Thursday, December 31, 2015



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 recreating a classic movie matinee at their 2015 festival early this year. It's always great to have an opportunity to be a guest-speaker at screenings of classic films, and this year's program, with a Popeye cartoon, Flash Gordon serial chapter and the Laurel & Hardy classic, The Flying Deuces was a real crowd pleaser! (Teaser: watch this blog for a special announcement about my next guest-speaking gig which is happening very soon).

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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.

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As for the documentary itself, this was an amazing year for me as I participated in the filming of several interviews (many of which I wrote and some which I conducted) with such luminaries as Alec Baldwin, Jamie Farr, Pat Cooper, Bob Burns, Dennis Diken, Saxon Sitka (Emil's son!), Adam Ferrara, Daniel Roebuck and more! I was particularly thrilled to film special segments with friends including Alex Simmons (writer, and founder of Kids' Comic Con), Denny Daniel (founder and curator of The Museum of Interesting Things), Jack Kirby historians Rand Hoppe and Jon B. Cooke, and The Bowery Mission's Jason Storbakken and James Macklin.

This was a particularly busy year for me with personal appearances at both comic shops and and comic conventions. Special thanks goes out to Spiro Ballas of Superheroes For Hospice, Alex Simmons of Kids' Comic Con, Jeff Beck of East Side Mags, 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!"

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)!

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!

Saturday, December 26, 2015


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Hope your holidays were grand, friends! Here's a few additional goodies to keep you in the festive spirit... and with the day after Christmas falling on a Saturday this year, consider this the perfect selection of "Saturday Morning Cartoons," too!

(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).


Friday, December 18, 2015


Rudolph the Red-Noised Reindeer Bumble


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!

Thursday, November 26, 2015


NOTE: This is a re-post of an entry I originally posted on Thanksgiving, 2010.

Babes Toyland Wooden Soldiers

RATING: *** & ¾ out of ****

AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: I’m running a review of this film today because the film is a Thanksgiving tradition in the New York Tri-State area where I grew up and still live. WPIX Channel 11 has run this film almost every year on Thanksgiving for the past 40 or so years (and is doing so again today) and I can not underestimate the impact this film had on me, truly an annual "event" I looked forward to year after year as a child.

AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: As of this writing I’m still debating whether to include this film among the main Laurel & Hardy horror-comedy entries or whether to place it in the “horror-onable mention” section. The film is not a horror-comedy per se – in fact, it is a children’s fantasy that makes ample use of classic fairy tale characters. Furthermore, a major motif in the film is Santa and his toymakers readying Christmas gifts for the children in the off-season. But its horrific moments and characters are quite palpable and place it in a unique category all its own. More on that in the review...

PLOT: The peace and tranquility of the citizens of Toyland (where all the famous nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters live along with Santa Claus and all his helpers) is threatened by its one bad apple: sinister Silas Barnaby (Henry Brandon), a creepy landlord who holds the mortgages on most of the homes in the land, including the shoe-shaped home belonging to the old woman (who lived in a shoe). He also rules the frightening “Bogeyland” and the monstrous “Bogeymen” that inhabit it, a place where criminals are banished as punishment for major crimes. Barnaby is sweet on the old woman’s daughter Little Bo Peep. When Mother Widow Peep (Florence Roberts) can’t meet the mortgage payment on the shoe, Barnaby offers to forget the whole matter if she’ll consent to offering Bo Peep’s hand in marriage to Barnaby. Neither Mother nor Bo Peep, who is in love with Tom Tom the Piper’s Son (Felix Knight) are willing to submit to Barnaby’s demand and so he threatens to evict everyone out of the shoe. Enter two of the shoe’s tenants, Stannie Dumm (Stan Laurel) and Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy), who vow to get a loan from their boss the toymaker (William Burress) to prevent such a travesty. That doesn’t go over too well as the “boys” get in a heap of trouble with the toymaker after Santa does a spot check at the toy factory. St. Nick wants to see how things are coming along and learns that Stannie got his wooden soldiers order all mixed up – instead of 600 soldiers at one foot high, 100 soldiers each six feet high have been created! A series of triumphs and reversals follow for Stannie, Ollie, Bo Peep and Tom Tom and when it becomes apparent that Barnaby can no longer “trick” his way to achieving his evil desires, he enlists the aid of the ferocious half-men, half-monster Bogeymen to rout Toyland. Can our heroes find a way to defeat these abominable creatures, and what will become of Bo Peep, Tom Tom and the wooden soldiers?

REVIEW: Testament to the role this film has played in my life: I’ve seen it so many times I didn't even need to re-watch it to review it! Without question, this film, based on the Victor Herbert operetta is one of the most unique films ever made – as both a comedy film by major stars and as a holiday classic it stands pretty much alone. Only the all-star “Alice in Wonderland” which also stars Charlotte Henry in the title role (along with Cary Grant, W.C. Fields, Leon Errol, Jack Oakie, Sterling Holloway, Edward Everett Horton, Charles Ruggles and others) comes close but ultimately it's no cigar – while that earlier film shares “Babe’s” weird and spooky oddness it lacks the charm and humor of the Laurel & Hardy opus which despite several terror-filled sequences is filled with hope and optimism. And “Alice” certainly doesn’t evoke any warm-fuzzy holiday feelings... it is most decidedly not a holiday classic.

