The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

     The Ghost & Mr. Chicken – “It was terrible.  It was just terrible.  I’ll never get over it as long as I live.”  An outstanding film from the 1960’s and safe for the whole family.  Movies like this one tend to get forgotten over time which is a shame due to how great the film truly is.  This is a movie that steps back to a time when you could watch a “scary” movie without fear of traumatizing your kids.  This scary comedy showcases the talents of Don Knotts, who gained fame as Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show.  Stepping out with his popularity, he brings that same energy and stylings to this movie.  For a fun spook house movie that your entire family can enjoy, this one’s for you.  Underrated by Rotten Tomatoes at 67%, but Amazon.com viewers provide a 4.5 stars showing that the “experts” got it wrong again.

Plot – Luther Heggs (Don Knotts) is a typesetter at the local paper and is anxious to be a reporter.  One night while driving, he thinks he sees a murder outside a supposedly haunted house.  He rushes to the police station in shock and, as he relays the story to the cops and the newspaper reporter, the “victim” walks in…..apparently, his wife was adjusting her husband’s ways.  Heggs is now mocked by those around him except for a lady named Alma that Heggs has a crush on.  The legend of the Simmons House is that Mr. Simmons killed his wife and then jumped to his death 20 years earlier and you can still hear his ghost play his beloved organ.  To increase newspaper sales, Heggs is assigned to spend the night in the house on the 20th anniversary.  The ghostly happenings scares Heggs out of his mind.  He writes about his experiences shocking the town.  Nicholas Simmons, owner and nephew of the deceased, wants to destroy the mansion and sues Heggs.  Making him the fool in court, everyone goes to the house to see what goes on there….nothing happens.  After people leave, suddenly, the organ plays and we now find out why.  Nicholas Simmons appears with Alma in his clutches.  With fast action and using his entire body as a weapon, Heggs saves the day and wins the girl.

Commentary – If you like the Andy Griffith show, then you’ll love this film.  Although some of styling and comments are very 1960’s, the movie is spooky and funny.  It’s also clean and family oriented and can be watched by everyone in the family with that classic charm.  None of the scenes are over-the-top as in most movies and there is no bad language to fear.  Loving Halloween and scary movies like I do, sometimes it’s good to watch a spooky movie that doesn’t carry the intensity and gore of horror films, but stays with the same spooky theme.  Besides, you can’t go wrong with Don Knotts for a good time.

Trivia – Andy Griffith and other regular actors from The Andy Griffith Show were very good friends.  Andy suggested to Knotts about expanding the stoy featured in “The Haunted House” episode as a premise for the movie.  In addition, many of the Andy Griffith Show actors were featured or had cameo appearances in the film as well.  The “Simmons Mansion” is now the home of Gabriel Soris on the tv show, Desperate Housewives.  Finally, the car that Heggs drives in the movie is a Ford Edsel, which was a short-lived failure of a car.

**  Just click the images to check out “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” at Amazon.com **


The Wolf Man (1941)

     The Wolf Man (1941) – “Even a man that’s pure of heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright.”  The original Wolf Man….a classic monster movie and should be revered by all horror fans and kids today.  Sure, this one’s pretty tame compared to the CGI graphics and young hunks that portray werewolves today.  But, this is the one that started it all and the ones most of us think of for the classic monster.  It is also a very good movie.  Loaded with the A-list talent of Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Raines, Bela Lugosi, Evelyn Ankers, & Maria Ouspenskaya, it has great acting and the story holds up even to this day.  Definitely a movie to be watched each year as Halloween approaches or really can be enjoyed anytime.  Rated 94% at Rotten Tomatoes & 4 stars at Amazon.com, you know its good.

