ALL THE BEST HORROR COMEDIES START WITH 'C'. Well, that's not exactly true but here are two of my favourites for today's Halloween movie double feature.
We begin with a movie I deeply love: "THE COMEDY OF TERRORS" directed by Jacques Tourneur (I Walked With A Zombie, Night of the Demon) and starring a who's who of horror: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone (as well as the pulchritudinous Joyce Jameson). After all those Poe movies at AIP, Roger Corman wanted to go for the funny bone so this movie is something of a parody of those films. Hinchley & Trumbull funeral parlour is going under (pun intended) because of lack of customers so Trumbull (Price) and his assistant Mr. Gillie (Lorre) decide to make their own customers. Price goes into the night smothering people with pillows and then shows up to bury them. They take this rather agressive tact because the landlord Mr. Black (Rathbone) is threatening to throw them out into the street for a year's back rent. Also in the house are Trumbull's unkissed wife Amaryllis (Jameson) who fancies herself an opera singer but has a voice like a leer jet -- and her father Old Man Hinchley (Karloff) who is deaf and doddering and constantly escapes poisoning by Trumbull.
Everyone involved in the making of the film is clearly having a wonderful time and it shows. The movie is such a lot of fun with Peter Lorre adlibbing hysterically and Price matching him quip for quip. The film also features Rhubarb the cat (who had a surprisingly long and varied film career) as well as a funny cameo from comedian Joe E. Brown as a gravedigger. It's got a terrific score by Les Baxter, wonderful art direction by Daniel Haller, the usual great photography by Floyd Crosby (see, I got it right this time) and a script by the masterful Richard Matheson.
Our second Halloweenie horror comedy of the day is "CARRY ON SCREAMING"; another in the loooooong series of 'Carry On' films. This time they're parodying the classic Hammer horror films and, I must say, they nail it. The film starts with the wildly (& hilariously on purpose) inappropriate theme song sung by what sounds like a swinging Elvis impersonator: "Carry on screaming, cause when you're screaming I know that you're dreaming of me". The film then opens with lovers Albert and Doris (Jim Dale and Angela Douglas) attempting to smooch in a wooded lovers' lane; but things never get started because Doris constantly hears something and screams (loudly) in Albert's ear. Of course, when Albert goes to investigate (to calm Doris down) a Frankenstein Monsterish creature named Oddbod carries Doris off. Albert reports Doris' disappearance to the local incompetent police Sgt. Sidney Bung (Harry H. Corbett) and Constable Slobotham (pronounced Slow-bottom and played by Peter Butterworth) and all three men go out to the scene to investigate.
On nearby Winkle Road stands a spooky old house owned by Dr. Watt (Kenneth Williams and his nostrils) and his sister Valeria (Fenella Fielding doing her best Joan Greenwood impression). Valeria is the vision of Morticia Addams in a slinky red dress while Dr. Watt has been dead for 15 years but is revived through jolts of electricity. There's also a Lurch-like manservant named Sockett (towering Bernard Bresslaw). Dr. Watt and Valeria have a dastardly operation going on where they kidnap pretty young women and cover them in wax to sell to department stores as mannequins. All the tried and true Hammer cliches are played upon and the sets look amazingly like something you'd see in a straight Hammer film. There are also many cameos: Charles Hawtrey as Dan Dann the lavatory man, Jon Pertwee (Doctor Who #3) as bizarre Dr. Fettle and Frank Thornton (Captain Peacock of Are You Being Served) as Mr. Jones.
The great thing about these two horror comedies is that, with the sound off, they LOOK exactly like an AIP Roger Corman Poe film and a Hammer horror film respectively. So you get the nice Halloween atmosphere and shudder while you get the laughs. A great Halloween double feature for an October night with the wind swirling leaves around outside and a cup of cocoa inside.