Friday, October 1, 2010


Leo Gorcey Huntz Hall Bowery Boys

Happy October! Well, here we are again with a new month. Alas, September didn’t go as planned (I had hoped to have some more reviews up but once again other commitments had to take priority). But there’s always this month to give it another shot, eh?

Speaking of this month, it’s a good one to take a look in on Turner Classic Movies as they’ll be airing several classic horror-comedies in anticipation of Halloween. They’ll be showing a whole host of straight horror films as well (although there is a lot of comedy to be found – some of it even intentional – in some of the classic Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, etc. offerings TCM has on tap, too – just click here to check out the full month’s schedule).

But back to the horror-comedies – there are two bona fide horror-comedy entries, three “horror-onable mentions” and one horror-comedy template on the schedule.

It all kicks off on October 5th at 12:45 AM with “I Married a Witch.” This film with its solid trio of Frederick March, Veronica Lake and Susan Hayward falls into the “horror-onable mention” category. There are no overt attempts at “haunting” or horror trappings but you have to give it its due for being the antecedent to TV’s “Bewitched” and comic book's’ “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”

October 20th delivers an undisputed classic of the horror-comedy genre, “Arsenic & Old Lace,” airing at 11:45 AM. I won’t say much about it in this post because I’m determined to get my review of the film up before the year is out. Besides, director John Landis (who has a few horror-comedies of his own on his resume) has some things to say about it at the bottom of this post so I’ll give him the floor this time.

October 22nd brings a double dose of films from the “Topper” friendly-ghost movie series – except “Topper Returns” which is the one film in the trilogy with liberal doses of haunted house trappings. Still the other two entries are great “horror-onable mentions” – how can you go wrong with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett in the lead of “Topper” and Constance returning for “Topper Takes a Trip.” You can catch the former at 11:45 AM and the latter at 1:30 PM. Both films are great screwball fun with a dollop of romantic comedy thrown into the mix.

On October 30th get set for two great flicks. First up are the Bowery Boys in one of their greatest horror-comedies ever, “The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters.” It’s like they took the Addams Family and the Munsters and mixed them into a stew with every wacky mad scientist that ever appeared in a Three Stooges short (even though "The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters" came out years before the Addams and Munsters shows). The overlay of the brilliant Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and the rest of the Bowery gang brings this one home in a big way.

Also on the 30th is the great terror-template, "The Old Dark House." You may have read my review of William Castle’s comedy remake. The original was more of a straight-up horror with a lot of black comedy elements. As a template for haunted house trappings in a not-entirely serious setting, “The Old Dark House” is a must-see.

So that’s what’s on tap, as far as I can see. If I’ve missed any others, please be sure to send me a comment or email to let me know.

Now, as promised here is “An American Werewolf in London” and “Innocent Blood” director John Landis’ commentary on the trailer for “Arsenic & Old Lace,” courtesy of Trailers From Hell:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul,
    Always was a big fan of both the Gorcey & Hall films, from all their incarnations as members of the "East Side Kids" to "The Bowery Boys", as well as anything "Addams/Munsters", and would wait 'back-in-the-day' and keep checking the TV GUIDE listings to see when WNEW-5 would be showing "The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters" again.
    Not often enough to suit my taste though.
    As a result developed anxiety;D
    But seriously, viewed the 1954 'overgrown adolescents vs. spooks (& scientist!)' as the direct antecedent of the 1964 sitcoms, even at that young age (7) when seemingly monsters were just about everywhere and Boris Karloff graced the cover of the September 1964 issue of LOOK magazine.
    I thought that maybe someone at CBS or ABC saw this and copied the concept from the Bowery Boys "programmer", being unaware at the time of Chas. Addams and his wonderfully off-kilter humor and cartoons for "The New Yorker".
    Only later as a pre-teen (10) actually had a chance to savor the original illustrations via the Public Library.
    What I would like to know Paul is your opinion regarding the influence of both the original Chas. Addams drawings of the spooky but as of yet (1954) unnamed matriarch based on his wife Barbara Jean Day,

    and Maila Nurmi's creation/portrayal of "Vampira" who was first aired as a preview at 11:00 p.m., "Dig Me Later", April 30, 1954,
    on KABC-TV, and the character "Francine Gravesend" (Laura Mason) as seen in "Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters" release date June 6, 1954.
    Also in closing the creepy butler "Grissom" ("Gruesome";D) played by Paul Wexler, "Captain Seas" from the ill-fated 1975 "Doc Savage-Man of Bronze", also it seems was one of the alternate "Lurches" up for the role before the producers settled on Ted Cassidy (but you already know this):

    As well as the whole 'alternate' "Addams" cast:

    Thanks for a most excellent and informative blog, and hope you've a truly happy "All Hallows Eve"!

    Mr. On