Plot – Learning of the death of his older brother, Larry Talbot (Lon Cheney Jr) goes home to Llanwelly, Wales to reconcile with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Raines).  While there, he falls for Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), who runs an antique shop.  He introduces himself at the shop and asks her out.  Reluctantly, she accepts and Larry buys a cane with a silver wolf’s head.  Gwen tells him it represents the werewolf and quotes the rhyme, which is laughed off as superstition.  That night, Gwen is there with a friend named Jenny, as a chaperone.  They go to visit a gypsy fortune teller, Bela (Bela Lugosi).  Bela sees Jenny first, but begins acting strange and scares her off.  Suddenly, we hear her screaming.  Larry rushes to save Jenny and kills the wolf-like creature attacking her, but is bitten during the struggle.  Bela’s mother, Meleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), tells him the creature was her son, Bela, and that Larry is now a werewolf.  At night, he starts changing and the killing begins in the village.  Larry has vague memories and his father believes he is losing his mind.  Ultimately, John Talbot & the villagers set a trap for the creature.  As the creature attacks Evelyn, John Talbot arrives to save her.   Unfortunately, he ends up killing his own son in the form of the wolf….ironically with the same cane.

Commentary – The classic monsters from the 30’s and 40’s should be appreciated for their impact on film and society.  These monsters are the corner stones for all horror films and traditions of Halloween all the way to the present day.  In addition, the movies are very good.  It’s a shame that they are remaking these movies and robbing the younger generations of the real origins of these monsters.  Sorry, I’m a traditionalist and the Wolf Man is not a 17 year old hunk as portrayed in the remakes.  The Wolf Man will forever be Lon Cheney Jr, who played the role in all sequels.  He protected the monster’s legacy for generations.  We should not let those traditions go.  They are signature monsters because they were the best.

Trivia – The Wolf Man is an iconic movie.  Bela, the fortune teller and original werewolf, is played by Bela Lugosi…the original Dracula.  Maria Ouspenskaya plays Bela’s mother, Meleva, was actually only 6 years older than Bela Lugosi.  And, that famous rhyme that is repeated throughout the film was completely made up by the script writer, even though many have tried to tie it back to old gypsy legends.  Interestingly, the transition to werewolf doesn’t focus on the full moon in the original film.  The rhyme was actually modified in later films to incorporate the full moon as being a trigger for the transformation.  Finally, the original rhyme makes reference to the period when the wolfsbane blooms.  Well ladies, that time is from July-November.  So, watch out for those guys out there.  They may be acting strangely after dark.

** Just click the images to check out “The Wolf Man” at Amazon.com **


Hold That Ghost

     Hold That Ghost – “Look, from now on, keep one eye on that candle, another eye on that one, and with the other eye, watch me.”  Abbott & Costello from the 40’s were icons of comedy.  Their style and humor put them on par with any movie star out at the time.  This movie brings the boys into the comedy horror style.  This would prove a valuable formula in finding ways to get the boys into trouble and capitalizing on Lou Costello’s perfect scared imitations.  If you’re not into Abbott & Costello’s comedy style, then maybe this isn’t for you.  However, as a huge fan myself, I find their humor intelligent, creative, with just that little bit of cheesiness that makes it extra good.  Rated at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com (for the collection), most everyone finds the boys hilarious.

Plot – Chuck Murray (Bud Abbott) & Ferdie Jones (Lou Costello) are gas station attendants given the opportunity at a night club as waiters.  While there, we’re introduced to Moose Manson, a gangster who has pulled a payroll job and another gangster wanting his cut.  After the boys cause a scene, they’re fired and back at the gas station.  Manson pulls up in a hurry for gas.  While giving service they are in the car when the police show up.  Manson speeds off with the boys.  During the shoot out, Manson is killed.  His will leaves all his possessions to the ones with him at “the end”.  Chuck & Ferdie inherit Moose’s, Forrester’s Club, a run down inn.  They are taken out on a bus with several other passengers.  While trying to get in, the driver takes off with their bags.  With a huge storm going, they try to wait it out, but their host disappears.  That’s when the spooks come out scaring the boys and their new pals.  Ghostly happenings, dead bodies moving, and bumps in the night keep them running until……Ferdie finds Manson’s dough.  That’s when we find out what the spooks are really after.  Chuck & Ferdie survive and open a night club of their own with a special appearance by Ted Lewis & his Orchestra and The Andrews Sisters, who were hugely popular acts during that time.

Commentary – Bud & Lou are at their prime in this film showcasing some of their classic routines.  The comedy is clean and funny and you get the bonus of seeing the great acts of the past with Ted Lewis & The Andrews Sisters.  This film is considered by many to be their funniest film and audiences loved Lou’s reactions when frightened.  Having all 4 of their “Best of Abbott & Costello” movie collections, Abbott & Costello were consistently making great films with a variety of story lines to showcase their talents.  Hold That Ghost is definitely top 5 of all their films.  And, the collections are a great value with 8 films each for about $20.

