Monday, July 29, 2013

Busy Bodies - Promoting Castle's Camp

Consult your doctor! Bring your seatbelts! See it with someone with warm hands! 

If you were to ask any child in the 1960s if they would want to see a William Castle film over the weekend, you'd hear a resounding "Hurrah!" in response. Every loyal follower of cheap horror schlock such as The Little Shop of Horrors, The Crawling Eye, or The Brain that Wouldn't Die, knew who William Castle was. Heck, he was a household name. Even non-horror buffs were familiar with the King of Camp. What made this man so famous? It surely wasn't the quality of his films. It was showmanship. That's right, when it came to promoting films, he knew what the public loved ....sensationalism. Castle delivered exactly what you came to see...spine-tingling squirm-in-your-seats awkward horror ( or a lot of laughs, depending on your taste ). 

Macabre was William Castle's first film offering as an independent producer. After directing several dozen b-films for Columbia Pictures, he decided to be a man and venture out as an independent creator. 

It all began while watching Diabolique one rainy night with his wife Ellen. Castle was amazed at how many young people were standing in line, in the pouring rain, to watch a movie that will scare their pants off. Charged with the creative fuel of a good idea surging in his blood, he went on a search for a story that would surpass Diabolique in fright. He found that was called "The Marble Forest" . He pitched it to several studios but none thought the movie would sell, and so Castle hocked his house, and with $90,000 in his pocket, became his own producer. 

The newly retitled Macabre was filmed in 12 days and looked to be equally as frightening as Diabolique, only it lacked one thing...a promotional gimmick. Then the idea hit Castle one night - an insurance policy! With nurses on standby and a hearst parked outside, audience members entered theatres with pen in hand ready to sign a Lloyds of London insurance policy guaranteeing that William Castle will pay the beneficiary that they name $1,000 in case they die of fright while watching the film ( hardly likely ). A small clause also read "I understand that if I have a known heart or nervous condition the One Thousand Dollars is not payable". It's always good to protect oneself. 

Macabre netted over $5,000,000 nationwide - a phenomenal return for such a small investment. The success of the picture also ingrained in Castle's mind a philosophy he always believed....showmanship is pure gold when it comes to the film industry. 

For his next film, House on Haunted Hill ( 1959 ) , he used one of the oldest promotional techniques in
the industry : a big name actor. Vincent Price to be precise. There isn't anything quite like a big name to draw audience members to theatres, but just in case certain kiddies weren't familiar with the legendary thespian, Castle concocted Emergo. It was promoted as "the new wonder where thrills fly right into the audience". It was really a lighted plastic skeleton that swooped down on the audience via a wire when the skeleton appeared onscreen. The effect was pretty good and the audience loved the trick, but most theatres disabled it after a few weeks...too many local hooligans would shoot rocks at it with their slingshots. Sometimes skeletons produce that effect.

House on Haunted Hill was a fun thriller and boasted a wonderful cast of characters. Aside from Vincent Price, it starred Richard Long, Alan Marshall, Elisha Cook and Carolyn Craig. The noted gossip columnist Louella Parsons hailed the film as being "more frightening than a graveyard on a cold, wet night". ( We didn't realize she frequented graveyards at night. )  

Vincent Price and William Castle teamed up again for this next picture, The Tingler ( 1959 ) . This remains Castle's most memorable movie...not so much for the film itself but for its publicity stunt - Percepto. Posters and trailers guaranteed that "the Tingler would break loose while you were in the audience". That is, providing you visited a theatre that purchased the Tingler kit in advance. Unsuspected audiences scarcely realized that Tinglers had to be purchased via mail-order. Each Percepto kit included 100 vibrato motors, a timing device and a 12-page installation manual. If Ol' Gus, the janitor, didn't read the instructions correctly, the "Tingler" just wouldn't visit your theatre.   

What exactly was Percepto? Electric buzzers installed in the bottom of the seats. 

Unfortunately, William Castle did not think about giving out rubber Tinglers to audience members as they exited. We would of much rather went home with a souvenir than a tingle down our spines. 

