Friday, May 21, 2010
HALLOWEEN: THE HAPPY HAUNTING OF AMERICA is a fairly well-known documentary (among horror fans, at least) which took an affectionate look at the holiday and various horror-themed attractions across the country. Created (like a Frankenstein's Monster) back in 1997 by busy actor/producer/director Chuck Williams and LOST explosion victim Daniel Roebuck, the documentary features everything from the Universal Monster Tour, Dr. Lady's Horror Hotel, classic Don Post Halloween latex masks and the venerable Witch's Dungeon. Also featured giving their opinions and reminiscences of Halloweens past are such horror titans as Angus Scrimm, Robert Englund, Alice Cooper, Tony Todd, Tom Savini and Doug Bradley among others. Daniel Roebuck, who grew up in Pennsylvania, created his TV horror host character "Dr. Shocker" for this documentary as a tribute to the late, lamented Philly horror host Dr. Shock (Joe Zawislak). I also grew up watching Dr. Shock's Mad Theater and Horror Theater on Channel 17 during the 70's so I can appreciate the loving tribute more than most. After the "Shock Theater" B&W opening, Roebuck sheds his makeup and tours the country's Halloween attractions accompanied by beloved horror fan Bob Burns (who appears in the Dr. Schocker segment in his patented gorilla suit). The documentary itself is a pleasant affair combining Halloween haunted house attractions with brief explorations of Halloween origins and folklore. The documentary itself is a little on the "cursory" or "lightweight" side and has now been far outshone by the more recent "THE WITCH'S DUNGEON: 40 YEARS OF CHILLS" dvd. Nevertheless, HALLOWEEN: THE HAPPY HAUNTING OF AMERICA is well-worth catching; especially in it's newer 2-disc 10th anniversary dvd which includes a brand-new 2007 documentary which is basically H:THHOA Part 2. Roebuck takes up residence in California's Magic Castle (the scene of Boris Karloff's recording of his classic LP "An Evening with Boris Karloff & His Friends"). The second installment of the documentary does boast higher production values (since the original seems to have been shot on video and is a little blurry). Also included on the second disc are a welcome grouping of special features including a live on stage magic performance by Roebuck in his Dr. Shocker guise which attempts to replicate the early 20th century Spook Shows of lore. Besides "Dr. Shocker's Halloween Spooktacular", the dvd also boasts a photo tour of Roebuck's personal horror museum "Dr. Shocker's House of Horrors", and a round table discussion about horror called "Raw Talk" featuring Roebuck, Williams, Tony Todd, Christa Campbell, John Gulager and Don Coscarelli.