Trivia – Abbott & Costello were originally filming Hold That Ghost as follow up to their smash hit, Buck Privates.  However, due to the success of Buck Privates, filming was halted and they were assigned to film another military comedy, In the Navy.  In addition, the musical numbers were not in the original film, but added later when test audiences clearly missed them.  Combining musical acts became a winning formula for the boys.

**  Just click the images to check out “The Best of Abbott & Costello Vol. 1” at Amazon.com **


Nightmare on Elm Street

     Nightmare on Elm Street – Come to Freddy!!!  In the 80’s, one of the best horror franchises was launched.  It was different than other horror movies.  The killer was actually likeable and the way he killed was fun.  Lets face it, Freddy Krueger was COOL!!!  Other horror movies have the killer as deranged, psychotic, or in a rage for some reason.  Freddy killed because that’s what he liked to do and enjoy it.  You do learn through the movies that Freddy is after the Elm Street kids because the parents burned him alive, but he also wants more and more.  But, when Freddy killed, he did it with style and maximum freight factor…and a little bit of sarcastic comedy makes him one of the best ever.  Rated 95% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, even the critics liked it.  Personally, I recommend the 4 movie sets or the collection over the individual discs to get the best value.

Plot – Tina (Amanda Wyss) & Nancy (Heather Lagenkamp) are friends and realize they are having nightmares about the same disfigured & creepy guy.  Tina’s scared and that night, Nancy & her boyfriend Glen (a young Johnny Depp), come to spend the night.  Her boyfriend, Rod (Nick Corri), crashes as well.  During the night, Krueger arrives in dramatic style and brutally kills her.  Rod is scared and runs, but is caught the next day.  Nancy visits him and he mentions he too had a nightmare about a guy with knives for fingers.  Freddy visits him that night…2 down.  Nancy is having nightmares and not sleeping.  Her mother takes her to a sleep clinic.  The nightmare occurs and Nancy is awakened with a cut, but she was able to bring the killer’s hat with her.  The name in the hat is revealed as Fred Krueger.  After an argument, her mother reveals Krueger as the evil child killer that the parents murdered because he got off on a technicality.  But, her mother doesn’t believe he’s killing because he’s dead and she installs security on the windows and doors.  Nancy, sets up plan to bring Freddy into the real world and booby traps the house.  Unfortunately, Freddy gets to Glen first in a horrific scene across the street.  Then, Nancy calls to her father (a cop) who is there that she will get Freddy.  She drags him into the real world and he chases through out the house.  She sets him on fire and locks him in the basement.  She finally gets her father’s attention, but Freddy’s escaped and after mom.  Ultimately, it’s Freddy & Nancy….She robs Freddy of his power and brings everyone back.  The next day, all seems fine…..or is it?

Commentary – As stated before, Freddy was so popular because he was cool & funny when he killed them, but yet, you still feared him.  He was so popular, people in theatres cheered for him.  After killing Nancy’s boyfriend, he calls her to say, “I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy.”  Then, the famous tongue through the phone scene.  While all of the movies aren’t great, the comedy and killing gags had this series at the top of horror in the 80’s.  The original, Nightmare 3:Dream Warriors, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare were good.  Nightmare 2 Freddy’s Revenge was horrible, as was Freddy’s Dead.  Nightmare 4: Dream Master was ok, but a weak ending.  But, even if a few were bad movies, they were enjoyable just to watch Freddy perform.

Trivia – Some interesting tidbits about Freddy was that the first time Robert Englund put on Freddy’s knife glove….he cut himself.  The color of Freddy’s red & green sweater is due to a study that Craven read stating these two colors are the most contrasting to the human retina.  The inspiration for the character was a real life, chilhood bully of Wes Craven…named Fred Krueger.  Johnny Depp makes his movie acting debut in the movie and one of the main reasons that he was chosen was because the producer’s daughter that he was “dreamy”.  And finally, New Line Cinema was nearly bankrupt and was financially saved by the success of the film…The company is now jokingly referred to as the “House that Freddy built.”