One of the most entertaining publicity gimmicks William Castle utilized was Illusion-O for his 1960 classic, 13 Ghosts. Audience members received supernatural viewers and could sit, with mouth agape, to perceive exctoplasmic ghosts whiz by COLOR. Oooohhhh. Basically, Illusion-O was a piece of cardboard with thin pieces of colored cellophane attached as "lens". By looking through the red plastic the ghosts appeared on screen. For the faint at heart, a peep through the blue filter magically made them disappear. 

Dr. Plato Zorba developed his very own pair of glasses that enabled him to penetrate the supernatural world and hence, communicate with them on a face to face level, so what better way for the audience to participate then by offering them their very own supernatural viewers? Of course, at home these ghost glasses didn't seem to work as well when trying to see the spirit of Uncle Henry in the old barn out back. 

"13 Times the Thrills, 13 Times the Screams, 13 Times the Fun!"

13 Ghosts was heavily promoted through billboards, television spots, and news articles. William Castle also selected thirteen youngsters to dress as ghouls and travel up and down Hollywood Avenue on an elaborately decorated ghost float. They waved signs which read "Vote for Castle..the only candidate with a ghost of a chance" ( this was during the Kennedy/Nixon presidential campaigns ) while a recording of Castle's voice boomed through a megaphone, "Do you believe in ghosts?". 


Do you have a yellow streak down you back? Then don't walk out of Homicidal ( 1961 ) or you'll be labeled a coward! Just before the ending to Homicidal, a truly strange picture, a timer would appear onscreen announcing the "Fright Break"...while the clock ticked away you could sneak out of your seats with your little yellow "coward's only" certificate and receive a full refund. 

In small print, the certificate reads, "To protect patrons of tender years from the psychological dangers of being labeled a coward, this money-back guarantee applies only to members of the audience 15 years of age and over" . For some reason, I imagine that alot of youngsters in groups took advantage of this gimmick to save their money for an ice cream shake after the flick. 

For those who felt they wanted a little control over the ending of a film, attending Mr. Sardonicus ( 1961 ) enabled them to wield their voters right and decide whether the titled Mister received his come-uppance or not . The Punishment Poll allowed members of the audience to vote by raising glow-in-the-dark cards with a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Who stood behind the screen to count the votes, I'm sure I don't know. 

An alternate "happy" mercy ending to the movie may have been filmed, but no audience ever offered Mr. Sardonicus mercy and hence, it was never screened. We live in such an unsympathetic age. 

Mr. Sardonicus boasted some beautiful poster art of the grinning money-grabbing villian as well as this neat trailer, hosted by William Castle, whose facial expressions reminds me of a cross between Don Ameche and Ed Wynn in this trailer. 


Another film which featured take-home freebies was Zotz! ( 1962 ) . This film told the story of a school professor who finds a magical coin which, when used with the magic words, lets him "pause" movement or give pain to those he aimed his finger at ( no, not that finger! ). "Magical coins" were issued to loyal patrons and, while we're not sure what they did, they sure do look neato! 

Here's a coin that we found on Etsy, someone converted it into a kitchen magnet. Just imagine all that magical power sticking on your refrigerator, just waiting for the right person to come by and say the magic words.  

William Castle's films were selling themselves perfectly well without the help of gimmicks and promo stunts, and so after Zotz , they began to wind down. However, one interesting pre-release gimmick Castle used was in 1963's 13 Frightened Girls. In a worldwide contest, young girls from thirteen different countries were selected to be chosen as the students who appear in the film. Here is one of the girls from Sweden : 

Straight-Jacket ( 1965 ) didn't have much a promotional gimmick at all and quite frankly, didn't need one. Afterall, it featured Joan Crawford. She had recently created a sensation as Blanche in Robert Aldrich's has-been classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. Joan Crawford seemed enthusiastic to be back in the spotlight again, even if it was for star billing in a horror film. To promote Straight-Jacket, Ms. Crawford smeared greasepaint on her face and went off on a national tour, visiting Lowes theatres and fan clubs across the nation, happily advertising the fact that she portrays a psychotic ax-murderer. The higher they climb, the lower they fall. 

