Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Italian Horror Blogathon :: Luigi Cozzi's L'assassino è Costretto ad Uccidere Ancora!

After losing another dust-up with his wife, Norma (Velázquez), over her controlling interest of the marital purse strings (-- she's loaded and ready to divorce, he's a leeching free-loader and a philandering deadbeat), the husband, Giorgio (Hilton), storms out of the house, drives off into the night, but picks a lucky spot to cool off, near a canal, where he fortuitously witnesses someone disposing of a body by dumping it and a car into the drink.

How is that lucky, you ask? Simple. For you see, our scheming no-goodnik has no intention of doing his civic duty and informing the police. No. Blackmail is what he intends. And though he has no desire for money, Giorgio is willing to barter for something else. So, What is the price for his silence, then? Simple again. He's willing to keep his mouth shut, and even offers payment for services rendered, IF the killer will kill again and bump off his wife, which would give Giorgio all the loot and the last word on how he spends it.

With such an offer he can't refuse, the Killer (Antoine -- who kinda looks like Peter Weller dressed up as Christopher Lee in Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein) agrees. And their Fargoesque plan to make the death look like a kidnapping for ransom gone wrong goes off without a hitch, with Giorgio firmly establishing a rock-solid alibi at a party -- after one final shag with the wife, who forgives him too late, because she's already dead and just doesn't know it yet (-- firmly establishing what a Douche McTurdburger this Giorgio guy really is). Thus, left alone, the Killer does the dirty deed without much fanfare. And after placing Norma's body in the trunk of her car, he returns to the house to set the stage for the faux kidnapping. Once that is done, all that's left to do is dispose of the body and the debt will be fulfilled. Perfect, right? Well, it would be except for one slight hiccup, signaled by the turn of an ignition key. Which explains why when the Killer returns to the street, the car, and the body, are long gone...

When most folks, myself included, think of Luigi Cozzi, the first thing that most probably pops into our heads is Caroline Munro as the leather-bikni-clad space pirate, Stella Star, who teamed up with Marjoe Gortner, the Hoff, and a redneck Robot sheriff to save the galaxy in the whole six-pack of awesome known to we mere mortals as Starcrash. Cozzi also churned out all those Lou Ferrigno vehicles in the early 1980's, where the former Hulkster took a shot at Sinbad the Sailor and two shots at Hercules -- with the sequel proving even more stupefying than the first, and we all remember how he put a bear into orbit in the first one, right? So, yeah, Cozzi is mostly known for these hair-brained sci-fi and fantasy epics that are goofy as hell and good -- eh, make that great, on those terms, if you catch my drift. And when judged against what came later makes the genuinely impressive quality of his first foray into feature film even more baffling.

By the time he was a teenager growing up in Milan, Luigi Cozzi was already a hardcore science-fiction and horror aficionado, an obsession that landed him a coveted spot as an Italian correspondent for Famous Monsters of Filmland, giving him an outlet to espouse on those films he loved, and even managed to churn out and sell some of his own fantastic fiction. This proved fortuitous, as it led to several contacts in the publishing industry, where he quickly moved up the editorial ladder, which led to more writing on film and a meeting with one of his new cinematic heroes, who we'll reveal in just second.

For all the while Cozzi was putting pen to paper growing up, he was also shooting his own 8mm movies, aping one of his favorite directors at the time, Roger Corman (-- who was in the middle of his Poe cycle by then); some complete with home-made stop motion animation (-- that would come to define most of his later sci-fi output). And as he honed his craft, using his literary contacts, Cozzi landed the rights to Frederik Pohl's The Tunnel Under the World, a satirical, poke in the eye at the world of advertising and market research that the novice director turned into a self-financed, meaning no-budget, avant garde piece of weirdness that became an underground hit in the Continental art-house circuit.