** Just click the images to check out “Nightmare on Elm Street” at Amazon.com **


Psycho

     Psycho“A boys best friend is his mother.”  Whoa, creepy statement on several levels.  Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic is an iconic film and a must see for everyone.  It is rated 99% at Rotten Tomatoes, 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, and ranked at #14 on AFI’s top movie list of all time.  Famed for the infamous shower scene that has been replayed and parodied countless times, the horror/suspense in the film isn’t overwhelming visually.  The horror and creepiness comes from the under-tone of the story and dialogue.  The few critics of the film are typically those looking for the same horror techniques that didn’t come out until the 70’s & 80’s with heavy amounts of blood & gore.  However, Psycho was one of the predecessors of those techniques.  The script is excellent and builds tension from start to finish.  The acting keeps you on edge the entire time.  And, the ending makes you look at those around you and wonder…could they really be “normal”?  I still give my wife that questioned look sometimes.

Plot – Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is having a discreet romance with Sam Loomis (John Gavin).  They want to marry, but can not due to Sam being in heavy debt.  Desperate, she steals $40,000 from her office and heads to Sam, who lives far away.   Along the way, her suspicious behavior draws the attention of highway police.  She exchanges cars and continues on stopping at the Bates Motel off the main road.  She meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and checks in.  He invites her to dinner at the house, but she over hears an argument between Norman & his mother.  Instead, they eat in the hotel office where Norman tells her that his mother can not care for herself so he stays with her despite the abuse.  After eating, Marion goes to her room to take a shower.  A shadowy figure appears and stabs Marion to death.  Norman finds the body and hides it, assuming his mother did it.  A few days later, Marion’s sister, Lila, and private investigator, Arborgast, track down Sam and question him, but he hasn’t seen her.  Arbogast tracks Marion to the Bates Motel and questions Norman.  His answers were not convincing.  Arbogast thinks Norman’s mother may know something, so he heads to the house over Norman’s refusal.  As he climbs the stairs, he’s attacked and killed by a female figure.  When Arbogast disappears, Sam & Lila head to the Bates Motel to search.  Norman hides his mother in the cellar to keep her from being found.  Sam questions Norman intensely while Lila heads to the house.  Norman figures it out, hits Sam over the head, and goes after her.  Lila sees him coming and hides in the cellar, finding Norman’s mother.  The female figure enters brandishing the knife, but Sam catches her from behind revealing the real killer.  The ending is the cops revealing what’s behind the killing.

Commentary –  Again, the film is a classic and considered one of the best all time.  The story is strong and will keep you engaged throughout.  Of course, the shower scene is legendary in film history.  While on the lighter side of the horror genre, you will still get that classic creepiness that only Alfred Hitchcock can deliver.

Trivia – There are several notable facts about the film that is fun.  For instance, Marion wears a white bra and carries a white purse originally because Hitchcock wanted to portray her as “angelic”, but once she steals the money, she has a black purse and wears a black bra indicating that she had done something wrong.   Ironically, the $40,000 that Marion steals is the same amount reportedly paid to Anthony Perkins for his role in the movie.  And, that famous shower scene can’t be left without something interesting about it.  It was very impactful.  Although Janet Leigh had no problems filming this iconic scene, once she saw it on screen, she realized how vulnerable a woman was in the shower and preferred to take baths from that day forward.

**  Just click the images to check out “Psycho” at Amazon.com **


Upcoming for Fall

  Upcoming – As the days are getting shorter and the mornings and evenings are getting cooler, you can smell the transition in the air from the burning Summer to the fantastic season of Fall.  This is probably my favorite time of year.  The smell each morning as I walk out of my house just excites me and that crispness developing in the air just adds that something extra special.  As college football dominates the weekend tv or activities, my wife tolerates me (somewhat!) as I develop into a couch potato eating the most unhealthy foods imaginable.  Those who read my blog and my wife’s as well understand that this is somewhat of a torture for her as she is extremely conscious about what is good for us and what is not.  Lets face it…The male college football menu is probably featured in the medical journals about what NOT to eat.  Don’t worry though, she forces me to eat all that nasty, healthy stuff most of the time.  I just don’t understand why they can’t make spinach taste like chicken wings and beer….LOL!!!  Anyway, the Fall season is coming upon us, the leaves changing, and the coolness is in the air and that leads me to thinking about Halloween.!!!

Is it too early for Halloween?  Of course.  However, as Halloween will be here in just 7 weeks, these Fall feelings makes me start thinking of spooky movies.  While few spooky movies are Halloween based, this is the time of year to really enjoy them….since it gets dark before 10pm.  So, coming over the next 7-8 weeks, I’ll be focusing on presenting some of the great horror, suspense, and even a few spooky comedy movies that are great to watch during this time of year.  So, check back each week.  Hopefully, you’ll find some great movies that either you have seen or will give a chance to enjoy.  So, why am I starting so soon?  Well, time is the answer.  1.  I need time to post them.  2.  You need time to read them.  & 3.  You need time to find them, get them, or order them so that you can enjoy them during this season.  So yes, I know it’s a bit early, but don’t let that turn you off.  There is a reason.  As someone who enjoys getting all scared with the lights out and a great spooky movie going, this is the time I’ll enjoy presenting some of my favorites from this genre.  I hope you find some to enjoy.  That’s what this blog is all about….Enjoying great movies.  Also, I welcome comments from those of you who have favorites as well.  My posts will not be in order of my favorites.  However, I’m confident that all of them are “great” movies.


UP

     UP – When this movie came out, I had zero intentions to watch it.  The ads were silly and appeared to be the most child focused film with goofy, non-sensical images.  While I’m a huge fan of animation, I do have limits on what I can watch.  A crotchety old man character is very appealing for numerous great comedy moments, the rest of the concept seemed too far off base.  And I can tell you….I was completely WRONG!!!  However, a friend of mine recommended it and I decided to give it a try.  It was an excellent movie and a billion times better than expected.  The crotchety old man jokes are there and hilarious and there are some goofy moments for children; however, the underlying love story and dedication of Carl to Ellie nearly made me cry and the bond developed between Carl & Russell provides another tug on the heartstrings as well.

Plot:  Carl is a kid and adventure lover.  His idol is world famous explorer Charles Muntz who was accused of fabricating his findings at Paradise Falls in South America.  Carl meets a strange, energetic tomboy named Ellie, who shares Carl’s passion for Muntz and makes him promise to help her get to Paradise Falls.  An abandoned house serves as their “clubhouse”.  The 2 grow up together and get married buying their “clubhouse” for their home.  The repeatedly try to save for Paradise Falls, but life gets in the way.  Ellie, unfortunately, gets ill and passes leaving Carl alone.  As he is nearly forced to leave his home, he finds Ellie’s book and vows to get to Paradise Falls.  Being a balloon vendor, he rigs his home with enough balloons to fly.  Surprising to him, Russell, a young wilderness explorer, was on his porch at liftoff.  Well, can’t turn back now and we learn of Russell’s broken home.  He takes Russell to Paradise Falls, but slightly misses their mark, so, they must hike the rest of the way towing the floating house.  They stumble on a flightless bird that Russell names Kevin.  That’s when the dogs appear chasing the bird.  Dug, a dog with collar allowing him to speak, becomes their ally.  The dogs take Carl & Russell to a hideout where they encounter an elderly Muntz.  When he finds out Kevin is the bird he’s after, he gets hostile to get it.  Carl & Russell flee, but Muntz catches up.  By starting a fire, Carl saves his house allowing Kevin to be caught, which infuriates Russell.  Carl finds that Ellie didn’t want him to give up living in her book.  So, Carl sets out to save Russell & Kevin.  After an intense and sometimes hilarious battle, Kevin is returned.  Carl then  becomes a substitute father for Russell giving him his final badge…the same one Ellie gave him when they met.

Commentary:    While the story has some over the top attributes, the love story and dedication of Carl to Ellie is quite touching.  Throw in Russell’s issues with a deadbeat father and you’re moved like few other movies can.  Carl filling that void in Russell’s life also fills the void in his.  It’s a touching story and adults can enjoy this movie as well.  Most animated movies do not deliver an adult level theme without sliding into cheesy or over-done drama.  UP is able to provide this within the scope of the story and using images to pull at your heart.  With 98% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, it is a bonified great movie.

**  Just click the images to check out “UP” at Amazon.com **