Audience members in theatres received their very own little cardboard axes so they could practice their hacking technique on friends, neighbors, and enemies at home. We weren't able to find any photos of how these axes looked like, which makes us come to the conclusion that they must be a rare bit of memorabilia indeed! 

"Fate Dials the Number...Terror Answers the Phone!" 

Joan Crawford was back again as Amy Nelson, the girlfriend of Steve Marak ( John Ireland ), who recently did a Norman Bates and energetically stabbed his wife to death in the shower in I Saw What You Did ( 1965 ). Joan Crawford's character is a bit more sympathetic here and we, as the audience, are moved to pity. ( More so for that fact that an actress once so famous could play such a cheesy role...but that's another story in itself ). 

Posters advertising I Saw What You Did featured in bold letters the upcoming phenomena Uxoricide but obviously no one wanted to see a gimmick that sounded like a laundry detergent, so theatre chains didn't even bother installing them. What was Uxoricide? Seatbelts. You didn't follow that? We didn't either. 

And lastly - scraping the bottle of the barrel here - was The Night Walker ( 1965 ). Once again, the really big publicity drawing feature to this film was the fact that it starred Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, two big name actors who were once Hollywood's golden couple. Taylor up and left Stanwyck after twelve years of marriage ( for various reasons ) and this was their first teaming on screen in over 28 years. He plays a man out to kill her. Shouldn't it of been the other way around? 

This great poster advertises everything that we did not see in the film - as posters are apt to do. That fierce looking creature is certainly something we wouldn't want to meet in our dreams. Castle botched it up again when it came to the giveaways and didn't provide little glass eyeballs for his motion picture attendees. There was a freebie however...a paper sheet called a "Dream Interpreter". We couldn't quite figure out how it worked so if anyone remembers or still owns one of these please let us in on the secret. 

Oh, noooo!

We're not done yet! We got our very own special treat for those members of the audience who were patient enough to wade through our extra-special deluxe photo gallery insert! 

Let's take a peek at William Castle....


William Castle and Mrs. Slydes on the set of House on Haunted Hill

Castle with an unknown man and an unknown head on the set of Straight-Jacket
The Master of Macabre hamming it up with some fan club members
Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, and John Ireland
Castle and Price practicing with ghouls
Castle with Mia Farrow on the set of Rosemary's Baby
Diane Baker, Joan Crawford and the Maestro
He's keeping his eye on you!
Some happy fan members get Castle's autograph
Castle enjoying a stroll down in the audience
William Castle ( Apr. 24, 1914 - May 31, 1977 ) 

This post, and The Films of William Castle, are our contributions to the fabulous William Castle Blogathon being hosted by The Last Drive-In and GoreGirl's Dungeon.  You can see a complete line-up of blogs participating in this event here. 

The Films of William Castle

William Castle - 13 GhostsA funhouse P.T. Barnum …that’s what William Castle was. He was a director by trade but a showman by heart and it’s no wonder that he branched out into producing his own films mid-way in his life. It is the films he directed during his own producing years that I wish to focus on in this post because these are the true gems of the campy corny horror genre.  

The Last Drive-In and Gore Girl's Dungeon are hosting a diabolically delectable William Castle blogathon this week and this post and Busy Bodies : Promoting Castle's Camp are our contributions to this fun event. Most followers of the blogathon are very familiar with the filmography of Castle's horror flicks but those for who never heard of the Master of Macabre here is a brief overview of the man and his films : 

William Castle was born on April 24, 1914 in New York City. He broke into show business at the tender age of 15 and later, through the mischievous method of claiming to be Samuel Goldwyn’s nephew ( he was no relation ), burst into Hollywood. He went through a variety of small producing and writing jobs before he tried a hand at being an actor in 1937.  But he didn’t remain an actor for long…..the directing bug had bitten him. For the next fifteen years he directed a variety of B programmers, ranging from detective boilers ( Johnny Stool Pidgeon ) to mysteries ( The Whistler series ) to westerns ( The Law vs. Billy the Kid ) until in 1958 when he broke free and ventured out into producing films on his own. 