Ironically enough it was while writing about a different medium that brought Cozzi into contact with Dario Argento for that fateful encounter I mentioned earlier. Taking a half-assed rumor that inadvertently predicted the break-up of the Beatles just days before it actually happened, this "scoop" landed Cozzi a job in Rome, which gave him enough clout to pursue interviews with his favorite genre directors. A lone voice, apparently, for no matter how well the films did at the box-office, critically speaking, horror and sci-fi films held a spot barely a notch above pornography. This interview forged a lasting friendship that was cemented when Argento invited Cozzi to pitch in with his latest project, which turned out to be Four Flies on Grey Velvet, another gialli on the heels of his groundbreaking The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Cat o' Nine Tails. (And if you don't know what a gialli is feel free to check out my take on Giulio Questi's Death Laid an Egg, where I do my best to define the truly undefinable.)

Thus, Cozzi helped his friend hammer out a script by bouncing pillaged murder scenarios off of each other to fit that title (-- since it was all Argento had at the time), and was encouraged to hang around the sets while filming commenced, earning himself a spot as an assistant director. This experience, in turn, lead to his first professional directing gig: The Neighbor (Il vicino di casa), which proved to be the most watched (and definitely the best) episode of Argento's TV anthology series, The Door into Darkness (La porta sul buio). And on the heels of that, when producer Giuseppe Tortorella approached Argento to do another thriller for him, Argento, wanting to do something different, declined but gave Cozzi such a glowing recommendation he was soon in the director's chair again for Il Ragno (The Spider), which was eventually tagged with the much more blunt and matter of fact:

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

I'm sick of the unknown killer. You see the hands of the killer. You see the eye of the killer. You see the mouth of the killer. The finger of the killer. But you never see the face until the last shot of the picture. I wanted to start [this] picture with a shot of the killer.

-- Luigi Cozzixxx
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

And that's exactly what Cozzi did, which makes The Killer Must Kill Again less of a gialli and more of a conventional thriller, whose roots can be best described as a mash-up of Strangers on a Train (-- a man blackmailing another into killing his wife), and a book by famed Italian crime-novelist Giorgio Scerbanenco, Al mare con la Ragazza (At Sea with the Girl), where a boy takes his new (and unwitting) girlfriend to the beach with the body of his ex-girlfriend tucked away in the trunk. And that's exactly what happens, here, when two bored teenagers see and seize a golden opportunity (-- namely a set of keys carelessly left in the ignition), and putter off to the beach, blissfully unaware of what's stuffed in the trunk, leading to several scenes where Cozzi really gets his Hitchcock on when the body is nearly but not quite discovered, keeping our couple also blissfully unaware of the danger they're in while the Killer relentlessly pursues them to the beach to get back what he needs.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Killer's cock-up, Giorgio's kidnapping scheme starts to unravel when the cops, led by a wily Inspector (Fajardo), start poking into his ever-fraying story on what happened to his wife when things don't add up at the crime scene. Back on the road, our two teenagers, Luca and Laura (Orana and Galbó), finally reach their seaside destination and follow their noses into an abandoned villa. The girl is charmed by the bizarre decor but the boy has something else on his mind and an itch in his pants, which apparently does most of the thinking for this cretin. Rebuffed, a frustrated Luca is sent out to find some grub. But once he's back out on the road, our boy is delayed when he stops to help a stranded motorist, which is why Laura is all alone when the Killer finally catches up with them, leading to the film's most infamous scene, where Luca, once more thinking with that itch in his pants, and the Blonde ditz (Benussi) he picked up strip and have at in the back seat of the car, while poor Laura is attacked and brutally raped back in the villa by the Killer.

Disturbing and unforgivably explicit at first glance, Cozzi shot and edited this scene together much more skillfully than that on second glance. Yes, the sex between Luca and Blondie is very explicit and titillating but the rape, thankfully, is not. And with his sure and steady hand, with the two scenes juxtaposed, basically, right on top of each other, it's all as tough and nasty and repulsive as it sounds; as it should be, and it's exactly what Cozzi intended and I think he deserves some major props for how he handled it. And what gives that scene even more impact is the quiet (disquieting?) aftermath, when we cut between Blondie casually fussing with her hair while a devastated Laura tries to pull herself back together.

