Friday, January 14, 2011


Red Skelton Whistling in the Dark

Turner Classic Movies has been offering a smorgasbord of classic horror-comedy this January! Their festival of Hal Roach Studios films has thus far resulted in marathons of Our Gang (aka The Little Rascals) and Laurel & Hardy, including several great scare comedies from both teams. But TCM isn’t done – the rest of the month they have at least three more Hal Roach horror-comedy classics, plus a couple of bonus films for fans of spooky/kooky fare.

The fun starts this Saturday, January 15th at 6AM with one of those bonus films. Namely, legendary comic Red Skelton’s first starring role as radio announcer, Wally “The Fox” Benton in "Whistling in the Dark," holed up in a haunted house with beauteous Ava Gardner and Ann Rutherford as the intrepid trio try to solve a macabre mystery. Conrad Veidt and Rags Ragland are also along for the fun.

On Wednesday, January 19th we’re back in Hal Roach territory with two classic horror-comedy shorts. First, the great (and vastly underrated) Charley Chase gets the living daylights scared out of him (and then some) in “Public Ghost No. 1.” The horrific hysterics start at 10AM. Then at noon, one of Hal Roach’s attempts to duplicate the success of Laurel & Hardy with other resident comedy teams unveils. “Wreckety Wrecks” is a “Taxi Boys” short – the boys being Ben Blue and oft-Laurel & Hardy nemesis Billy Gilbert (who was also part of a comedy trio with Shemp Howard and Maxie Rosenbloom that made the horror-comedy, “Crazy Knights,” aka “Ghost Crazy.”)

One of TCM’s perennials gets another airing 10AM on Sunday, January 23rd. “I Married a Witch” 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 books’ “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” And it stars a solid cast of pros including Frederick March, Veronica Lake and Susan Hayward.

Wednesday the 26th brings an encore of the Hal Roach produced “Topper Returns” at 2:45 PM. This is an entry from the “Topper” friendly-ghost movie series – and as I’ve mentioned before it’s the one film in the trilogy with liberal doses of haunted house trappings. Well worth a look…

…as is this great trailer for the Red Skelton film we mentioned at the top of this article. And remember to hunker down or set the DVR to enjoy this veritable funny fright fest!

1 comment:

  1. My pal Greg Hilbrich of the indispensible "Columbia Shorts Department" website informs me that there is another Taxi Boys short I failed to mention that has some scares in - namely "The Rummy" - so added to the list it goes as one that will ultimately get at least a mention if not a full review in the to-be-completed-someday "Scared Silly" book! :)