Macabre ( 1958 )A doctor’s daughter is kidnapped and buried alive, and he is given just five hours to find and rescue her. Castle promoted this film by having audience members sign a Lloyds of London life insurance policy that promised to pay their heirs $1,000 if they died of fright while watching the film.  William Prince, Jim Backus, Christine White.

House on Haunted Hill ( 1959 ) An eccentric millionaire and his wife invite five down-in-their-luck guests to a “haunted house” party… if any of them survives the night they will earn $10,000 apiece. At midnight, they find themselves locked in and the terrors beginning!  Vincent Price, Richard Long, Elisha Cook Jr.


In spite of the B status of all of William Castle’s movies he promoted them very ambitiously and soon became known for his gimmicks….these included audience interaction, giveaways ( cardboard axes were handed out to patrons for “Straight-Jacket” ) and humorous trailers where Castle himself often appeared to introduce his latest film to his viewers , much like that other master of suspense - Alfred Hitchcock .


The Tingler ( 1959 )  A pathologist ( Vincent Price ) discovers a creature that lives in every human vertebrae and grows when fear grips its host….the TINGLER! William Castle plugged this feature by rigging “shocks” into the seats at movie theatres so that when the Tingler was seen onscreen the viewer got a mild buzz.

13 Ghosts ( 1960 ) – One of our all-time favorites…the film is chock full with every haunted house gimmick Castle could think of ( a floating candle, a Ouija board, the “old witch” in the house, hidden treasure, secret panels, and angry ghosts ). A family inherits an old house complete with twelve ghosts that were "collected" by Dr. Zorba, an occultist...who will become the 13th ghost? The movie boasts a great cast including Donald Woods, Rosemary DeCamp, Martin Milner, Margaret Hamilton, and Jo Morrow.

Homicidal ( 1961 ) – In a sleepy small town in Southern California, a murderous scheme to collect a rich inheritance is being plotted by a woman’s brother and her childhood guardian. Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin and Alan Bunce star. ( Are you wondering why you never heard of these actors? Well, if you see the movie you won’t be wondering anymore. )

Mr. Sardonicus ( 1961 ) Mr. Sardonicus wants a winning lottery ticket badly…so much so that he digs up his father’s grave to get to it ( his father took it with him to the grave?? ). But lo! his face freezes into a horrible grimace upon sight of his dead daddy. Even a doctor can’t take the expression off of him and ends up just making matters worse. Guy Rolfe and Audrey Dalton star.

Zotz! ( 1962 ) - Tom Poston stars as a professor who discovers a magical amulet that enables him to “pause” movement and give pain to those he points his finger at. Of course, this being 1962 they had Russian spies written into the story plot. Good fun.

13 Frightened Girls ( 1963 ) – Thirteen girls at a Swiss boarding school stir up trouble when they get themselves mixed up with Russian spies. ( Yes, again…what did I tell you? It was a popular theme ). This was one of Castle’s lighter films. With Hugh Marlowe, Joyce Taylor and Murray Hamilton.


Old Dark House ( 1963 ) - One of the worst of William Castle’s films. Tom Poston played a car salesman who receives an invitation from an eccentric millionaire ( Robert Morley ) asking him to spend the weekend at his estate with his twin. What follows is simply nothing worth writing about. 

Straight-Jacket ( 1964 ) - After Joan Crawford and Bette Davis battled themselves out in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”, William Castle pounced on the idea of using the aged glamour queen in a horror movie of his own. What resulted was a plot about Joan returning to her estranged daughter and her family after spending 20 years in an asylum for a double murder, only to find that AXE murders are occurring once again and she got the finger of suspicion pointed smack right at her. Diane Baker and Leif Ericson co-star.

The Night Walker ( 1965 ) – This film should have been called Sleep Walker, because the only thing scary about it is how fast it puts you to sleep. Zzzzzz. Barbara Stanwyck and her former hubby Robert Taylor team up with Hayden Rorke in this nightmarish movie. No, it won’t give you nightmares, that’s just what the plot is about.
William Castle - 13 Frightened Girls
I Saw What You Did ( 1965 )- Once again Joan Crawford and Leif Ericson return to the scene of the crime ( a W.Castle film set ) to make another creep flick. This time two teenagers spend a sleepover night making prank calls to strangers stating “I saw what you did!” only to find that they called a murderer who just killed his wife…and he ain’t in no mood for pranks. 