Tough, tough scene, folks, and in lesser hands -- well, I'd rather not even think about it.

And so, using Laura as bait, the Killer waits for Luca to return with the car. Which he does, so he can introduce Laura to his new girlfriend and give Ms. Prissy-Pants the big kiss-off. And, really, can a viewer be blamed, then, for cheering a little (okay, a lot) when Luca proceeds to get his ass kicked and his head caved in by the Killer. But strangely enough, the Killer has no intention of killing the car thieves once he susses out that neither of them realized what's in the trunk ... Well, he wasn't going to kill them until Luca's little roadside tryst comes back to bite all of them on the ass.

E'yup. Guess who finally took a look in the trunk? And so, with his secret discovered, the somewhat reluctant Killer dispatches Blondie most gruesomely with a butcher knife (-- strangely enough, the only really gratuitous violence in the whole picture, though you'd swear there was more). Drained after all that blood-letting, the exhausted Killer slinks off. And with Blondie dead, and worthless Luca beaten senseless, I guess it's up to Laura to save their collective hash -- which she does, in a scene of such Herculean effort that it should be etched in stone in the annals of the Plucky Heroine Hall of Fame.

Thus, with the killer dead, the body recovered, and Laura ready to dump Luca as soon as the Inspector is done taking their statement, all that leaves is that asshat, Giorgio, whose fault all this is, was and ever shall be. Never fear, his goose was long ago cooked, even before the final coda, where the Inspector finally gets his man via the old hoist'd petard.

Technically speaking, Cozzi's episode of The Door into Darkness was also based on Scerbanenco's novel, making The Killer Must Kill Again nothing more, really, than a rehash, where he expanding that nail-biter to feature length. And Cozzi was up to the task, too, with this relentless, near pitch-perfect, suspenseful yarn of constantly overlapping games of cat and mouse, keeping the tension pulled so taut from beginning to end I don't think any amount of hammering would produce a single note -- the piano wire was strung that tight, metaphorically speaking. And for being considered a gialli, the film makes way too much sense, plot-wise. Not a knock on the genre, mind you; just an observation.

In front of the camera, Galbó steals the movie, despite Antoine's best efforts as the stone-faced killer. Aside from Barbara Steele, I'm hard pressed to find a more alluring pair of eyes in film. Galbó just puts all her chips on the table for every role I've seen her in -- this, What Have You Done to Solange, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and The House that Screamed, she just sells it with everything she's got. And despite those efforts, where she's put through the wringer, a lot, I think she's terribly under-appreciated as far as Gialli-Queens go, which is a damn shame.

When it was finished, despite most of the violence being implied, The Killer Must Kill Again (also released as The Dark is Death's Friend) was hammered so hard by the Italian censors it's release was held up for almost two years. From there, it basically disappeared off the cinematic map and Luigi Cozzi's film career became defined by the interstellar insanity that followed. Fortunately, the fine folks at Mondo Macabro got this lost classic back in circulation in 2004, and I cannot recommend that disc enough. Stuffed with all kinds of special features, including several interviews with Cozzi, the highlight of the disc is a commentary track with the director, where he breaks down the film in great detail (-- I've barely scratched the surface here, and why listen to me when you can hear it from the man himself), including the family oriented financing, with the producer's wife's car playing a pivotal role and the producer's son's girlfriend making a cameo as a corpse. But most importantly, the film, though not as obscure as it used to be, is readily available for all to see. And when you do, I think you'll agree with those of us who have, that The Killer Must Kill Again is relentless, deliciously nasty, and just plain fantastic. And all the credit goes to Luigi Cozzi. Go figure.