Where can I even begin? This is one of those films that has to be seen – mere words cannot convey the wonders this film undolds. I suppose I’ll get the intentional and unintentional scares out of the way first:

Silas Barnaby, as performed with relish and flourish by Henry Brandon (real name: Kleinbach) is a dastardly villain of the highest order. He has a huge “creepy” and “spooky” factor, not unlike many of the fiends Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price essayed over their illustrious careers. It is a performance for the ages. Brandon treads that line between funny and purely evil that not many actors since have accomplished (Heath Ledger’s interpretation of Batman’s nemesis “The Joker” is the most recent example I can think of but there have been few and far between). Most amazing of all, Brandon did it at the tender age of 22. That is an amazing accomplishment not just because he’s playing a character much older but also because of all he was able to bring to the character – if you didn’t know Brandon’s real age you’d swear that he had already witnessed decades of villainy to inspire his portrayal. Brandon played many other notable roles through the years (including a part in the Martin & Lewis horror-comedy “Scared Stiff”) and even acted up until the year before his death in 1990 but when all is said and done it is not a stretch to claim that history will put Barnaby at the top of his most memorable roles. Brandon returned to the character three years later and that turn was just as memorable as the original. In the short “Our Gang Follies of 1938” (filmed and released in 1937) Brandon is the Opera House impresario who signs famed Little Rascal Alfalfa to a crooked contract whose deception is worthy of those the devil dealt in “The Devil & Tom Walker,” “The Devil & Daniel Webster,” “Damn Yankees,” “Bedazzled” and so many other tales. The unbreakable contract requires Alfalfa to sing “The Barber of Seville” at his opera house… forever! The character is never called “Barnaby” by name in the short, but in the script he is identified as such.

Babes Toyland Wooden Soldiers

Barnaby has a manservant, naturally, and as the illogic in old movies usually goes, the villains always pick ineffective manservants like hunchbacks and mutes (sometimes they’re both at the same time). Here, the manservant is a diminutive dwarf played by John George. He is oddly creepy in his own right (which may be the context more than anything – the costumes in this film are creepy as is the lighting and Barnaby’s villainy and lair, and since George appears in those scenes, his character takes on those attributes as well… except when Barnaby laces into him, resulting in some audience sympathy toward the character). He is also somewhat reminiscent of Angelo Rossitto, another dwarf actor with a lengthy career who often appeared in the same manservant capacity, most notably alongside Bela Lugosi in various films including the East Side Kids horror-comedy, “Spooks Run Wild.” Rossitto also appears in "Babes," as one of the little pigs as well as one of the sandmen fairies during the lullaby scene (more on both below).

Barnaby’s minions, “The Bogeymen” are horrific monster-men designed to give children (and maybe a few adults) nightmares. Less frightening once you get past a certain age and spot the rubber faces and the pillow pads within their shaggy suits, they are also fairly unique considering the year the movie came out. The most natural comparisons would be movie werewolves and ape men but most of those types of films (such as “Werewolf of London” and “The Wolf Man” and “The Ape Man”) came out after “Babes.” Prior to “Babes,” the most notable example was “The Island of Lost Souls” a year earlier and perhaps some of Lon Chaney Sr.’s silent monster films. Like Barnaby, the Bogeymen (or at least A BogeyMAN) would return in an “Our Gang” short. Well, at least the costume and mask (without an actor inside) would, as Alfalfa, Buckwheat and Porky are scared witless by a Bogeyman that flings out of a hidden panel during an unplanned (and unrealized by the kids) journey through a spooky carnival funhouse in the last Hal Roach-produced “Our Gang” short , “Hide & Shriek” (1938). Not to be outdone, Barnaby is also evoked in an early scene that has "detektive" Alfalfa showing off his expertise at disguises - answering the door dressed as Barnaby complete with hat, cape and cane!

Barnaby and the Bogey Men are the obviously scary elements, but the whole production has an (appropriately) surreal and otherworldly sensibility that sometimes borders on the eerie, with even some of the favorite children’s characters rendered in slightly “off” costumes and masks that are downright spooky at times. These include the Three Little Pigs, played by dwarves (including the aforementioned cult film favorite Angelo Rossitto) and children (including Payne B. Johnson who is still with us as of this writing – I had the pleasure of meeting him at the 2006 Sons of the Desert convention in Atlanta, GA) in garish costumes. The masks make the faces of the pigs seem a little scary – they look old and wrinkled and not capable of showing much emotion (especially since you can’t really see their eyes), which heightens the bizarre feeling (a pig jumping up and down and clapping its hands in victory with an emotionless face is an odd thing indeed. There is also man in a cat suit (Pete Gordon, who played the Chinese cook in Laurel & Hardy’s horror-comedy classic “The Live Ghost”) with a fiddle, naturally, who comes off slightly scary – mostly unintentionally although there is one cheat scare when Ollie is explaining to Stan about the Bogeyman’s horrible claws… just as the “cat” puts its paw on Stan’s shoulder!

One scene that was edited out of many television prints through the years had Tom Tom, having been banished to Bogeyland after being falsely accused of pignapping (Barnaby framed him of of course) comforting Bo Peep, who had traveled into Bogeyland after her true love. Tom Tom sings Bo Peep to sleep with a lullaby while fairies (played by dwarves again… perhaps the producers of the still-a-few-years-away “Wizard of Oz” took notice of these diminutive thesps with big talents) dance overhead in spectral, see-through form. The ghostly figures make the scene more eerie than magical for me.