Let’s Kill Uncle ( 1966 ) – Holy moly, was this a lousy movie! I’ve got to be the biggest fan of Nigel Green, but even his presence couldn’t save this fiasco. It was about a 12 year old orphan who just inherited a fortune ( that his uncle wants ) and so his uncle – a former British Intelligence commander – is out to kill him for it. So what does the boy do? Try and kill him first. Such fun. 

The Busy Body ( 1967 ) - William Castle took a dip into the comedy genre with his spook spoof. Sid Caesar plays the right-hand man of a mob boss ( Robert Ryan ) who is sent to find a corpse who got buried in a suit lined with stolen money. Anne Baxter costars.

The Spirit is Willing ( 1967 )- A common theme in the late 1960s….sex potboilers. Castle was foolish enough to go so far as to make the ghosts bed-hungry after a human… and then turn it into a comedy. One wonder’s whether Sid Caesar and Vera Miles even read the script before accepting this project. 

Project X ( 1968 ) – Christopher George plays a spy who is in suspended animation after being dopped with a “forgetfulness” drug by enemy spies while investigating information about Asia’s attempt to destroy the West. Monty Markham, Henry Jones costars.

Rosemary’s Baby ( 1968 ) - This classic in the horror genre was not directed by William Castle but his hand is evident in it…it also boasts one of the biggest casts seen in any of his films. Mia Farrow plays a young mother who becomes obsessed over the safety of her unborn child, a child she became mysteriously impregnated with in the first place. John Cassavetes, Elisha Cook Jr, Patsy Kelly, Ralph Bellamy, Sidney Blackmer costar.

William Castle had purchased the film rights to Ira Levin’s novel “Rosemary’s Baby” with the intention of directing the film himself but Paramount Studios knew his reputation for low-budget gimmick-laden horror movies and thought it would only harm the film. Hence, Roman Polanski was given the directorial go-ahead.

It seems William Castle’s playful fun with fright films got the best of him in his later years. Although he continued to produce movies up until his death in 1977 none of these films came close to the success he achieved in the 1960s as the kingpin director of the corny Friday-night drive-in flick.

To check out the complete list of contributions to the William Castle Blogathon visit The Last Drive-In or Goregirl's Dungeon. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Hildegarde Withers Mystery Collection Now Available!

Three days ago a most exciting event happened....The Hildegarde Withers Mystery Collection was released as a Warner Archives DVD set. This fabulous mystery series was not available to the public since it was originally released in theatres back in the 1930s ( unless you managed to tape it off of a cable channel of course ). But now all six features can be seen on one beautiful looking set! Hooray for Hildegarde!!

For those of you not familiar with the great Hildegarde Withers, she was a wise-cracking schoolmarm who aided the local New York police chief, Inspector Piper, in baffling mysteries. Withers was the creation of mystery writer Stuart Palmer, and she first graced the pages of a novel in the exciting "Penguin Pool Murder" written in 1931. Palmer followed it with 13 other Withers novels including numerous short stories of "riddles" she solved.

In 1932, the wonderful Edna May Oliver starred in the film adaption of The Penguin Pool Murder with James Gleason as Inspector Piper and co-starring Robert Armstrong and Mae Clarke. The film was so successful it spawned two sequels with Edna May Oliver, and then Helen Broderick took over the role as Miss Withers in Murder on a Bridal Path but only stayed for one outing. Zasu Pitts became the spinster sleuth in the final two films.

