Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Universal Pictures Blogathon - All Hallows Eve

Good evening! On behalf of the Metzinger Sisters I vant to vish you all a most vicked Halloween!

The guests are still streaming through the door promising another day of splendid articles in celebration of the 100th anniversary of my alma mater, Universal Pictures. Igor is doing his best to accommodate them. Guest rooms are limited so please pardon the cramped quarters.

Before we share a toast to this grand old studio please be so kind as to step into the library. We have a marvelous little film to share on the history of Universal Horror. It is only four minutes in length and I vill assure you that it vill vet your appetite for this most bevitching evening.

After the showing ve vill take part in a party game. I encourage you to read the rules. This is a fun and easy game, so no cheating, otherwise I vill personally throw you into the dungeon! Igor, start the reels rolling....

The Scavenger Hunt
How to Play the Game :
Look at the list of items to find. Each object is hidden in a photo within one of the Universal Pictures Blogathon posts. Take note of the name of the blog where you find each of them. Write down the first letter of the blog's title ( not the post title and "the" in the titles do not count ). These letters will spell a four-letter mystery word ( no, not that kind of four-letter word! ). Email us this mystery word and you'll be entered in a drawing for your choice of The Universal Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection DVD or The Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters Collection DVD. Work fast for the scavenger hunt ends at midnight on November 4th!
( Look to the Contact Us tab to find our email address )
Items to Find
1. a beetle ring
2. an unusual bow tie - in fact its so unusual we have provided a picture of it to help you hunt for it
3. a crystal ball
4. a miniature cannon
Good luck to one and all!
Universal was such a vonderful studio to work at. I spent many happy years there and I am proud to say that they made a large variety of different films in addition to horror....dramas, comedies, mysteries, musicals, and westerns.
Our guests of honor for All Hallow's Eve cover Universal's varied output throughout the years :

First off, Stars and Letters share with us the story of the founder ( the papa! ) of Universal Pictures and the studios origin in her vonderful article Carl Laemmle : Father of Universal.
Movies Silently shares with us the delicious story behind The Delicious Little Devil ( 1919 ).
Nitrate Glow then tells us why one should not roll their eyes at the immoral behavior to be found in Stroheim's Blind Husbands ( 1919 ), especially considering the husbands themselves were blind to it.

Now Voyaging takes us on a voyage back in time to 1925 when Universal released the comedy Oh, Doctor!
Immortal Ephemera shares with us a review of a creepy film - The Cat Creeps ( 1930 ).

Back to Golden Days then takes us back to 1930 when the war film All Quiet on the Western Front became an instant box-office smash.
Mike's Take on the Movies gives us his take on a vonderful film starring yours truly - The Black Cat ( 1934 ). Of course, I had to hide my fangs for this particular picture but the intention was still there.
Carole and Co. tells us vhy Lombard enjoys Love Before Breakfast ( 1936 ) and not after dinner.
Universal was such a great studio, they did not even limit their output to one genre alone but often mixed them.....horror-comedies, mystery-dramas, and this stand-out film in the category of comedy-vesterns - Destry Rides Again ( 1939 ). Critca Retro writes about this film and explains just vhere Destry rode to again.
The famous fox-and-walrus detective team of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson had a smashing good run of films during Universal's heydays of the 1940s. The man behind Thrilling Days of Yesteryear tackles this popular series vith his usual vit in his article on The Sherlock Holmes films.

LA Explorer then covers her favorite Universal duo ( and mine too ) - Abbott and Costello - in one of their best films - Hold that Ghost! ( 1941 ). It's frightfully fun.

Movie Classics leaves out the spoilers in her look at The Spoilers (1942 ) - another one of Marlene Dietrich's great vesterns, this time as co-star to the Duke himself.

Deanna Durbin gets the spotlight treatment vhen Pop Culture Reverie covers Her Butler's Sister ( 1943 ). Ms. Durbin varbles some of her best songs in this amusing outing vith Franchot Tone.
The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog shares with us the highlights of Abbott and Costello's trip to Bixby College in Here Come the Co-Eds ( 1945 ).

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies shows us a behind-the-scenes look at the Universal backlot and explains to us just vhere Myrna Loy's love went in So Goes My Love ( 1946 ).
Burt Lancaster vas one of Universal's top acting talents and one of his best films for the studio was Brute Force ( 1947 ), just ask Twenty Four Frames.
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood tells us about Universal's resident tough cookie - Barbara Stanwyck - and how she fell into the abyss of gambling in The Lady Gambles ( 1949 ).
In the 1950s, Universal vas ready to tackle any subject....even pookas. If you don't know vhat a pooka is then I highly recommend you head on over to The Wonderful World of Cinema to find out just who Harvey is.
Douglas Sirk vas a very unique producer at the studio and all of his most identifiable trademarks are to be found in All I Desire ( 1953 ) starring Barbara Stanwyck. Take a look at this little known film and vander back In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.
Something sinister can be found in A Touch of Evil ( 1958 ) and The Stop Button tells us just vhere to look for it.
Even the master of suspense - Alfred Hitchcock - made a number of films over at Universal Studios...The Birds ( 1963 ) being one of his most famous. Le Mot du Cinephiliaque explains vhy it is something to crow about.