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Oddest of all however has to be... Mickey Mouse. You heard that right, Mickey Mouse. PLAYED BY A MONKEY! I always personally loved the monkey-in-a-mouse suit character, but I know others who were totally frightened by it. It is weird to say the least (I still wonder how the heck the monkey was able to breathe in that costume). The character is a mix of the plucky and resourceful Mickey from the 1930s black & white cartoons combined with the offbeat, bouncy movements of a typical monkey (the character gets a major moment of its own during the climactic battle with the Bogeymen, piloting a toy zeppelin and dropping explosives onto the monsters from overhead). The Hal Roach Studios (producers of the film) had a long-standing relationship with the Disney studio and their “stars” occasionally crossed over (Laurel & Hardy are prominent in the classic “Mickey’s Polo Team” and in the same year as “Babes” Mickey and Stan & Ollie co-starred again in the all-star MGM feature, “Hollywood Party”). This friendly co-existence between Disney and Roach also extended to Disney granting Roach the rights to use the smash hit song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” in “Babes” (the award-winning animated “Three Little Pigs” Disney short having debuted the year before).

I have always found this film absolutely delightful. As a child I don’t remember being scared by the spookier elements; it’s only as I grew older that I realized how frightening some elements in this film are. But I am still delighted by it, for two reasons. First, Laurel & Hardy are simply sublime as usual in this film. Their comedy is warm, funny and at times magically surreal and the screen characters audiences had become used to remain intact in the middle of this high fantasy. Perhaps since I had seen so many other features and shorts by the duo as a child I knew that they “always came back” for another adventure, so I was certain that they would help defeat the marauding monsters (despite fearful moments of real terror and concern – such as when the Bogeymen snatch Toyland’s children from their beds). I also grew up in a time where Hollywood saw the value in the darker side of the fairy tale. Overcoming fears and learning important lessons through scary allegories were hallmarks of children’s stories. Disney knew this well – during Hollywood’s golden age his “Snow White & the Seven Dwarves” and “Pinocchio” didn’t pull any punches in the “scares” department. This approach lasted at least through the early 1970s with Gene Wilder’s masterful portrayal of the alternately whimsical/frightening title character of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Somewhere along the line, the “gatekeepers” decided that scares had to be skirted in children’s fantasies, leaving whole generations with much more homogenized stories lacking true heart and humanity.

“Babes in Toyland” has a slippery history. Hal Roach originally bought the rights to do a film version of the Herbert operetta "Babes" then realized it had very little plot, at least not one that would easily accommodate a feature film (it was fine for the stage where it worked perfectly as a lovely revue of childhood memories of the toy chest set to song). So Roach conceived a story with Stan and Ollie as “Simple Simon and the Pie Man.” The villain was a spider who turned into a man and put “hate” into the wooden soldiers so they could ravage the town and eliminate “love and happiness.” It sounds a lot like the Beatles’ classic animated feature “Yellow Submarine” which would be released 32 years later… but as envisioned by Roach, the studio would have been hard-pressed to convey the abstract elements of his idea and there hardly seems room for typical Stan and Ollie antics within. Thankfully Laurel, the creative architect of most of the team’s films (he wrote gags and stories and often directed many scenes – mostly uncredited) won out over Roach and collaborated with his own writers and gagmen to deliver the film we know and love today. As odd as it may sound, to me Laurel’s version anticipates Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (condensed from a combined ten plus hours to “Babe’s” compact 78 minutes) with the unlikely heroes (Stan & Ollie/Frodo & Samwise) routing the mephistophelean villain (Barnaby/Saruman) and his minions (The Bogeymen/The Orcs). But maybe that’s just me...

The other side of this film’s checkered past has to do with its release history. (it’s so confusing in fact that I’m not even fully certain if the following is entirely accurate). The film was sold off by Roach to an independent distributor named Robert Lippert. It was reissued to theaters several times over the years under various names such as “March of the Toys,” “March of the Wooden Soldiers” (its most commonly known moniker) and the non-sequitur non de plum, “Revenge is Sweet.” It made the rounds of schools where it was shown to students on 16mm projectors. Ultimately it wound up on TV, where it became a staple broadcast around the holidays (run on or near Thanksgiving or Christmas and sometimes both). When the growing popularity of VCR’s made videotapes as attractive to buy as they were to rent, several companies released the film under the mistaken notion that the film was in the public domain. The truth was that the Tribune Broadcasting Company (owners of WGN in Chicago and WPIX in New York City) had an ownership stake. At some point they lost the rights and the Samuel Goldwyn Company snatched them up, colorizing the film for home video release and then a national syndication deal (which Tribune signed on for). This colorized version is broadcast on TV to this day. Meanwhile, the DVD age ushered in more home video releases by companies assuming the film was in the public domain (these included a newly colorized version from Legend Films that was an improvement over the original color job but still looks like kids using their Crayolas over old film frames to this reviewer). When MGM bought out Goldwyn’s assets, they ended up owning a film they had released and distributed in the first place. A couple years back they gave the world a wonderful Christmas present in the form of a DVD of the film in its pristine, original black & white form… complete with all scenes intact and the original “Babes in Toyland” title cards!

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The film as it stands is an amazing, unique achievement. The comedy of Stan & Ollie is in high gear and one can’t help but laugh and smile from ear to ear when they are onscreen. The horrific aspects are appropriate for a classic approach to fairy tales, the benevolent Toyland characters are warmly drawn and the rescue of Toyland by Stan, Ollie and the Wooden Soldiers is rousing indeed. While some of the songs sung by the romantic leads have a tendency to slow the film down in spots (the one thing that keeps me from giving it a full four star review), they don’t overpower it. The overall plot, while taking a few meandering detours still has a beginning, middle and end and adheres to the old adage from Chekhov wherein he states that if a gun is shown in the first act, it better go off in the third. The gun here is the wooden soldiers, and the resonance is the fact that the hero’s seeming mistake (Stan’s botching of the wooden soldiers order) is the very thing that ends up saving the day. Kind of like Frodo taking that ring...