The Penguin Pool Murder ( 1932 )
Murder on a Blackboard ( 1934 )
Murder on a Honeymoon ( 1935 )
Murder on a Bridal Path ( 1936 )
The Plot Thickens ( 1936 )
Forty Naughty Girls ( 1937 )

We'll write a more in-depth look at Hildegarde Withers and this DVD set in autumn...a great season for watching mystery movies ( and for buying discount DVDs ).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Movieland Wax Museum Tour

The Hollywood Home Tour bus driver, Al, asked us if we could find a copy of a Los Angeles map for him to follow. It looks like he lost his original map and some of those Beverly Hills streets can be confusing to navigate. We opened up the trunk last week - the "trunk" is my oh-so-wonderful treasure hoard of vintage knick-knacks and memorabilia - to look for one. I knew we had an old LA map stashed somewhere among there. 

I searched under the pile of Screen Time and Radio/TV Mirror magazines, under the Avengers, The Munsters, and countless other TV trading cards, next to the prize glossy movie photo collection, behind the Porky Pig comic books, and even under my pet rubber alligator ( he eats the strangest things sometimes )...but no Hollywood map was to be found. Doesn't that bug you where you know you have something and just can't find it? 

Well, to cut a long story short - it was found a few days later hiding in plain sight right under my nose. That's not the point of this post though ( that would be a pretty pathetic topic to write about ). The point is...I found our old bag of Los Angeles tourist souvenir stuff while I was searching and among them was a brochure from the Movieland wax museum. Wowee kazam!

Didi and I purchased this grab bag way back one beautiful summer Saturday morning at a street sale in Unionville, Ohio. A lady was selling a large lots of postcards/brochures/guidebooks of Los Angeles for 50 cents, so we bought the lot. See, who said we weren't big spenders? 

The brochure hailed that the "biggest gathering of stars in the world" were brought under one roof for the public to gaze at. The Movieland Wax Museum was once the largest wax museum in America, with over 300 Hollywood figures. We got so excited about this that we thought we'd uncover a little of its history and go on a gawking tour of the famous and not-so-famous stars of the past, as they were immortalized in wax. Not all 300 of course, but enough. Sorry Al....looks like we got a little sidetracked. 

So without more ado, let's take a cue from Maria and start at the very beginning ( a very good place to start ). Park your car, grab a ticket - they're FREE, pop on your audio headset and let's begin!


This is the fabulous entry way to the wax museum. Up front, beyond the concrete sidewalk, was a pond where swans swam. Sometimes they swimmed there too. 

                                           The Movieland Wax Museum main entrance. 

Also up front was a 18 foot high, 10 ton replica statue of Michelangelo's David. No, it wasn't made of wax. It was actually a marble replica. When Movieland closed its doors in 2005, several of their most famous wax figures were auctioned off and it was David who received the highest bids. He sold for a grand total of $120,000. Baring all sometimes does pay off. 


Since we never went to Movieland while it was in business we aren't sure what wax figure you saw first when coming in ( aside from the ticket collector ) so we'll just meander around all over the place. That's what we usually do anyway. You can take a break midway through and we'll tell you a little more about the museum case your fingers get tired of walking. 

D.W Griffith shouting to Laurel and Hardy ( Laurel and Hardy? ) from his director's chair. I don't know who the man next to him is suppose to be. The words below the Bijou remind me of a movie sign from an old Porky Pig cartoon : Now Playing  "The Broken Leg". Surrounded by a large cast.  

It's Papa Ben Cartwright and his boys Hoss and Little Joe. Dan Blocker is done really well!  

Yul Brynner is kind of hunky here but Deborah Kerr doesn't seem to notice..she's pissed about something. I think the artist was concentrating on her shoulders more than her facial expression. Let's look at a close-up...

Yes, definitely pissed.

Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler as "Min and Bill". Dressler looks a little more like Kathleen Freeman as the old broad from the Naked Gun series here. 

The artists did a better job on Harry Carey in "Trader Horn". Cantiflas, the Mexican star of "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Pepe" is excellent. They even got his wiry frame down pat. 

The clapboard caption reads Lady of the Tropics featuring Robert Taylor and Hedy Lamarr but Taylor and Lamarr aren't anywhere to be found. All I see is a mod tiger blanket and two mannequins with receding hairlines....oh wait, you don't suppose they meant THEM??

Will Rogers seated on an old covered wagon, complete with rope in hand and his hat tilted on his head.

Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. She looks the original 1950s Barbie doll with black hair. Oh can't blame them, they tried their best.

Abbott and Costello still doing their Who's on First? routine. Some vaudeville acts never get old.

The Latin Lover is seen in one of his most famous silent films "Son of the Sheik". And here's a bewitching couple - it's Charlie McCarthy and Elizabeth Montgomery! That's funny...the sign says Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They must of labeled it wrong. 

Jean Harlow in a slinky nightgown lounging on her chaise. It looks like they overdid it a bit on the bleach job..I knew she had platinum blonde hair but everything was turned white in this room.

Harold Lloyd is pretty good...even the mountain lion is done really well ( or is that a stuffed job? ). Roy Rogers could pack on a few pounds and Trigger looks like a plastic toy horse but then horses always are difficult to model. 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As if you didn't know.

Two western film legends. Shane and the Duke. Alright, pardner...move 'em on out. The modeler must of seen how Trigger turned out in the Roy Rogers set so he decided to opt out on a horse for the Duke and made a dog instead. Sure, that's logical. Every cowboy has a dog. 

Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen. As Hepburn would put it "that is a truly atrocious characterization". We quite agree Ms. Hepburn, they didn't do you justice in the least.  Bogie is rather good though. 

The museum received alot of complaints that the Lady of the Tropics display needed some updating, so a decade or so later ( it takes awhile to make wax figures ) they had them redone. Taylor is looking pretty good now but now they made Hedy.... look like Omarosa?? I'll have to send them a copy of Lady in the Tropics.

A staple of the Movieland Museum was a beautiful golden Rolls Royce parked outside of the entrance since Movieland opening in 1962. In the mid-1960s, with the popularity of monster films and TV shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family, they added a Frankenstein wax figure in the passenger seat. I wonder how he coped during a hot California summer....

The museum also offered Family Fun parties. Adults had to pay double the admission price as the children because they could read signs better. I can just imagine a little boy's conversation at school to the popular kid in class "I don't have to go to your dumb-old birthday party. I'm going with my family to a party at Buena Park...and Mr. T and Spock and Elizabeth Taylor..and Raquel Welch..and that guy who sings about the yellow ribbon and...and..a whole bunch of other pretty people are going to be there! So there." That must of floored him. 

Who can resist the opportunity of being photographed in the Space Ship Gallery..and with Spock! Alright, alright, so he doesn't move. You can't have everything. 

If your parents couldn't spring the $1.65 for your entrance fee they probably would of bought you the complete Viewmaster set of the Movieland Wax Museum. It was the next best thing ( I guess ), to being there. With every click of the viewer you caught a tiny glimpse of all the wonderful inanimate freeze-framed treasures the "Palace of Living Art" had on display. Treasures you will one day see in person for yourself, you hope.  Like Suzie Wong being pulled in a rickshaw....

This is supposed to be Nancy Kwan. Yeah, right. I think she's the same Omarosa model and they just made her hair recede a tad bit more. 

Slim and Zasu, looking very slim and Zasu-ish. Roger Moore is terrible! The small white sign reads "Roger Moore personally dedicated this set on April 13, 1988 ". Poor guy, I wonder what he must of thought when he saw Movieland's idea of what he looks like. 

Now these two characters are really good. Crazy Guggenheim couldn't be better and Walter Brennan is excellent too. Love the detailing on the set. I wonder if all the scenery came with the winning bid of a wax figure during the auction. Or did you even get their bodies for that matter?

I thought the man standing beside Frankenstein was modeled exceptionally well, but upon closer look I think he's a REAL man. Hmm...that's a tough call. Charleton Heston is about to whack the ten commandments down upon the rock in anger over his people's sinful folly.

Here we see William S. Hart, Tom Mix and Ken Maynard in a nice little Western scenario. Quite frankly, I wouldn't of recognized any of them if their clapboards weren't in front of them. They all look like Abercrombie and Fitch dummies to me. 

The cop and the criminal. This is Martin Landau disguised as Anthony Perkins in Psycho. He must be on a secret IMF mission, and this other portly fellow is a Keystone Kop. I'm not very familiar with the KK squad so I'm not sure which actor he is representing.