There's always room for more
giallo, am I right? And that's why this post is part of Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies' latest endeavor, The Italian Horror Blogathon, where I and several others share their thoughts on anything from gialli to zombies to bad knock-offs -- as long as it's horror and from Italy, it meets the criteria for this blogathon. So what are you waiting for, click on over and start reading the other wonderful entries!

For further reading on more Italian genre films :: My take on Mill of the Stone Women, Death Laid an Egg, The Pyjama Girl Case, A Bay of Blood, and Cannibal Holocaust.

L'assassino è costretto ad uccidere ancora a/k/a The Killer Must Kill Again (1975) Albione Cinematografica~Git International Film~Paris-Cannes Productions / EP: Giuseppe Tortorella / P: Umberto Lenzi / CP: Sergio Gobbi / D: Luigi Cozzi / W: Luigi Cozzi, Daniele Del Giudice, Adriano Bolzoni / C: Riccardo Pallottini / E: Alberto Moro / S: George Hilton, Antoine Saint-John, Cristina Galbó, Alessio Orano, Eduardo Fajardo, Tere Velázquez, Femi Benussi

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hero. Daredevil. Showman. Lunatic. :: Getting to the Root of All Evel.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

"Kids wanted to be like me, men wanted to be
me, and the women wanted to be with me."
___ ___ ___
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Childhood memories can often be a tricky thing. Even though clouded over with time or diluted by overlapping events, there's still a few, vivid scenes and scenarios that have stuck with me since the ripe old age of two, and, as usual, it deals with something I saw on the TV. (The power of nostalgia or scathing indictment on my generation I'll leave for you to judge...) And one thing that I can clearly remember seeing while gathered around the old wood-paneled Zenith with my family unit, was watching a man on a motorcycle, viewed from the rear, jump over several cars, miss the landing, crash, and go skidding into the opposite tunnel; rolling, flopping, and bending [unnaturally] until he and the bike finally stopped in a twisted and smoking heap.

Wow! Who the hell was that guy?!

Well, that guy turned out to be one Evel Knievel (-- as those of you who were around back in the 1970's had already guessed), and this particularly spectacular wipe out -- that's been burned forever into my memory -- was his failed jump at The Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1972. This was my introduction to Mr. Knievel: hero, daredevil, and, to some, a complete lunatic and / or moron. (Not me, though, I think he's a stud.) Regardless of what you thought of him, the man was a great entrepreneur, had a flair for the ballyhoo, and risked life and limb for our entertainment -- and he's got the scars and broken bones to prove it.

Part P.T. Barnum, part rock star in a patent leather jumpsuit, Robert Craig Knievel got his name from his lawless days in his native Butte, Montana, and first broke onto the scene as a filler piece on ABC's Wild World of Sports, where he successfully jumped his bike over several cars. Eventually, Knievel and his traveling circus broke away from the rodeos and stunt-circuit and hit the big time, when he proposed to jump the newly installed fountains at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in 1968.

Video courtesy of apeshitquarterly.

Now, history shows Knievel did not successfully land this jump, which ended in a horrific crash (-- during the graphic footage shot by actress Linda Evans, then the wife of filmmaker John Derek, you can actually see both of the victim's
legs snap), and one can't help but wonder if he had landed the jump, successfully, would Knievel have become such a national phenomenon? Was it that wreck and our desire to see him make a successful comeback that drew our attention? Or, more than likely, a desire to see him wreck again most horribly that brought us back to watch him over and over and over?

Whatever your answer is, if you'd like to see some of Knievel's successful stunts or bone-crunching wipe-outs, you can check them out on the Evel Knievel's Spectacular Jumps. Eleven jumps in total are featured on the DVD, but that's about it as they try to cram in all the goods into a measly half-hour. Included are the two stunts already mentioned plus his famous, or is that infamous, attempt to jump over the Snake River Canyon in a homemade rocket (!); and his world record jump of over 19 cars in Ontario, California. Later, he jumped over 50 cars in the L.A. Coliseum, but those were stacked differently -- although I'm sure they didn't mention that in the promos.