BEST DIALOGUE AND GAGS (normally I separate these categories but in this film, as in most Laurel & Hardy sound films the verbal and visual gags are often intertwined)

Stan explains to Ollie that he borrowed money from their piggy bank to replace a “pee wee” – a little wooden peg that when hit with a stick returns like a boomerang. Unless you are Ollie, who pompously insists that anything Stan can do he can do… but he can’t! To add insult to injury, Ollie also learns he can’t do Stan’s finger tricks either.

Ollie and Stan have chased Barnaby down a well. “You better come up, dead or alive,” says Stan, alluding to the King’s edict that Barnaby is a wanted fugitive (when the King announces the award for bringing back Barnaby "Dead or Alive," Stan asks "Can't you make up your mind how you want him?"). “Now how can he come up dead when he’s alive,” protests Ollie. “Let’s drop a rock on him,” counters Stan. “Then he’ll come up dead when he’s alive!”

Stan and Ollie have a plan: Stan will show up at Barnaby’s door with a big box – a Christmas present! Inside is Ollie, who plans to sneak out once inside to find and destroy the shoe’s mortgage. Barnaby asks, “Christmas present… in the middle of July?” “We always like to do our Christmas shopping early,” retorts Stan. Their plan backfires when Stan says goodnight to Ollie and Ollie pops his head out of the crate, leading to them being put on trial.

When Ollie gets "dunked" in the lake as punishment for the attempted robbery of the mortgage, he hands Stan his watch for safe keeping. Distressed by the dunking Bo Peep consents to become Barnaby's wife... which means that the charges are withdrawn and Stan doesn't have to get dunked! Ollie doesn't like this and pushes Stan into the lake... and a soaked Stan emerges pulling Ollie's waterlogged watch out of his pocket!

When Bo Peep gives in to Barnaby’s marriage proposal, Ollie explains that Stan is so upset he’s not even going to the wedding. “Upset,” exclaims Stan. “I’m housebroken!” When Mother Peep determines to speak to Barnaby to try to change his mind, Stan says "Her talking to him is just a matter of pouring one ear into another and coming out the other side... can't be done!"

The boys realize that they can pass Stan off as Bo Peep as long as he keeps his face covered by the veil. Their ruse is a success, but Stan is surprised when he can’t leave with Ollie. Ollie explains that now that Stan’s married, he has to stay with Barnaby. “But I don’t love him,” Stan wails!

During Tom Tom’s trial for pignapping, Stan and Ollie sit on the sidelines. The evidence (a plate of sausage links) is placed near where they sit. Stan asks Ollie what it is and Ollie explains that the sausage used to be Elmer the pig (allegedly at least). Stan takes a bite and says it doesn’t take like pig – it tastes like pork to him! This inspires Ollie to take a bite and brings Tom Tom’s innocence to the forefront as Ollie exclaims, “why that’s neither pig nor pork… it’s beef!”

SPOTTED IN THE CAST: My favorite Our Gang/Little Rascals kid, Scotty Beckett has a small part. He made several movies apart from the Gang shorts, but his only other recurring part was as Winky in the “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger” TV series. He worked until 1957 then tragically died eleven years later due to a drug overdose.

Ellen Corby will forever be known as the grandmother on “The Waltons” but her roles are numerous. They include bit parts in two Laurel & Hardy classics (“Sons of the Desert” and “Babes in Toyland,” aka “March of the Wooden Soldiers”), playing a maid in Abbott & Costello’s “The Noose Hangs High” appearing in Jerry Lewis’ “Visit to a Small Planet” and three major horror-comedy roles: playing one of the Gravesend clan in “The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters,” Mother Lurch in the classic “Addams Family” TV series, and Luther Hegg’s childhood schoolteacher in “The Ghost & Mr. Chicken.” In addition to her acting roles, apparently Corby was also a script supervisor at the Roach Studios on numerous Laurel & Hardy, Our Gang, Charley Chase, Thelma Todd & Zasu Pitts/Patsy Kelly, etc., shorts and was also married at the time to Hal Roach cinematographer Francis Corby.

Ironically, Billy Bletcher started out in silent movies, but his career would be made via his deep baritone voice. He appeared in many vintage comedy shorts alongside Laurel & Hardy, the Little Rascals (including “Hide & Shriek”), W.C. Fields and others; classic animated shorts from Disney and Warner Brothers, did a couple voices in “The Wizard of Oz,” and appeared in Red Skelton’s horror-comedy “Whistling in the Dark.” His voice was often utilized to portray villains (he was the voice of The Big Bad Wolf) as well as ghosts and other spooky characters (he lent his talents to the classic Mickey/Donald/Goofy horror-cartoon, “Lonesome Ghosts”).

FURTHER READING: There are many great books on Laurel & Hardy out there but I will single out three that particularly highlight “Babes.” The coffee table book "Laurel & Hardy" by John McCabe and Richard W. Bann has some great production and promotional stills from “Babes.” Randy Skretvedt’s essential, impeccably researched “Laurel & Hardy: the Magic Behind the Movies” goes into deep detail about the behind-the-scenes trials and triumphs of this film, from Roach’s ill-conceived plot to young Henry Brandon getting into bar brawls when off-camera. Scott MacGillivray’s equally essential “Laurel & Hardy: from the Forties Forward” presents the story of the film’s second (and third and fourth and fifth, etc.) life as theatrical reissue, television staple and home video release. Just click on the above titles to access links for each book.

You'll also want to check out the following link to a Village Voice article that is more of a remembrance of the impact this film had on so many kids growing up with it on TV in the New York area – click here to read it.

BUY THE FILM: There are lots of versions out there – some unauthorized, some colorized, some butcherized (as in edited). But I really can only endorse the official MGM DVD release in glorious black & white which you can order from Amazon when you click here.