And lastly, Silver Scenes tackled one of their favorite Don Knott's films - The Ghost and Mr. Chicken ( 1966 ) - a film that launched a series of Knotts comedies in the 1960s.

If you missed the party, then I advise you bring your carriage around to the front gate and enter into the foyer once again. Here are your passes to the 3-day Universal celebration :

The Universal Pictures Blogathon Day One - The Guests Arrive
The Universal Pictures Blogathon Day Two - The Monster Mash
We are grateful to all of our guests who contributed articles for our celebration of Universal's 100th Anniversary and our special thanks to our readers and Count Dracula for hosting this event. Have a Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken ( 1966 )

Ephraim Simmons murdered his wife in cold blood and then played the organ before killing himself; the keys are still stained with blood, and could never be cleaned off.... even after using Bon-Ami! Or so the rumor goes. It takes a man with spunk, like Luther Heggs, to get to the bottom of the real story.
Heggs ( Don Knotts ), a timid typesetter for a small-town newspaper, boasts that he can spend the night in the Old Simmons Mansion where it is rumored that the ghost of Mr. and Mrs. Simmons still reside. His chance to prove his courage - and impress his sweetheart, Alma Parker ( Joan Staley ) - comes when he writes an article on the local "haunted house" which creates such a stir that Luther's  boss ( Dick Sargeant ) challenges "Scoop" to spend a night in the old house and do a follow-up story. During the midnight vigil, the terrified Luther discovers a hidden staircase, the blood-stained organ mysteriously playing by itself, and a portrait painting with shears stabbed right through it.

"It was terrible. It was just terrible. I'll never get over it as long as I live!"

After his story is published, a town picnic is given in honor of Luther's courage, but he soon finds himself embroiled in a libel suit when the Simmons' nephew comes to town and demands that he retract his story or prove to the court that what he saw was not just his imagination playing tricks with him.

Don Knotts had just garnered three Emmys for his role as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show from 1960-1966 and, after hearing that Griffith intended on ending the series after the fifth season, began to embark on a film career. While Knotts had a few minor roles in feature films ( It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; Move Over, Darling ) it was not until 1964 that he received star billing in Warner Brother's The Incredible Mr. Limpet. This picture was received poorly at the box-office, however, Lew Wasserman screened the film over at Universal and decided that had Mr. Limpet been made by a studio with experience in family pictures it would have met with great success. Knotts was then offered a five-picture contract and given free rein to screenwriters and key personnel. Atta boy, Don Knotts!

Television screenwriters Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell teamed up with Andy Griffith to create a spine-tickling film that spotlighted Knott's unique comedic flair and combined all of the homespun humor of The Andy Griffith Show. A plethora of familiar character actors portrayed the citizens of the fictional small town of Rachel, Kansas, including a motherload of Mayberry-ites such as Hal Smith ( Otis ) as the town drunk , Hope Summers ( Clara ), Ellen Corby ( in an amusing sequence as Hegg's former schoolteacher ) and Burt Mustin ( Jud ).

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is packed with humorous one-liners but it is not the script that makes the film the memorable comedy classic that it is - it's these character actors and the brilliant facial expressions they display with every line. Jesslyn Fax stands out as Hegg's adorable landlady and Reta Shaw gives a beefy performance as the leader of the ladies' Psychic Occult Society ( "Taro, Karo, Salome!" ).

"I was only two blocks away that awful night, at my sister Clara's. We were sort of... listening.. to the organ, you know... the midnight bells were ringing... I turned to Clara and said, 'Clara, the organ music sounds straaange tonight!'.....

However, Don Knotts needed no support when it came to getting an audience to laugh. His nervous speech at the town picnic is a tour-de-force of comedic timing and remains one of the highlights of the film. Another memorable scene takes place at the diner - Luther leaves his seat beside Alma for a moment and a truck driver takes it, leaving Luther to slurp his soup from a standing position. Only Knotts can portray such a lovable small-town boob ( he even drives an Edsel! ).
Production on The Ghost and Mr. Chicken began in July 1965 and wrapped up within seventeen days, thanks to a swift television crew behind the cameras. Since the picture had a low-budget most of it was filmed on the Universal backlot. The famous Simmons mansion was a long-standing structure originally built in the 1940s and used for many Universal classics, including Harvey ( 1950 ). Keep an eye out for the Munster mansion next door, 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

Calm? Do "murder" and "calm" go together? Calm and murder?!

While most of the cast and crew knew what an entertaining film they were making, they did not realize just how popular it would become. Universal decided to release The Ghost and Mr. Chicken as a double-feature with Munsters, Go Home! to test the waters, not certain whether audiences wanted to watch two hours worth of Knottisms. Within one week of its release The Ghost raked in $1,500,000, nearly double its initial cost and, in cities across America, the film was extended for weeks to packed houses.