And then there was his jump over 13 double-decker buses in London's Wembley stadium, where, depending on which story you've heard, the bike was either missing a part or the ramp wasn't up to specifications; but Knievel jumped anyway, not one to disappoint the fans. After the inevitable, albeit spectacular, wreck, a dazed and broken Knievel announced his retirement. But he was back five months later in King's Island, Ohio, and made a successful jump over 14 Greyhound buses.

His last jump was rather anti-climatic, however ... I was eight years old by then in 1978, and I eagerly awaited a stunt that would see my hero trying to clear a tank that held 13 dangerous, man-eating shark (-- man, Happy Days so ripped this off.) Alas, the jump never happened because Knievel was injured during a test run. This proved to be his last crash and he retired for good after that.

A disappointing ending to be sure, but I still have nothing but fond memories of the guy. Sure, most of them are of him crashing, but honestly, until George Lucas took me to a galaxy far, far away, no pop-culture icon had a bigger effect or influence on my formative years than the King of the Daredevils. And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go check and see if my mom threw out my old Evel Knievel wind-up stunt cycle and round up a few Tonkas to jump. If I recall, that thing could never stick a landing, either.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blogathon Revisitron :: Got Ghosts? Then, Who You Gonna Call? The Alan Brady Busters!

As if I didn't already love this show enough, but, between Robert Petrie consistently breaking off his killer Boris Karloff impersonation, whenever the spookified need presented itself, and his constant referencing to other classic monsters, like Godzilla and Frankenstein's monster, when allegorically appropriate, has me convinced that Dick Van Dyke was probably/definitely a closet creature-feature fiend. (Gooble-goble gooble-goble gooble-goble ... *ahem*) Or at least somebody on The Dick Van Dyke Show was, evidenced by the number of episodes or dream sequences that had more than a slight B-Movie bent:

Hell, I even recall an episode where Rob and Buddy spot a UFO, which leads them to a couple of mad scientists doing diabolical things in a lab tucked away in the depths of the office building. But the best of this hair-brained bunch was an episode called:

Now, this particular chapter begins with the comically creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, snowball already formed and gaining momentum as it rolls down the hill, with the writers of the Alan Brady show arriving at a mountain fishing lodge, nestled somewhere in the Catskills. Brought to this wilderness retreat at the behest of their boss / evil overlord to help hammer out the details of a new program Herr Hairless is backing, upon arrival, these city folks, especially Buddy and Sally (Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie), are having a little trouble adjusting to the peace and quiet and the amount of fur hung on the walls that keeps looking back at them. (Huh. You'd think being in the heart of the Borscht Belt old Buddy would feel right at home.) Not sure why they had to be drug out to the middle of nowhere, himself, ringleader Rob (Van Dyke), with help from the wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), encourages them all to make the best of it, but each platitude is quickly shot down by the wisecrackin' and quip-packin' duo.

Then, to make this odious situation even worse, seems there's been a mix-up with the reservations, and, as the Good Book says, there is no more room at the inn. Apparently, their producer, Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), was too busy ferreting around for Brady and overlooked this less than slight detail; and after fighting bumper to bumper traffic for over five hours just to get there his employees metaphorically get back in the car and run Mel over, with Buddy at the wheel, as usual, backing up and running Mel over again and again and again, just in case there was an insult he missed the first few times.

(And aside from futching the reservations,
Mel also apparently forgot his pants.)

"The Bald Phantom strikes again! Sic 'em, boys!"

Poor Mel. Anyways...

Positive he can salvage the situation, Mel sends everyone else to lunch -- including Cousin Eeyeech, while he and Rob try to sort things out with the manager. And, with the help of a few sawbucks, turns out there might just be one unoccupied cabin left to rent. However, there are a few logistical problems with it. For one, there's only one bedroom. But Rob assures that they can make due with that and a promised fold-out couch. Good enough, but, the beady-eyed manager adds, the cabin might be a little shabby since it hasn't been occupied for almost three years. And why is that? Well, the answer to that question is also the biggest logistical quirk the lodging has.