WATCH THE FILM: Here's the original trailer for “Babes in Toyland” (note that it uses Henry Brandon’s real name and also exaggerates the running time, claiming the film contains 12 minutes more than it actually does) ENJOY!... and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


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Not an illusion... not a mirage... not an imaginary tale! No, that's really a photo of me onstage... singing with my friends, The O>Matics!

The O>Matics are a terrific Jersey rock band with a ton of great, often satirical tunes in their arsenal. They graciously allowed me to sit in on three numbers during their concert this past Friday, and being the night before Halloween, The Monster Mash was the perfect addition to the set list. And guess who got to sing it?

What a thrill for me to sing a song that's been a favorite of mine since I was a child in the early 1970s (the 1962 hit single was re-released at that time and charted all over again). The Monster Mash is just as responsible for my lifelong love of horror-comedy as Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. And there was even some unintentional humor: I accidentally sang "carpetbaggers" instead of "coffin diners!"

DISCLAIMER: While I am a published songwriter and did have a single out in the late 1980s, I'd never sung "live" in front of an audience before until this past Friday. I'm never going to be mistaken for a professional singer, but I just went out there and had a blast, and with rock 'n roll, isn't that what it's all about? It was great fun, and I am extremely grateful to the O>Matics, a terrific group of guys, for this amazing opportunity! ENJOY!

Saturday, October 31, 2015


HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Let's celebrate it with a classic public domain cartoon starring...

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This one is surreal in the best way the vintage, early Betty Boop cartoons are, and while it doesn't get totally spooky until the end, well... there's a group of ghosts playing baseball with a large, lit bomb!!! What more do you need to know?! Plus the ever-wonderful tones of the Don Redman orchestra. It's no TRICK... it's a TREAT!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis in...

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Artists & Models!

This isn't a horror-comedy per se, but it does feature both Shirley Maclaine and Eva Gabor wearing a "Bat Lady" costume (making it perfect for Halloween week) and has as its backdrop the fantastical world of comic books!

This is easily my favorite of the Martin & Lewis films, due in large part to its comics industry motif, as well as the direction by former Looney Tunes director, Frank Tashlin. It also has the distinction of being an up-to-the-minute commentary on the then-current Senate hearings on comic books and the allegations that they were a contributing cause of juvenile delinquency.

This is NOT a public domain movie, but Paramount Pictures recently launched its own YouTube channel called The Paramount Vault enabling anyone to legally watch this and several other classic films (including two solo outings by our old pal, Oliver Hardy) for free. ENJOY!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in...

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Friday, October 2, 2015


Paul Castiglia Chris Allan

It’s that time again… time for me to head out on the road for my annual fall personal appearance tour. I’ll let the press release below fill you in on all the details – hope to see you sometime during my tour!

On October 3, comics writer-editor and historian Paul Castiglia begins what has become an annual “Fall NY/NJ” personal appearance tour.
The appearances accompany a slate of new projects for Castiglia ranging from writing new comic book stories to writing non-fiction text pieces to co-producing documentaries.

Chief among Castiglia’s current offerings is Rise: Comics Against Bullying, an all-star anthology of mainstream and indie writers and artists who’ve contributed stories with an anti-bullying theme. The special edition was released this past spring by Northwest Press, with proceeds benefiting organizations with anti-bullying initiatives. Castiglia reunited with popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artist Chris Allan for his tale, which was edited by Erica Schultz, writer of the acclaimed M3 comic series.

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Also recently released was Archie’s Favorite High School Comics, a paperback collection of stories featuring comics’ most famous teens and the beleaguered faculty members of fabled Riverdale High. Castiglia contributed introductions to several of the stories, continuing a long run of Archie archival projects that began with the popular Archie Americana Series in the 1990s. In the digital space, Archie just released an exclusive, 124 page collection of Archie’s Mysteries stories written by Castiglia.

Another project for Castiglia that draws upon Archie Comics’ history is The MLJ Companion, a compendium of articles and interviews about Archie’s heroes coming soon from Two-Morrows Press. Castiglia co-edited the edition with Rik Offenberger. Both also contributed articles about the fabled titans, currently making a splash in a new series from Archie under the Dark Circle imprint.

Recently, Castiglia also contributed a backup story for the comic book, KING! from award-winning publishers, Blacklist Studios. The story is scheduled to be released both digitally and in print within the next few months. KING! tells the story of a former professional wrestler who fashions himself after a certain “King of Rock ‘n Roll” – and hires himself out as a monster hunter! In Castiglia’s tale, King finds himself face-to-face with a real, live goatsucker in a tale that could only be called, El Chupacabra – Ay, Carumba!

Thomas Hall Daniel Bradford Elvis Presley

Also due out soon is issue #4 of War of the Independents from Red Anvil Comics. Created by Red Anvil publisher Dave Ryan, the series is a satirical sendup of such mainstream comics’ crossover events as Marvel’s Secret Wars and DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Issue #4 is the “humor issue,” featuring such iconic indie characters as The Tick, Felix the Cat, Flaming Carrot, Gumby & Pokey, Milk & Cheese and Too Much Coffee Man, among many others. Castiglia wrote the epic tale which was plotted by Ryan, with art from Donald Simpson.

Castiglia continues to work on his non-fiction book, Scared Silly: Classic Hollywood Horror-Comedies. The book explores films where classic comedians like Abbott & Costello, the Three Stooges and the Bowery Boys got mixed up in spooky situations with ghosts, monsters and aliens.

Castiglia is also taking part in a documentary on the famed movie team, The Bowery Boys. As an Executive Producer and Creative Consultant, Castiglia has interviewed celebrities, is helping to write the narrative, is the film’s Music Supervisor and is also making casting decisions. He also came up with the name of the project, Bowery Rhapsody: the Rise and Redemption of Hollywood’s Original ‘Brat Pack.’. Recent interviews filmed include Alec Baldwin, Jamie Farr, Pat Cooper and Adam Ferrara.

