Tuesday, December 31, 2019
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 years. And most of all, there's no blog without you readers out there so thank you to ALL SCARED SILLY FANS!
Most especially, I want to thank everyone for their patience. As sometimes happens, "real life" truly got in the way of my ability to make headway on the project in 2019. A "perfect storm" of personal and professional challenges, coupled with the healing process of a quite-unexpected medical development that befell me in 2018, really brought changes to my world... but I know that circumstances will ultimately level out so that I can once again proceed with gusto on Scared Silly.
As always, it wouldn't be New Year's Eve here without 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!
Thursday, December 26, 2019
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 24, 2019
Here's a curio: a rendtition of A Christmas Carol featuring as narrator one of our Scared Silly favorites, the Prince of Horror (often with tongue placed firmly-in-cheek), Mr. Vincent Price himself!
Believed to be the earliest television version of A Christmas Carol, it was produced as an advertising vehicle for Magnavox and aired on 22 stations across the nation on Christmas Day, 1949.
Dickens' venerable tale endures, much like the A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special, due to its underlying themes befitting from whom Christmas' name derives. In this case, we have repentence, redemption and re-birth at the core, all told to us in those dulcet tones that only Mr. Price could so eloquently deliver.
Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!
Saturday, December 21, 2019
NOTE: This is an encore of a piece originally posted in 2011, with an added thought regarding the song, "Here Comes Santa Claus"
What has to be one of the most surreal and (unintentionally) scariest children’s films ever made is director René Cardona’s 1959 Santa Claus. Enterprising exploitation producer/distributor/showman K. Gordon Murray snapped this one up, dubbed it (poorly) into English and unleashed it upon an unsuspecting American public year after year after year.
I say “unsuspecting” because no one in America could have suspected the Santa legend was so different in Mexico. Or maybe it was just different for the writers and directors behind this cinematic oddity. I’ve read many articles about the film and I’m still not sure what the answer is. All I can say is that the differences are not subtle.
Some examples: In this version, Santa doesn’t live in the North Pole – he lives in a castle in the clouds! He doesn’t have real reindeer – they are mechanical! He doesn’t come down chimneys – he enters homes with a magic key. All this, plus he fights an emissary of the devil (no, the photo at the top of this post isn't photoshopped)!
It gets weirder… and scarier… from there. Santa watches over (or more accurately, spies) on the children of the world via a telescope whose unnervingly snaking appendage has a blinking eyeball for a lens! Santa’s right-hand man is Merlin (yes, the sorcerer from Camelot legends) and somehow Santa has gotten children from all over the world to perform for him in a lengthy and very politically incorrect sequence where he watches choirs from many lands sing to him. Oh, and speaking of children, Santa doesn’t have elves. He has children make the toys for him!
As if Merlin’s involvement wasn’t non sequitur enough, the film also shoehorns a distorted Christian sensibility into its core, as Santa basically works on Jesus’ behalf. Which of course makes Satan mad to no end and inspires the dark one to send his hench-demon Pitch into battle against Santa in both direct and indirect ways (in the form of recruiting bad little kids to bedevil the good ones who have Santa’s favor).
NEW THOUGHT FOR 2019: Could this movie have possibly been inspired by the 1947 song, "Here Comes Santa Claus" by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman? I've always felt it had the same bizarre mix of secular and Christian Christmas concepts - "let's give thanks to the Lord above 'cause Santa Claus comes tonight!" I wonder what Esquivel would say about that?...
So it’s not technically a horror film… but it is quite scary. And it’s not a comedy... but it’s so bizarre and absurd that it can’t help but make you laugh in spots (even if that laughter is uneasy at times). For me as a Christian believer, there is an extra layer of weirdness in its cockamamie misrepresentation of the faith that is both scary and funny simultaneously (not funny “ha-ha” but funny as in, “I can’t believe what I’m watching!")...
...but enough of me talking about this film. It really has to be seen to be believed. That plus others have already done in-depth and entertaining examinations of the film which you can read when you click on the links below:
B-Movie Review of Santa Claus
Monster Shack review of Santa Claus
...and best of all, an official blog has been launched containing various articles and reviews of the film – not to mention your chance to vote on such pressing questions as “Which country featured in Santa’s Heavenly Workshop suffered the most ethnic stereotypes?” and “What is the creepiest gadget in Santa’s ‘secret’ lab?” Just click below to visit this new blog appropriately named...
Santa Claus Conquers the Devil: 50 Years of K. Gordon Murray’s Santa Claus
As we wind down the year here’s wishing everyone the safest, happiest and most blessed of holidays.
Now, here’s the trailer for Santa Claus – watch if you dare!
Saturday, December 14, 2019
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.
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!
Last but certainly not least: 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!)