Tuesday, July 4, 2017
NOTE: This is an encore edition of a post I originally wrote in 2010:
Here’s a film that will be going into the “horror-onable mention” section of my book. It’s not a “horror-comedy” per se – it’s more of a fantasy-romance, but it does involve ghosts (albeit friendly ghosts) who take the opportunity to put a good scare in some folks as needed. For me, Abbott & Costello’s “The Time of Their Lives” is every bit as classic a movie as “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein;” even if it has more in common with “Topper.”
It’s also tied into the American Revolution, hence this post falling on America’s Independence Day. The film’s script is very well written. It tells the tale of Horatio Prim (Costello), a bumbling but masterful tinker in 1780 who longs to marry Nora, the housemaid of wealthy estate owner Tom Danbury. To that end, Horatio procures a letter of commendation from General George Washington in hopes of obtaining permission to marry Nora from Tom. Unfortunately, Horatio has a rival for Nora in butler Cuthbert (Abbott), who causes him trouble no end. But the real trouble comes from Danbury himself, who is secretly a traitor out to aid Benedict Arnold. Both Nora and Danbury’s fiancé, Melody (the luminous Marjorie Reynolds) learn of Danbury’s plot. Nora is captured and Danbury confiscates the commendation letter from her (she had been holding it for Horatio) and hides it in the mantelpiece clock, but Melody manages to escape on horseback in an effort to warn George Washington. She soon encounters Horatio, and the two are framed as traitors, executed and dumped into a well.
It’s here that the fantasy element kicks in. Horatio and Melody are now ghosts who haunt the grounds of the estate and will continue to do so until they can prove their innocence. They just need to somehow get the letter into the hands of the authorities who can rewrite the history books so the truth can be known. This becomes a more hopeful quest 166 years later when the estate is restored to its original condition, and that includes the original furniture. When the restoration is complete, the new owner invites some guests for the weekend to celebrate. Among the guests are psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenway, a descendent of Cuthbert (also played by Abbott). Horatio and Melody decide to have some fun “scaring” the guests. Horatio takes particular delight in spooking Greenway. A séance is held wherein the identity of the ghosts and their plight is revealed, resulting in the living doing what they can to help set Horatio and Melody free.
The film has grown in status over the years and has quite a following (and may have even inspired a line in the classic Gordon Lightfoot song, "If You Could Read My Mind"). In fact, while embraced by many Bud & Lou fans, it’s also been touted as “the Abbott & Costello movie for people who hate Abbott & Costello movies.” This is due to the exceptional dramatic acting of both Lou and Bud that full-bloodedly brings their well-written roles to life. They are both so good in this that it’s hard to say whether one outshines the other (although I might give the slight edge to Abbott whose rarely used talent for character acting is on full display here). It stands out from the majority of the team’s other films which primarily feature a variation on their con man/patsy burlesque characters. It’s one of the few films where the team stretched beyond their usual archetypes and managed to pull it off (for examples where this departure from the norm didn’t work in my opinion, catch “Little Giant” and “Dance With Me Henry.” Or don’t). It also includes a wonderful supporting cast, including horror-comedy stalwart Gale Sondergaard as the maid of the restored estate who definitely believes in ghosts. And it features beautiful sets, wonderful costume designs and marvelous special effects - a top-notch production all around.
If you haven't guessed by now, I consider "The Time of Their Lives" a wonderful film to watch on Independence Day... or any day, for that matter! Here’s the trailer for your enjoyment:
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Greetings Scared Silly fans. With my apologies for the break I’ve been taking from the project, there are, as always, several reasons it is on the backburner. One is my continued work on the Bowery Boys documentary, Bowery Rhapsody: the Rise & Redemption of Hollywood’s Original ‘Brat Pack,’ whose creator (and my fellow Executive Producer on the film as well as President/Owner of Handshake Away Productions), Colette Joel graciously brought me on-board. The moving parts needed to create a documentary film are many, and time-consuming. Being deeply involved in the inner workings, however, I can assure everyone that the final result will be more than worth the wait.
As readers of this blog know, I am a major fan of the Bowery Boys movie team as well as their earlier iterations, the Dead End Kids, Little Tough Guys and East Side Kids. Naturally, I am particularly fond of the East Side Kids and Bowery Boys films where the gang got mixed up with (both real and imagined) ghosts, monsters, haunted houses and all manner of macabre mayhem. But of course, with a career (counting all their incarnations) spanning 20 years and nearly 100 films, their horror-comedy output only tells part of the tale,
This year marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Leo Gorcey, one of the two actors (along with Huntz Hall) who are arguably the most well-known (and for a majority of fans, most popular) among the ever-rotating cast of gang members. One of the true joys of working on the documentary project for me has been getting to know the children and grandchildren of the original Dead End Kids. All of them are terrific folks with unique perspectives on their famous forebearers’ legacies, both as performers and patriarchs.
Leo Gorcey’s son, Leo Jr., and his daughter, Brandy are both very active in helping to keep their father’s memory alive. Leo Jr.’s memoir, Me and the Dead End Kid, has been in print for nearly 15 years. Brandy has made some personal appearances bringing special, one-of-a-kind memorabilia relating to her dad and his cohorts to events across the country This Memorial Day weekend, Brandy and Leo’s granddaughter, Madonna will be in attendance at the classic movie showcase and convention, Cinevent in Columbus, Ohio to help celebrate Leo Gorcey Sr.’s birthday.
Brandy and Madonna will display their prized collection of personal photos and memories of Gorcey at their booth. They’ll also offer select merchandise for sale, including Leo Gorcey’s tongue-in-cheek autobiography, An Original Dead End Kid Presents: Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockle Shells, and Dizzy Spells; Best of all, to commemorate what would be her father’s 100th birthday, Brandy will give a brief introduction to a screening of the East Side Kids classic, Clancy Street Boys. The fun-filled film will be preceded by the first public showing of a teaser trailer for the upcoming documentary on Gorcey and his cinematic cohorts, Bowery Rhapsody: the Rise & Redemption of Hollywood’s Original ‘Brat Pack.’
Joining Brandy and Madonna at their booth will be author Leonard Getz, who wrote a fine book on the team entitled, From Broadway to the Bowery. I originally met Len at a book signing and subsequently during filming of our documentary, of which Len is a part. Click here to read more about Len and his book.
It’s shaping up to be quite the event, and if you’ve never attended Cinevent before, they are offering a ticket give-away for first time attendees. Just click here and here for details.
In the meantime, here are some great East Side Kids and Bowery Boys trailers for films in the horror-comedy genre… ENJOY!
EAST SIDE KIDS:
Monday, March 20, 2017
Springtime means new beginnings... and another round of Rondo Award nominations! The latest nominations (for achievements in horror entertainment, merchandising, journalism and fandom during 2016) were recently announced. And yes, for at least the sixth time (!!!), this humble little blog about spooks and kooks, ghouls and fools, and creeps and clowns has been nominated for a Rondo award!!!
Like some previous years, I don't necessarily think this blog is worthy of such an honor for my 2016 output. Due to working hard on Colette Joel's Bowery Boys documentary which I'm helping to produce, as well as a Thomas & Friends™ web series I'm co-writing, 2016's Scared Silly efforts were limited to "encore posts," vintage trailers and cartoons, and just a smattering of new reviews.
The Rondo Awards are the brainchild of David Colton. They are named after Rondo Hatton (you can learn more about Rondo Hatton by watching the video clip below) 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 Rondo 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.
Votes are due by midnight, Sunday, April 16th, 2017. All voting is done by email only so you must email your picks directly to David Colton at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until then, here's a nice piece on Rondo Hatton courtesy of Me-TV's resident horror movie host, Svengoolie - ENJOY:
Monday, January 16, 2017
If you live in the New York/New Jersey area, you’ll soon have not one but two chances to enjoy classic horror-comedy films on the big screen, including another screening introduced by yours, truly!
First up is “Scared Silent,” which is part of the annual “Cruel and Unusual Comedy” film festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This series has been going on for a number of years now and features hilarious and often astonishing silent comedy shorts (not to mention fascinating from a historical standpoint). As usual, the films feature sublime live keyboard accompaniment by Ben Model, and commentary/intros (sometimes even post-screening Q&A) from Ben and film historian Steve Massa, who are both major experts on the subject. The series is facilitated by MOMA's film curator, a noted film historian/critic in his own right, Dave Kehr. Each screening features a group of shorts programmed around a clever, connecting theme. On Thursday, January 19th at 4PM, and again on Wednesday, January 25th at 7PM, the “Scared Silent” program will be shown. Featured stars include Our Gang (aka The Little Rascals), Alice Howell, Edward Everett Horton, Gale Henry and the Ton of Fun (pictured below – they were a comedy trio long before the Three Stooges – if you can imagine a knockabout teaming of Fatty Arbuckle, Oliver Hardy and Curly Howard you’ll get the idea). Click on this link for more details.
Next up, on Sunday, February 5th at 2PM is my annual guest-speaking gig at the West Orange Classic Film Festival. This will be my fourth year in a row speaking at the festival. It all began for me in 2014 with a sold-out screening of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, and now it’s coming full circle with this year’s presentation of Abbott & Costello’s Hold That Ghost. As always, I’ll be introducing the film and doing a Q&A afterward. It’s one of Bud and Lou’s best, and simply one of the greatest horror-comedy films of all-time. Thanks go out once again to the festival’s organizer, Ken Mandel for inviting me to take part. Note that this is a “reserved seat” screening so it’s encouraged that you purchase your tickets ahead of time on Fandango. Just click here, then click on “2:00pm” to reserve your seat (NOTE: you might also have to enter the zip code, 07052). See you there!
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Sunday, January 1, 2017
Saturday, December 31, 2016
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 of Mad Monster Party at their 2016 festival early this year. It's always great to have an opportunity to be a guest-speaker at screenings of classic films (Teaser: watch this blog for a special announcement about my next guest-speaking gig which is happening very soon and features an extremely popular horror-comedy).
I also had another terrific year working on the Bowery Boys documentary, including the opportunity to interview one of my comedy idols, Fred Willard. The film is the brainchild of Executive Producer and owner of Handshake Away Productions, Colette Joel. Her lifelong love of the Dead End Kids, East Side Kids and Bowery Boys is manifesting itself in a wonderful production that I know all fans of classic movies and classic comedy will enjoy. And that includes you, Scared Silly readers! 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.
This was a particularly busy year for me with personal appearances at both comic shops and and comic conventions. Special thanks goes out to Alex Simmons of Kids' Comic Con, Jeff Beck of East Side Mags, and John Paul of NJ Comic Book Expo. And all the other show promoters who graciously allowed me to be part of their events, too. 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)!
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!