Following are the details of Castiglia’s “Fall NY/NJ” tour for 2015. Unless otherwise stated, at each appearance Castiglia will sell and autograph copies of comics and book projects to which he’s contributed, including Archie’s Weird Mysteries, Archie Americana, Hey Kids Comics, Sonic, With Great Power, Midnight Marquee Actor Series: Vincent Price and more:

October 3
Immortal Con, Clarion Hotel, Ronkonkoma, NY
Proceeds help benefit Stony Brook Cancer Center

October 8-11
New York Comic Con, Jacob Javits Center, New York, NY
Panel: Creatively Energizing Your Students with Comic Books and Arts, October 11 from 11:15-12PM, Room 1A05
Autograph signing schedule to be announced

October 24
Chase Con, Saratoga Spring, NY
Theme: 25th anniversary of first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie
Autographing TMNT, Conservation Corps and Sonic the Hedgehog comics

November 7
Superheroes For Hospice, West Orange, NJ
Comic Book Sale benefitting Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center

November 21 and 22
New Jersey Comic Expo, Edison, NJ (New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center)
10AM–7PM (Sat), 10 AM-5PM (Sun)

December 13
Clifton Comic Book Expo, Clifton, NJ
Clifton Community Recreation Center

More information on Paul Castiglia’s career can be found at Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Here it is… the ONLY Mickey Mouse animated cartoon in the public domain in the United States… and it also just happens to be one of the most memorable and scariest of all time! Watch… if you dare!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Okay, this one isn’t a horror-comedy per se… it’s a spoof of jungle films. BUT… it does star Abbott & Costello with two Stooges in support (Shemp Howard and Joe Besser)… and some of the cast is scared by gorillas (a staple of horror-comedies). Not to mention those magic words, “public domain!” So let’s “go ape” with Bud & Lou!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


More of a “mystery-comedy” than a “horror-comedy” from Stan & Ollie, but there is some sleight-of-hand illusion from Dante the Magician to contend with, as well as the spooky title. A cousin of sorts to such films as Arsenic & Old Lace, Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer and The Boogie Man Will Get You.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015


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Bowery Boys week continues here at Scared Silly (read all about it by clicking here)… and here’s another Saturday ‘Toons edition!

We’re starting off with the poster above for the Mighty Mouse cartoon, Dead End Cats. I can’t post the cartoon here as it’s not in the public domain, but the movie poster is. The cartoon itself has nothing to do with the Dead End Kids beyond the title possibly being inspired by it.

The following cartoons, however ARE in the public domain and so I’ll happily post them here.

The first, a Max Flesischer cartoon features the first-ever animated reference to the Dead End Kids… all the way at the end of the cartoon:

The second features another mighty mouse and is a more indirect, potential nod to Leo Gorcey. The character Herman would go on to greater fame for a series of cartoons in which he bedeviled the poor feline, Katnip. Here’s one of Herman’s early solo shorts. ENJOY!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


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As mentioned in my post this past Tuesday (if you missed it I’ll let you read it for yourself by clicking here), it’s Bowery Boys week as I’m trekking off to California today to work on a Bowery Boys documentary (again, please check back to Tuesday’s post for details).

There are no Bowery Boys movies in the public domain so I cannot post any of their features here, but fortunately in their previous incarnation of the East Side Kids there are three public domain horror-comedies free and clear to post… so here they are – ENJOY!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


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It’s Bowery Boys week! As previously mentioned, for the better part of the last year I’ve been working on a documentary about the Bowery Boys (and their earlier incarnations, the Dead End Kids, Little Tough Guys and East Side Kids) with the wonderful folks from Handshake Away Productions. I’m acting as an Executive Producer, Creative Consultant, Writer and more. Click here for our imdb link.

Later this week, East will meet West as I travel from the New York area to California to meet (for the first time) my fellow Executive Producers, Colette Joel and David Key to film some new interviews, and review and select footage for both a teaser trailer and official trailer, as well for the documentary.

In anticipation of my trip and our first “in-person” collaboration, I hereby present the trailers from most of the East Side Kids horror-comedies (I don’t have a trailer for Boys of the City) as well as all of the Bowery Boys horror-comedies. Plus a few bonus “horror-onable mentions” and some clips from previously filmed interviews for the documentary itself. ENJOY!





Friday, March 27, 2015


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It’s that time again… time for me to head out on the road for my annual spring personal appearance tour!

I’ll let the press release below do the heavy lifting of explaining it all, but I do want to start by mentioning that tomorrow, Saturday, March 28th kicks it all off with my appearance at Expo 9, which mixes comic books with live martial arts exhibitions AND zombies!

I’ll be signing my books but I’ll also be taking part in a unique presentation: help write scenarios for live actors dressed as zombies to reenact on the spot… while comic book artists sketch the action!

Oh, and speaking of zombies, that panel at the top is drawn by the great artist, Chris Allan from my story, Zoe's Zombies which you can read in Rise: Comics Against Bullying (more details below).

Without further ado, here’s the PR with all the details – hope to see you sometime during my tour!

NEW YORK CITY (March, 2015) – On March 28, comics writer-editor and historian Paul Castiglia begins what has become an annual “Spring NY/NJ” personal appearance tour.

The appearances accompany several new projects for Castiglia ranging from writing new comic book stories to writing non-fiction text pieces to co-producing documentaries. Of particular note, Castiglia will be selling and autographing copies of Rise: Comics Against Bullying at these events.

