toys for the world’s children. And while their leader, the evil Silas Barnaby would like nothing more than to use his monster army to take over Toyland, he’s no match for toymakers Stannie Dumm and Ollie Dee… and 100 wooden soldiers each 6 feet high! As Ollie describes the Bogeymen, “they’re terrible looking things – they’re half man and half animal… with great big ears, and great big mouths, and long claws that they catch you with!” You can catch a glimpse of the Bogeymen toward the end of this trailer:
Next up is The Bumble (pictured at top) from the classic 1964 TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” This was produced by Rankin-Bass, the studio behind the classic horror-comedy “Mad Monster Party.” Utilizing their signature stop-motion animated puppet style (which they dubbed “Ani-Magic”), the special built upon the elements from the original 1939 story by Robert L. May, the famous song written by May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks (which became a huge hit for Gene Autry) and the 1948 animated theatrical short from Max Fleischer. Rudolph was given much more backstory in the Rankin-Bass special, and a larger supporting cast, including the Abominable Snow Creature known as “The Bumble.” The fearsome creature menaces Rudolph and his friends but as anyone who has seen this classic knows (and who hasn’t seen it?) there’s a very good reason for the Bumble’s agitation… and a happy ending for all!
The most recent spooky holiday star is "The Nightmare Before Christmas"'s Jack Skellington and all his friends from Halloweentown. Jack is simply enchanted by the magic in neighboring Christmastown and wants to bring some home for himself. And that’s where the trouble starts! This clash of the holidays originated as a poem from the limitlessly creative imagination of animator-director-producer Tim Burton. Director Henry Selick brought Burton’s concepts and designs to life in dynamic fashion in a mixed-media production that is equal parts stop-motion puppetry (a la one of Burton’s favorite films, “Mad Monster Party”) combined with cut-out designs and other special animated effects. Check out the trailer here.
While Jack Skellington wanted to abscond Christmas to share with his friends (a tinsel-clad Robin Hood) there is one nasty holiday horror who hated Christmas and didn’t want anyone to enjoy it: Dr. Seuss’s immortal Grinch! The famous book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by writer-cartoonist Seuss (real name Ted Geisel, who once contributed to some classic Warner Brothers theatrical cartoons including adaptations of his children's books as well as the classic Snafu shorts made for the war department) detailed how this foul fiend with a heart two sizes too small tried to hijack the holiday. Of course, the operative word is “try,” as we all know the Christmas spirit will triumph in the end! Interestingly enough, the Grinch shares more in common with Jack Skellington than merely pilfering Christmas - the Grinch got himself all tangled up in Halloween, too in the 1977 special "Halloween is Grinch Night." As for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," most are familiar with the classic 1966 animated TV special directed by animation legend Chuck Jones... and I’ll leave it at that, as I prefer to think the live-action fiasco of a few years back never happened!
So here’s wishing all Scared Silly fans the happiest and safest of holidays, and every blessing for the New Year!
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Well, fans this year sure went by fast! It was an extremely busy year for me with a variety of comics and movie-related projects… and several personal appearances.
This weekend marks the final two personal appearances of 2014 for me, and if you’re in the New Jersey area, I’d love to meet you! At each appearance I will have plenty of copies of my Archie’s Weird Mysteries and Vincent Price books available for sale and will autograph each. And of course, I’ll have free Scared Silly bookmarks! New for this year and perfect for the holiday season is Archie’s Favorite Christmas Comics, a book I researched, compiled and edited, and for which I also wrote some special introductions.
The fun starts on Saturday, December 13th when I'll be a special guest at the Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey's (SFSNNJ) Annual Holiday Dinner. I'll be one of two guest panelists (the other being author Robert Schneck) and we'll both be talking about past, present and upcoming projects as well as all sorts of fun stuff in a presentation that will be moderated by my friend, author Don Smith. The event begins at 6:30 at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Ramsey, NJ. Click here for more details.
The next day, Sunday, December 14th I'll be appearing at the Clifton NJ Comic Book Expo, held at the Clifton Recreation Center from 10-4. The show, created by John Paul has been running for years, and it’s always a great time there. If you've never been to one of John Paul's Comic Book Expo's, the annual holiday show is a great place to start. You'll find many great gifts for the comics fan on your list... and perhaps some goodies for yourself, too! Find more details when you click here.
Hope to meet some of you soon!
Now here’s a video highlighting the Clifton Comic Book Expo… and in addition to John Paul, you’ll also see Don Smith, moderator of my SFSNNJ appearance. Enjoy!
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Earlier this week Ken Weatherwax, the actor who, as a child portrayed Pugsley Addams, son of Gomez and Morticia and brother of sister Wednesday in the classic sitcom (or should I say, “goth-com”), The Addams Family, passed away at the age of 59 after suffering a heart attack.
The Addams Family TV series ran from 1964-66 – one of a handful of two-season shows to attain immortality through constant reruns (like that other monstrous family, The Munsters and F Troop, the cavalry comedy featuring Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker in pre-Ghost Busters days). Of course, it wouldn’t be immortal if it wasn’t also good.
(Side note: 1964 was a magical year… the “Monster Kid” craze was in full force – at least eight years young and showing no signs of slowing down… and with the simultaneous debuts of The Addams Family and The Munsters the “mainstream” acknowledged the craze as more than a passing fad).
It couldn’t help but be good, given its pedigree. The show was based on the long-running New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams (pre-dating the show by some 30 years!) depicting an offbeat and more than slightly macabre family who had an allegedly (alleged by “normal” folks) skewed view of life that was in actuality totally unpretentious. Both the New Yorker cartoons and the sitcom that followed were steeped in black humor that was both stinging in its social commentary and probably more sophisticated than the majority of each’s contemporaries in magazine cartoons and television comedies.
It is my assertion that The Addams Family, perhaps more than many classic sitcoms, works so beautifully because every single element of the show – every actor from featured player to guest-stars to bit players – and every element from costumes, makeup, set design and special effects – was handled at the highest level of excellence at all times. No one piece or detail was greater than another – all elements were treated as equally important (astounding when one considers the sheer comedic brilliance of John Astin – who could have stolen every episode with his eyes closed – and yet his performances always organically play into the whole) and so the show continues to get better and better with age, like a fine wine.
A vital part of the mix were the parts played in the stories by the Addams children, Pugsley (Weatherwax) and Wednesday (Lisa Loring). Inventive, shrewd and free-thinking, the Addams children were responsible for several hysterical set-pieces. Pugsley’s stock-in-trade was creating creepy contraptions that would be more at home either on the battlefield (explosives a specialty!) or a medieval torture chamber. He’d win first prize at every science fair if Professor Tim Burton were the judge. Ken Weatherwax portrayed the character in a droll, matter-of-fact manner, a layer of shellacked innocence camouflaging the twisted genius within.
The Examiner’s James Neibaur was the first in the newsmedia to break the news of Weatherwax’s untimely passing, which had originally been relayed by Weatherwax’s niece via social media. In addition to being a journalist, Neibaur is a celebrated pop culture historian who has researched and authored several books on classic movies, television and music and the folks behind it all. Click here to see a selection of Neibaur’s available books (highly recommended by me!), and click here to read his obituary of Weatherwax.
Now enjoy this short clip of Weatherwax at work: