Thursday, October 31, 2013
RATING: ** out of ****
PLOT: Betty’s high school glee club must find a new place to rehearse when her mother announces the imminent arrival of her aunt and uncle, coming to town for some peace and quiet. The glee club commences to a hunting cabin owned by the cousin of one of its members, but not before an elderly couple take refuge there first after breaking down. As the members rehearse their numbers in their spooky costumes, the elderly couple are “scared silly!”
REVIEW: This early sound short from Pathe’ is notable for being one of Al Shean’s rare screen appearances (in fact, it was a lost film until Gary Lacher found both film and sound disc and restored it). Shean was half of the famous comedy team, Gallagher and Shean and also one of the Marx Brothers’ uncles. Unfortunately, none of the humor in this short approaches the level of Gallagher and Shean, let alone the brothers Marx. In fact, in my opinion the level of humor in this short barely approaches humor itself, at least not in the first reel.
The short opens on a jovial glee club rehearsal as guys and gals sing-along at the piano. Dialogue indicates that they’re high school students, but in the time-honored tradition, most of the actors look like they’ve already graduated college!
A bit of melodrama sets up the “plot” – the aunt and uncle of Betty (Evalyn Knapp), the girl who hosts the glee club are coming to visit, making the house off-limits to further rehearsal sessions. One of the club members offers a solution: his cousin, the thriller novelist owns a hunting lodge and it’s currently available to use.
Time is spent in a very blatant way on underscoring what terrible people the aunt and uncle are, and most viewers will recognize that this is but foreshadowing of what’s to come.
Cut to Emil (Al Shean) and his wife Ida (Mary Clark) stuck in the mud as they attempt to drive through a pounding rain storm. A dated and very un-PC bit has Emil ordering his wife to push them out of the mud. She slips and falls under part of the car, and Emil exclaims, “You lay there in comfort while I do all the work.”
This misogynistic tone permeates throughout the first half of the short, as the pair end up stranded right where they are. “Where they are” just happens to be the same hunting lodge to which the glee club is headed.
You don’t need to be a nuclear physicist to connect the dots between all I’ve mentioned thus far.
“Scares” in this one are mostly on the mild side to start, as Emil and Ida retire to bed for the night. Example: an open window produces wind that blows papers and other objects around while making whistling noises. Then Emil finds a note under his pillow:
“It was in this very house that the modern Bluebeard operated his nefarious schemes. Some of his prisoners he kept chained until he was ready to put them to death. Many of his victims he beheaded and their heads fell to the floor with a clonk!”
You can guess what happens next, but I’ll tell you anyway: the glee club arrives and starts rehearsing. Because their costumes are on the bizarre side – they wear masks on the back of their heads and tuxedo costumes on their back – the overall effect produced is rather eerie as they dance and sway. Even more freaky, the band’s uniforms are designed to cover up the musicians’ heads so they look headless!
Groucho Marx with his famous Uncle Al Shean
When Al goes to investigate the noise, he witnesses the freakish sites and hides under a table… where a random duck walking through starts pecking him in the behind! When he returns to tell his wife what he’s seen, they start to bicker. Some of the bickering is comprised of the duo using variations on the word “clonk” (which goes from being a sound effect from the Bluebeard story cited above to a catch-all for ghosts, skeletons and ghoulies) and most of the rest of it is in Yiddish. Which may make these scenes much more funny if you happen to understand Yiddish!
Soon, both husband and wife are investigating the strange going-ons. I think the best way I can describe the tone is with an oxymoron: “broadly genteel” (or “genteely broad”). It’s all very obvious stuff played very broadly yet at the same time there’s a decorum to it – you know just from the tone that this short won’t reach the imaginative heights of such “out there” horror-comedies as Sh! The Octopus, Olsen & Johnson’s Ghost Catchers and the over-the-top bizarre silent Our Gang entries, Shootin’ Injuns and Shivering Spooks).
The earlier outfits are topped by bizzare witch costumes – the glee club dons robes that cover their entire bodies except for balloons on the end of long paper necks. Drawn onto each balloon is a face and each is topped by a witch hat. And of course, the requisite skeleton costumes are trotted out for a lively dance evoking such 1930s animated shorts as those produced by Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, Ub Iwerks, Paul Terry and others (“…look, Ida: Skeleton Clonks!,” exclaims Emil).
One of the witch balloons floats off and Al chases it into a room. He hits it on the head with a thick club not realizing his wife is hiding in the bed sheet underneath! Here’s one of the genuine moments of humor in the film as Ida just can’t stop giggling while her face is frozen in a blank stare. Al’s efforts to calm her down are fruitless but funny.
As expected this one wraps up with a wild chase featuring Emil waving a rifle at everyone (now all congregated in the main room) and the discovery that yes, Ida and Emil are Betty’s Aunt and Uncle, who broke down on their way to Betty’s house. Ida and Emil are relieved to discover there were no real “clonks” – just the glee club in their costumes… but of course there’s one more scare to be had. A ghost is bobbing up and down in the air!
Of course, we know there’s no such thing in this short – it’s just our old friend the duck again, stuck under some sheets and trying to flap its way out, leading Emil to exclaim, “If that’s a klonk, I’ve eaten many of them!”
As mentioned throughout this review, this is an extremely mild horror-comedy short – short on real laughs. The music though, is totally jaunty, catchy and feel-good. In fact, it helps the short pick up its pace and leaves you with a smile on its face. It’s for that reason that Chills and Fever escapes a one-star review and gets a perfectly fine two-star average final grade from me.
BEST VISUAL GAGS:
The outlandish outfits, especially the balloon heads provide the best visuals overall and even some of the humor.
The duck pecking at Al from behind which Al mistakes for a ghost also elicits some chuckles.
BEST VERBAL GAG:
Emil’s punchline about eating many “klonks.”
SPOTTED IN THE CAST: Reportedly, one of the glee club members is the ubiquitous character actor, Elisha Cook, Jr. Cook, Jr., here in his second film. He ended up having a legendary career appearing in one notable film after another, including several of interest to Scared Silly fans including Olsen & Johnson’s Hellzapoppin’, Laurel & Hardy’s A-Haunting We Will Go, the Vincent Price films House on Haunted Hill and The Haunted Palace, and horror classics including the theatrical Rosemary’s Baby and Blacula; and the TV-movie greats, The Night Stalker and Salem’s Lot, among many others.
BUY THE FILM: You can by Chills and Fever direct from the man who restored it, Gary Lacher. Email Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
WATCH THE FILM: Here’s a short excerpt for your enjoyment:
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
So what's on your menu for Halloween? Broiled bat? Wolfbane Stew? Seafood Lagoona?
This Wednesday, October 30th at the Orange Squirrel restaurant in Bloomfield, New Jersey patrons will once again be trick-or-treated to a special Halloween night menu consisting of entrees made from recipes out of Vincent (and his wife Mary) Price's cookbook!
Owner-chef Francesco Palmieri, a popular chef who has made appearances on such TV programs as The Today Show and a recent winner on the Food Network's cooking competition show, Cutthroat Kitchen is also a big Vincent Price fan. He decided to do something with a bit of a Translvanian twist last Halloween and it was such a success that here were are doing it all over again!
Francesco is encouraging fans to show up with their favorite Vincent Price memorabilia and remembrances and just like last year, he's enlisted little 'ol me to share my thoughts on the crown prince of horror. I'll be sharing some of the more interesting anecdotes about Price - not just the actor, but also the avid art collector, dog lover and gourmet chef (read more about Vincent's forays into cooking by clicking here).
(Photo): Vincent Price, Francesco Palmieri holding a copy of the cookbook "A Treasury of Great Recipes" by Vincent and Mary Price.
As you know, I'm a longtime Vincent fan (and if you don't know, just click here to read one of my posts about the iconic actor). I've also written a chapter in a book of essays on Vincent published by Midnight Marquee Press and I'll be selling autographed copies of the book (as well as some copies of my Archie's Weird Mysteries book) at this event. Even better, I'll once again be pulling out my Vincent Price trivia questions - I'll reward Vincent Price DVDs to those lucky patrons who answer my trivia questions correctly.
Please click here for more information on the Halloween happening, and perhaps we'll see you there!
Now enjoy this clip of Vincent Price discussing fine cuisine with a panel of expert muppets... er, I mean chefs! Bone appetit!
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Hello, fans! Well, the New York city Comic Con was a blast and my fall tour of NJ/NY is rolling on…
In fact, I’ve added a stop to the tour, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
First, a reminder that this Sunday, October 27th, I’ll be making a special “Halloween homecoming” to the town in which I grew up, Pompton Plains, New Jersey at the NJ Comic Book Show. It all at the Regency Hotel on Route 23. I’ll be there all day, signing from 10:00 to 4:00. More details at the NJ Comic Book Shows website. And you can read some great coverage of the event from First Comic News and NewJersey.com
(Photo): Vincent Price, Francesco Palmieri holding a copy of the cookbook "A Treasury of Great Recipes" by Vincent and Mary Price.
One Wednesday, October 30th I’ll be returning to the Orange Squirrel restaurant for the 2nd Annual Vincent Price Halloween Dinner. You may recall that I gave a talk on Vincent at last year’s dinner (and if you don’t recall, just click here to refresh your memory). I’m thrilled to be coming back for more fun. Check out the pertinent details by clicking here.
At both of the above events, I’ll have copies of my Archie’s Weird Mysteries collection and Midnight Marquee Actor’s Series: Vincent Price available for sale. Stop on by if you can – I promise no tricks; only treats!
Now… let’s all jitterbug!
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Hello fans... well, New York Comic Con is finally here and I'm hoping I can meet some of you. Here's a rundown on where I'll be and when.
Thursday, October 10th, 2:30-3:30 – I’ll be on the CREATIVELY ENERGIZING YOUR STUDENTS WITH COMIC BOOKS AND THE ARTS panel, held in Room 1A17.
Friday, October 11th, 2:00-3:00 – I’ll be doing an autograph signing at the ARCHIE COMICS booth. I'll most likely be signing either BEST OF ARCHIE COMICS BOOK 3 (which reprints my popular Scooby Doo spoof story from the ARCHIE'S WEIRD MYSTERIES series) or the ARCHIE'S WEIRD MYSTERIES paperback collection. Or perhaps something else... it all depends upon what the Archie Co. brings.
In those times surrounding my ARCHIE signing, I'll be helping out at the KIDS COMIC CON booth in the FAMILY ROOM which is in Conference Rooms 1B01-1B03. I won't officially be signing in the FAMILY ROOM on Friday but if you run in there with a book in hand for me to sign, I will (just try to bring a pen in case I forget mine).
Saturday, October 13th, all day – DON’T LOOK FOR ME – I’ll be elsewhere, recharging my batteries like Tony Stark. ;)
Sunday, October 14th, 12:30-1:30 – I’ll be signing at the KIDS COMIC CON table in the FAMILY ROOM area of the convention. For Sunday, I'll definitely have copies of the ARCHIE'S WEIRD MYSTERIES paperback collection, some SONIC THE HEDGEHOG collections, and the books WITH GREAT POWER and HEY KIDS, COMICS (click here for info on those last two books).
Again, the Family Room is Conference Rooms 1B01-1B03. And again, I'll be helping out in that room for pretty much the entire day Sunday, so if you miss my official signing you may still be able pop in randomly and grab me to autograph something.
Looking forward to a comically-cool-and-crazy weekend!
Now here's me talking about... what else?... comic books! ENJOY!
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Hello again, fans! If you were here last week, you read about the various projects I’ve been busy with the greater part of this year (and if you weren’t here last week, well just click here to catch up).
As I mentioned, I’m about to embark on another New York/New Jersey tour to promote my various projects, and as promised, here are the details of where I’ll be and when.
It all starts next weekend at New York Comic Con. I’ll be appearing in two different spots at the convention. On Friday, October 11th I’ll be at the Archie Comics booth from 2:00 to 3:00. I’ll be signing alongside the great artist Fernando Ruiz, my collaborator on ARCHIE’S WEIRD MYSTERIES. Then on Sunday, I’ll be signing at the Kids Comic Con (aka KCC - that's Captain KCC at the top of this post) table in the Family Room section of the New York Comic Con. I’ll have some of my Archie work with me as well as copies of WITH GREAT POWER and HEY KIDS, COMICS (again, I refer you to last week’s post for details on those projects). I'll be signing at the KCC booth that day from 12:30 to 1:30. Visit the New York Comic Con website for more details.
On Sunday, October 27th, I’m making a special “homecoming” to the town in which I grew up, Pompton Plains, New Jersey. This comes courtesy of John Paul, who has been running the NJ Comic Book Shows for over two decades. These shows are always a trip down memory lane, with several dealers of vintage comics and toys and always a great guest-list. Very family-friendly event and always a wonderful time. This particular show takes place at the Regency Hotel on Route 23. I’ll be there all day, signing from 10:00 to 4:00. More details at the NJ Comic Book Shows website.
On Sunday, November 3rd I’ll be appearing for the first time at the Jersey Shore Comic Book Show in Forked River, New Jersey. The show will be held at the Community Center in Forked River from 10am to 4pm. I’ll have the full array of my work with me – everything from my Archie work to DC Comics to my Vincent Price book. There will be several dealers with tons of comic books for sale, as well as non-sport cards and comic collectibles and toys, plus door prizes, an auction and more. More details can be found at the Jersey Shore Comic Con website.
Saturday, November 9th brings another Superheroes For Hospice charity comic book sale, from 10 to 6. I’ve been involved with this event since its inception in 2009. A few times a year, the organization holds charity comic sales to raise money for the Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center by selling comics, books, toys and related items. Proceeds have helped assist individuals and families dealing with life-limiting illnesses. The event has attracted top industry talent who often appear to sign autographs and give entertaining lectures about the art form. I’ll be signing an array of my work per usual. The event takes place at 95 Old Short Hills Rd., West Orange, NJ 07052, across the street from Saint Barnabas Medical Center.
Another first for me will be the Albany Comic Con. Taking place on Sunday, November 10th. Like the NJ Comic Book Shows and Jersey Shore Comic Cons, the Albany Con offers a plethora of comics creators, comic and toy dealers, auctions and more. Also like those other shows, it offers an intimacy and immediacy not always found at the larger shows. I’m looking forward to making it the last stop on my Fall tour. I hope you stop by and see me! For more information visit the Albany Comic Con website.