The comic, recently released by Northwest Press is an all-star anthology of mainstream and indie writers and artists who’ve contributed stories with an anti-bullying theme. Proceeds from the special edition will benefit organizations with anti-bullying initiatives. Castiglia reunited with popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artist Chris Allan for his tale, which was edited by Erica Schultz, writer of the acclaimed M3 and Swords of Sorrow comic series.

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The story in Rise is one of three new stories from Castiglia, best-known as the writer of the popular Archie’s Weird Mysteries comic series and a contributing writer to such titles as Sonic the Hedgehog, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, DC Showcase, Dark Horse’s Tex Avery’s Droopy and several others.

Castiglia’s experience with humorous heroes comes to the fore in his script for the upcoming War of the Independents #4 from Red Anvil Studios. Created by publisher Dave Ryan, the series is a satirical sendup of such mainstream comics’ crossover events as Marvel’s Secret Wars and DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Issue #4 is the “humor issue,” featuring such iconic indie characters as The Tick, Felix the Cat, Flaming Carrot, Gumby & Pokey, Megaton Man, Milk & Cheese and Too Much Coffee Man, among many others.

Also coming soon from Castiglia is a backup story for the comic book, KING! from award-winning publishers, Blacklist Studios. Scheduled to be released both digitally and in print, KING! tells the story of a former professional wrestler with an Elvis motif – who just so happens to also be a monster hunter! In Castiglia’s tale, King finds himself face-to-face with a real, live goatsucker in a tale that could only be called, El Chupacabra – Ay, Carumba!

In addition to writing comics, Castiglia continues to be involved in projects that utilize his experience as a comics editor and comics and film historian.

Slated for a 2015 holiday season release from TwoMorrows is The MLJ Companion, a compendium of articles and interviews about Archie’s Mighty Crusaders heroes through the decades. Castiglia is co-editing with Rik Offenberger. Both will also contribute articles about the fabled titans, who are enjoying a new lease on life in Archie’s Dark Circle imprint.

Castiglia continues to work on his non-fiction book, Scared Silly: Classic Hollywood Horror-Comedies. The book explores films where classic comedians like Abbott & Costello, the Three Stooges and the Bowery Boys got mixed up in spooky situations with ghosts, monsters and aliens.

The Scared Silly project led to Castiglia’s involvement in a documentary on the famed movie team, The Bowery Boys. Castiglia is acting as a Co-Executive Producer, Creative Consultant, Co-Writer, Casting Producer and Music Supervisor for the upcoming film. He also came up with the name of the project, Bowery Rhapsody: the Rise and Redemption of Hollywood’s Original ‘Brat Pack.’ (

Following are the details of Castiglia’s “Spring NY/NJ” tour. Unless otherwise stated, at each appearance Castiglia will sell and autograph copies of comics and book projects to which he’s contributed, including Rise: Comics Against Bullying, Archie’s Weird Mysteries, Archie’s Favorites, Archie Americana, Best of Archie Comics, Hey Kids Comics, Sonic the Hedgehog, With Great Power, Midnight Marquee Actor Series: Vincent Price and more:

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March 28
Expo 9 Martial Arts Comic Convention, Cherry Hill, NJ
Events Center Sports Venue & Stadium

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April 11-12
East Coast Comic Con, Secaucus, NJ
Meadowlands Exposition Center (Kids Comic Con table in the Kids Love Comics Pavilion)

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April 25
Kids Comic Con, Bronx, NY
Bronx Community College
Autograph signing schedule to be announced

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May 2
East Side Mags, Montclair, NJ
Free Comic Book Day
Autographing alongside Sanctuary writer-artist, Stephen Coughlin

May 30
Superheroes For Hospice, West Orange, NJ
Comic Book Sale and Convention benefitting Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center

SuperheroesForHospiceflyinglogo photo SuperheroesForHospiceflyinglogo.jpg

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Rondo Hatton

Well, as Yogi Berra once said, "it's deja vu all over again!" Or... maybe he said it twice?!

Indeed, it seems the latest round of Rondo Award nominations (for achievements in horror during 2014) were announced. And yes, for at least the fourth time (!), this humble little blog about spooks and kooks, ghouls and fools, and creeps and clowns has been nominated for a Rondo award!

Like 2013, I don't necessarily think this blog is worthy of such an honor for my 2014 output (due to circumstances beyond my control it was limited to "encore posts" and vintage clips of trailers, cartoons and features at best, as opposed to new articles and reviews). However, I am honored to be nominated - it is both a vote of confidence and encouragement to me. 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.

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.

Until then, here's a nice montage of Rondo Hatton movie scenes incongruously set to a jaunty tune - ENJOY:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015



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,” "The Ghost & Mrs. Muir," "Bell, Book & Candle" 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)!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015


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We interrupt our regularly-scheduled public domain feature film to bring you this very-special, new short film from Scared Silly friend, Daniel Roebuck!

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that esteemed character actor Roebuck has graciously agreed to write the foreword for the upcoming book version of Scared Silly.

To learn more about Daniel's fabled career, just click here.

And now, enjoy this wonderful new short film that showcases Daniel's movie memorabilia, and encourages us all to embrace our inner geeks!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015


I don't often preface the public domain 'toons I run here, but this one requires it: Ted Eshbaugh’s 1933 cartoon classic, The Snowman may appear to be just another 1930s cartoon frolic with cute woodland creatures creating a snowman... but it isn't! Just keep watching and you'll know how it qualifies for Scared Silly (although truthfully it qualifies more for Scared Scared!)... just thought everyone out there dealing with snow this past week might appreciate it (or not)!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015


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After a very successful screening last year, I've been asked to once again be a guest-speaker at the West Orange Classic Film Festival. On Sunday, January 25th at 2PM at the Essex Green AMC Dine-In Theater in West Orange, NJ I'll be introducing and doing Q&A for a special screening recreating a classic movie matinee! It will include vintage trailers, a classic Popeye cartoon, a chapter from a thrilling Flash Gordon movie serial, and the Laurel & Hardy feature comedy, Flying Deuces!