I take it this is suppose to be Ernest Borgnine and Stella Stevens ( or Carol Lynley?? ) from Poseidon Adventure. I think if I was the night watchman at the museum it would be this figure of Borgnine that I'd keep my eye on the most. One move and..getta oughtta there faaast!

Baa-baa Streisand. 

This deserves a close-up. You'll find yourself saying literally "Hello Dolly". ( Ouch )

The Little Tramp in a very trampy little setting. 

The newlyweds...Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood from West Side Story. Bob Hope is pointing, "Watch out Bing, don't go losing your head on me". 

Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights. Really? Methinks this is another sculptor who never saw a photo of Merle Oberon. 

The Little Rascals in a most frightening scenario...the dentist office!! 

When Movieland opened in 1962 a Liberace figure seated at his piano was apart of the original tour. However, after a few years it was moved to the basement in hiding and so a postcard of it was not to be found anywhere. Here is a photo of Liberace instead. They look the same.

William Powell and Myrna Loy in a Thin Man scene. Or so it says. I don't understand why the dead man has his feet pointing up and his hand pointing down. The shock of seeing that old lady in the painting must of stunned him something awful. Asta looks like a puppet. Not that I've ever seen a wire-hair terrier puppet before, but that's what one would look like if there was one. 

"Beeee my loooovve..." That's Mario Lanza in one of his operetta scenes. Gar-y Coo-per has his fist clenched in anticipation of the big showdown at high noon. The museum must of thought that this scene wasn't complete so later they added Grace Kelly sitting in the chair on the left. A wax figure of her that is. 

Sherlock Holmes? "Elementary my dear Watson".

Fantastic! You can just see Jonathan Winters exerting all his strength trying to bust free from that duck-tape. Good luck with that. "Irwin, watch out! He's gonna bust!"

Perry Mason standing beside his old pal, the witness box. He looks like Robert T. Ironside here, but he's this must be a scene from the new Perry Mason TV movies. 

I don't know what Jim Carrey is suppose to be doing but it's kind of awkwardly funny and creepy at the same time.

Laurel and Hardy trying to get away without paying for tickets. And here's another unknown character - Lon Chaney? 

Oh no! Now we're seeing the close-up. "It" looks even worse when approached. Fred Astaire is as white as a sheet.Why, they seem positively DEAD.

Wow. I know what the sculptor was concentrating on when he thought of Elizabeth Taylor. The boobs that launched a thousand ships. Oops, that was Helen of Troy.

Another couple of stiffs. Redd Foxx is fabulous, and Esther is going a great "Stinky" impersonation. Does anyone remember Stinky from The Abbott and Costello Show? 

I love the Lucy figure. You'd think with all the money she made from the I Love Lucy reruns that she could afford a better shawl though. 

And, of course, any wax museum wouldn't be complete without a figure of Vincent Price, the mad artist himself from "House of Wax". If you ever wanted to know what a wax figure of a wax figure looks like, here it is.

Now for the grand finale...the Top Three Best wax figures! 

                                                    THE WINNING WAX


This is fabulous. Ray Milland has that drunken dazed look about him, his suit is a bit crinkled, cigarette butts are scattered over the ground and even his shoe looks like it's about to fall off. ( Why do drunks always lose their shoes? ) 

Better not ask him. He's in no condition to give a straight answer. 


Sophia Loren in a dramatic scene from "Two Women" aka La Ciociara. Bellissima! Magnifico!

                                                                           1st PLACE

Fantastic!! Can you look any more real Mr. Sammy Davis? "No, I can't!". The sculptor even got his glass eye looking slightly in the other direction. Not that any of his eyes are "real". At least, I hope not. 


This concludes your tour of the Movieland Wax Museum. Please dispose of any plastic cups, 3D glasses, leftover chicken nuggets and dirty diapers on your way out. 

If you have any comments to make, quibbles to quibble over about our choice of winning waxes, or memories to share from your trip(s) to Movieland please leave them in the comment box below.  We'd love to hear stories of your tales from the palace of wax!