A sprightly ghost theme by Vic Mizzy ( based on Mr. Ghost Goes to Town ) and a marvelous "haunted" organ anthem permeate this Midwestern comedy gem filled with frightfully funny moments, a chilling atmosphere, stellar character actors, and one of Don Knotts' greatest nerve-rattled performances, making it appealing for all ages and the perfect film for a Halloween night.

This is our contribution to The Universal Pictures Blogathon hosted by yours truly, Silver Scenes. To read more articles on your favorite Universal classics head on over to The Master List of guest writers. Happy Halloween!

The Universal Pictures Blogathon - The Monster Bash

Velcome, dear readers, that some of our guests have arrived, please let me escort you to the ballroom where we have special entertainment provided for this evening  - a monster bash! 

Hours of horrible music will be performed by Betty Bones and her Band who will keep you rattling and rolling till you shake your fears away. 

Perhaps if you find them too hollow, you may desire to rest. My brides will be more than happy to escort you to your coffin....ahem, your guest room. Such sweet creatures, do you not think so? 

Or perhaps I could induce you to have a bite with me, a special cocktail before the music's harmless, I assure you! Peter's eyes always behave this way when he is giddy. 

Ah! I see you do not recognize some of the monsters assembled here, please let me introduce my friends. First, I am sure you know Mr. Mummy....

The Scroll of Troth awakened the wrapped up remains of this mummy and he has not been put to rest since. A bad case of insomnia I am afraid. Ask the Classic Film and TV Cafe, who covers four reincarnations of this wrinkly fellow in his splendid article Universal's Mummy Movies of the 1940s. 

If you would like to know more about his birth, let me guide you towards Old Hollywood Films who wraps up his life's history in her article The Mummy ( 1932 )

A truly horrifying creature is The Phantom of the Opera. This poor devil got acid applied to his face and it altered his spirit as well. Silentology exposes the man behind the mask in her excellent post on the 1925 film about him.

When the autumn moon is brightCaftan Woman celebrates that rare holiday, Werewolf of London Day. Vaht a dear woman! In this post she shares some comments about my hairy friend, the Werewolf of London ( 1935 ) and his origins. He is a most sane creature at times, just be so good as to keep your distance when the moon is out. 

The good doctor, Dr. Henry Frankenstein, never was satisfied with natural birth and decided he could improve the process. The monster was born one stormy night and frankly, he grew to become quite a level-headed young man. But even a man-made monster can get lonely, and so the doctor created a mate for his masterpiece. This enchanting creature had a most lovely name - Bride. A Shroud of Thoughts tells us why the 1935 film about her is often considered better than the original Frankenstein. 
Once Upon a Screen then begins to debate whether Son of Frankenstein ( 1939 ) is not better than both films in her entertaining review of the above. 
I was most pleased to find that I have been proclaimed one of the great Universal monsters! Although I hardly consider myself a monster. I am a gentleman and always have been....until I get thirsty. Nevertheless I found Classic Movie Hub's article about my very first picture for Universal - Dracula ( 1931 ) - to be most entertaining.
My children have also been stars of Universal pictures. My daughter was first asked to appear in Dracula's Daughter ( 1936 ) and then my son decided to join the acting business less than a decade later and the studio gave him star billing as well in Son of Dracula ( 1943 ). Both films are given the spotlight treatment by The Midnite Drive-In.
Us monsters love a good party and we were tickled pink to appear with Abbott and Costello in one of their best comedies - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein ( 1948 ). Another Old Movie Blog tells us why this film is a scream.
Eventually ve all had guest appearances in the Abbott and Costello films...the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde....Outspoken and Freckled tells us about each one of these A&C encounters in her article - Abbott and Costello Meet the Universal Monsters.

And who can forget the great gillman? One of life's misunderstood creatures! Wide Screen World conducts An Interview with the Creature, who shares insights into his life and his films. The Creature claims that we do not keep in touch anymore....but I tell him how difficult it is to see him when I visit the swamp at night. I vish it wasn't so murky! 

There are other monsters in this world .....
Man can become a monster when evil takes over his soul. Speakeasy demonstrates how this happened to the Duke of Gloucester in Tower of London ( 1939 ).
Then the David Bruce Appreciation Society explains how The Mad Ghoul ( 1943 ) became a ghoul and why the film about him is best enjoyed as a perverse coming-of-age melodrama. How delectable! 
There are monsters from out of this world too.....

These monsters could not fit into the doorway but Speakeasy tells us what makes The Monolith Monsters ( 1957 ) such rocking good villains, even though they are not the swiftest creatures.


And lastly, Movie Fanfare introduces us to Metalunan Mutants, those handsome creatures from outer space. They too had a motion picture made about their arrival on our planet, This Island Earth ( 1955 ).

We hope you will enjoy tonight's monster bash! 
To view yesterday's guest list click here. To view the Halloween line-up check out this post.