For you see, the cabin in question is [dramatic pause] haunted.

[Insert maniacal cackle here.]

Mel, of course, reacts to this paranormal revelation with his usual stone-faced consternation. Rob on the other hand...

Telling them to mock all they want, and feeling obligated to give them the whole story, the manager then regales them with the tale of Amos Chantz, a regular guest, who regularly stayed in the very cabin in question. Until one night, three years ago, he up and disappeared without a trace. Local scuttlebutt says Chantz was murdered for his money, but they never found a culprit, the money or a body, and, as the ultimate topper, seems no one has managed to spend a full night in the cabin ever since -- because it's already occupied. Muwahahahhahahhahahhhh...

As one to scare that easily, but not THAT easily, and since it's their only option, with Mel's pushing, Rob agrees to take the cabin on the condition that they don't tell the girls about the [alleged] ghost. Upon reaching the cabin, they find it in much better shape than originally advertised, improving everyone's mood -- a wary Rob included. And as the girls settle into the bedroom, Rob convinces himself that the hokey ghost tale is just that: hookum. However, there's a slight hitch in this hookum-busting...

For Rob has made the mistake of confiding in Buddy about the ghost, who quickly starts channeling Lou Costello, Don Knotts and Curly Howard as he puts on a one man revival of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. And all of Rob's efforts to defuse this ticking-time-bomb of angst is quickly short-circuited by a knock at the door and the untimely arrival of the gaunt'd woodman dressed in black [genus Crazy Ralph / species Margaret Lanterman].

Apparently, Spooky McCrackpot delivers a cord of wood every night at 9 o'clock sharp and then vacates the premises as fast as possible. This he does, adding a sinister cackle free of charge, but after he's gone, Rob starts to get suspicious.

Finding the deliveryman a little too kooky, having seen this movie already, Rob is now convinced that someone is making a concentrated and deliberate effort to scare them out of the cabin. Because if what he said was true, there'd be three years worth of logs lying around, right? And I think Buddy would have agreed with him, if the fireplace hadn't just managed to ignite itself.

Hookay, after writing that off with a completely rational explanation (a dry log and an old ember flaring up), Rob spends the rest of the evening trying to keep the freaked-out Buddy from blabbering to the girls about their mysterious visitor and the spontaneously-combusting fireplace.

But even after all of that hair-raising excitement, the Petries still find time to be absolutely adorable (and, lets face it, randy as a couple of rabbits). Alas, with the shared accommodations, they have to break it up (-- before the pajamas start coming off, and those separate beds at home ain't fooling nobody, am I right?), with Sally and Laura taking the bedroom, leaving Rob to deal with the couch and Buddy...

Who keeps his shoes on in case he has to make a quick escape when the ghost shows up.

Which he does, maybe, when the front door slowly creaks open, revealing no one; then a nearby rocking chair starts moving on its own. Was this caused by an errant breeze? Who knows. What I do know is a couple of seconds after the rocking chair stops moving, the front door closes up again.

-- Maybe the breeze shifted directions?
-- More likely, the ghost got up and left.

Undaunted, Rob writes it off as nothing, and over Buddy's vehement protests turns the light off for the night.


Too bad they won't stay off.
(Maybe it was loose ember and a dry light bulb?)

Meanwhile, in the bedroom with the unaware girls, things quickly escalate up the sinister scale when something far, far worse than a flaky lamp and a sentient rocking chair silently makes its ectoplasmically peeping presence known...

[For the record: I so (HEART) Mary Tyler Moore.]

Laura's well warranted hysterics brings everyone together on the fly. Of course, by now, the apparition in the mirror is long gone. Regardless, that's the last straw for Buddy, who demands Rob spill the beans about the haunted nature of their surroundings -- the ghost, the visitor, the fireplace, the lights, everything ... Obviously, this pertinent kept secret doesn't sit too well with the womenfolk; and after piling Laura's encounter on top of everything else, over Rob's protests, ghost or no ghost, the other three decide it would be in their best interest to screw that noise and boot-scoot down the road immediately.

Heading back into the main room, where they find the couch mysteriously folded back up on its own and their bags already packed and waiting by the door, the decision to go is made that much easier. All that this spook-house is missing, says Sally to a still stubborn Rob, is Vincent Price and a thunderstorm. And she barely gets those words out before Buddy opens to the front door to a bright flash of lightning and long peel of thunder. Next comes a rap on the bedroom door, which slowly creaks open -- again, revealing no one inside. Seems Mr. Price blew his cue...

So, with the storm howling outside, making the three mile hike back to the main lodge untenable, Rob decides to call up Mel to send the Jeep for them. Thus, after walking en masse around the cabin to get to it, Rob picks up the receiver and dials. And, really, does anyone at this point think the phone won't be dead?

Show of hands. Anyone? No one? Good. Because it most definitely is, meaning the group is stuck indefinitely.

Which isn't such a bad thing since it leads to another hysterical circumstance / money-shot as our collection of knocking-knees and frayed nerves regroups and hunkers down to wait out the storm. Unfortunately...

The fold-out couch has other ideas...

And in the ensuing chaos after the possessed
furniture tries to eat them...

One by one...

Our group of four becomes three...

Then two...

Until, finally...

Poor Rob is left all alone.

E'yup. All alone.

Well ... except for the Ghost.

Who still ain't talking.

Leaving Rob, and the audience, to ponder just What the hell is going on, here? Is it someone just trying to scare them? That kooky motel manager? Or maybe some other lodge workers, or a local deviant (Spooky McCrackpot immediately springs to mind), who are still looking for the lost loot, with these unwanted guests both in the way and in dire need of being disposed of?

I mean, Eek!

And Eek again!

Then again, perhaps it's Chantz, himself, alive and well, playing dead, spooking off unwanted tourists or would be treasure hunters. Or, hell, maybe the cabin really is haunted? Or maybe, just maybe, all of the above. And as Rob looks to the magic mirror begging for an answer, we get ours:

That's right. It was all a goof. Seems that new show they were brought out to the boonies to work on was nothing more than a blatant Candid Camera knock-off. (Typical Alan Brady lechery, am I right? Don't believe me? Then just ask Uncle Spunky. He'll back me up.) That's right; Rob, Laura, Buddy and Sally were just used as guinea pigs for a dry run on the inaugural episode of Spooky Camera.


The Ghost of A. Chantz is another great episode directed by Jerry Paris, who seemed to have a knack for getting the cast to really let it fly no matter how absurd the situation. And fly they do. But make no mistake, in lesser hands this kind of material would have fallen flatter than my left rear tire (which I really need to get fixed). Things do get hysterical (on both ends of that spectrum) but the cast never falls into histrionics, which would have sunk it. Amsterdam really shines, here, and I always love it when Moore is allowed to really cut loose and play with the others. And the written word just can't do justice to the zingers and bits of business used to either defuse a situation or push the gas pedal closer to the floorboard. You just gotta watch it to experience the full immersion of what's really going on onscreen. And if nothing else, The Ghost of A. Chantz also provides one of those precious, rare moments when Mel finally, finally, gets the last word in with Buddy, earning that last laugh at his most dreaded nemesis' expense.

This post is the second, and critically overdue contribution to The Dick Van Dyke Show blogathon, originating over at Ivan's truly magnificent Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, which was held aboouuuut three weeks ago. (You can read the first part here.) But, with Halloween rapidly approaching it just seemed be the perfect fodder, which sounds so much better than saying Blogger ate my post. Again. (Which it did. Twice.)
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