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IMPORTANT NOTE: My screening last year (of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein) SOLD OUT THE DAY BEFORE (the first and only time in the Festival’s history that that has happened). DON’T GET SHUT OUT. I cannot stress enough the importance of pre-purchasing your tickets, either at the theater box office or through Fandango. For the direct Fandango link click here.

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EXTRA NOTE - Fandango only lists the running time for the Laurel & Hardy film (and they're off by 5 minutes - the print we're running is 70 minutes, not 65) but with the trailers, cartoon and serial chapter there's about an hour and 40 minutes of film fun, plus my introduction and Q&A afterward. Figure this will be a nice two hour outing for you and the entire family!

Now enjoy the trailer for this special presentation:


Tuesday, January 20, 2015


This week, a shameless self-plug for my guest-speaking gig at the West Orange Classic Film Festival this coming Sunday - ENJOY!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015


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Greetings, Scared Silly fans!

I have a fun and exciting event to tell you about. Actually, I'll let the following press release tell you about it:

On January 25, comics writer-editor and pop culture historian Paul Castiglia will be the guest-speaker at the West Orange Classic Film Festival. In its 10th annual year, the eight-week festival alternates between renowned cinema classics, foreign gems, local offerings and Castiglia’s specialty, genre movies.

The January 25 screening recreates a classic movie matinee experience, taking viewers back to the days when an admission ticket not only guaranteed a feature film, but lots of fun extras like cartoons, comedy shorts, action-packed serials and more. The program includes a classic Max and Dave Fleischer Popeye cartoon, Customer’s Wanted; a thrilling chapter from the movie serial, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe and the feature film, Flying Deuces from the legendary movie comedy team, Laurel & Hardy.

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"We're delighted to have Paul Castiglia back for a second year," said Festival director Ken Mandel. "Last year's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein screening was a great family event and this year's 'classic matinee' continues our efforts to show the classics on the big screen, the way they were meant to be seen."

Castiglia, who also selected the films to be shown at the January 25 screening, has a particular interest in comedy. Castiglia has been writing and editing comic books for over 25 years, with the bulk of his work being on humor titles including Archie’s Weird Mysteries, Tex Avery’s Droopy, Looney Tunes, Cracked Magazine and more.

Castiglia has also written non-fiction about some of his favorite comedy movies, including a chapter in a book of essays on Vincent Price covering the famous screen boogie man’s comedic teamings with Peter Lorre. He is currently writing a book called Scared Silly: Classic Hollywood Horror-Comedies, which takes a look at those vintage films where kooks met spooks and fools met ghouls, such as Arsenic and Old Lace, The Ghost Breakers and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. He is also a writer and executive producer for an upcoming documentary on the Dead End Kids/East Side Kids/Bowery Boys movie team, called Bowery Rhapsody: the Rise and Redemption of Hollywood’s Original ‘Brat Pack.

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Castiglia is no stranger to guest-speaking engagements at classic film screenings. At the Bijou Theater in Bridgeport, CT Castiglia was a guest for double-feature screenings of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein/Young Frankenstein, and Mad Monster Party/The Nightmare Before Christmas. At last year’s West Orange Classic Film Festival, Castiglia spoke to a sell-out crowd for Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. The show sold out the day before, a first in the Festival’s history.

The January 25 screening also ties in to Castiglia’s love of comics. Both Popeye and Flash Gordon began life as newspaper comic strips. Both also happen to be offerings from King Features Syndicate, William Randolph Hearst’s famous subsidiary of his newspaper empire, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

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Castiglia points out that even Laurel & Hardy have comics connections.

“Bud Fisher’s popular Mutt & Jeff strip, considered the first daily strip, features a tall and short dunderheaded duo, predating Laurel & Hardy’s teaming by some 20 years, and the similarities were not lost on movie reviewers who often referred to the movie stars as a ‘Mutt and Jeff’-like pair,” says Castiglia. “There were also live-action comedy shorts of ‘Mutt & Jeff’ about ten years before Stan and Ollie’s teaming.”

Laurel & Hardy themselves became popular subjects for cartoonists’ pencils. Caricatures of the team were ubiquitous in animated cartoons of the 1930s, as well as in newspaper comic strips and political cartoons. They were featured in their own comic strip in Film Fun Magazine, and through the years starred in both comic books and animated cartoon series bearing their names. A ‘painting’ of the pair even showed up in a famous 1950s Batman story, when the Joker crashed the Gotham Museum’s “Comedians Hall of Fame” exhibit (a moment echoed on an episode of the 1960s Batman TV show, the painting replaced by statues).

“The biggest comics connection in Laurel & Hardy’s Flying Deuces is the wonderful caricature of the duo by fellow comedy legend, Harry Langdon,” adds Castiglia.

Langdon, a co-writer of Deuces was a major silent film star and enjoyed cartooning behind the scenes when he wasn’t buffooning in front of the cameras.

The screening takes place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, January 25, 2015 at the Essex Green AMC Dine-In Theater at 495 Prospect Avenue, West Orange, NJ. Tickets can be pre-purchased at the theater box office, or at Fandango when you click on this direct link.

A trailer for the screening can be viewed right here:


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Father Time

Welcome to 2015... in the real world! Here in our world of reminiscing of decades past, welcome to 1950!: