The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
is hands-down the best Halloween movie ever. The music alone is worth the price of admission. It’s got that groovy 60s organ music by Vic Mizzy
. Don Knotts, in his first film, plays Luther Heggs, a very nervous employee of the newspaper in Rachel, Kansas. He is awfully fond of Alma Parker (Joan Staley). The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
is peopled with a who’s who of character actors, including Dick Sargent and Charles Lane. It’s a great family Halloween movie, with the caution of some scares for the youngest ones.
As the movie opens he is driving his 1958 Edsel when someone screams. Luther jumps out of the car and sees a man lying by the side of the road with a 2×4 beside him. He grabs his camera and press card, takes photos, then goes to the police station jumping with excitement. They tell him to calm down. Luther exclaims, “Calm down? Do ‘calm’ and ‘murder’ go together? ‘CALM’ and ‘MURDER’?”
Turns out the body walks into the police station. He was a man who likes to drink and was wacked over the head by his wife. Luther is disgraced and ridiculed. When we see him at his job at the newspaper, he is not a photographer. Or a reporter. He’s just a typesetter who dreams of being a real newspaperman.
When word spreads through town that the Simmons Mansion will be torn down, it’s big news. You see, a murder-suicide took place in the house years ago, and some people say the old blood-stained pipe-organ still plays at night.
Luther gets assigned to spend the night the supposed haunted house. To prove he’s not a coward, he agrees to do it. When he goes into the mansion, there is some real suspense and horror, perhaps a bit much for young kids. (It was a bit much for me just a few years ago. But then, I identify with Luther.) Luther becomes a hero, then a disgrace once again when he is sued because his story prevents the house from being torn down.
My lousy synopsis doesn’t in any way capture the coolness of this movie. Far and away Knott’s best, the bright colors of the film, the music, and the dialog all combine to make The Ghost and Mr. Chicken the world’s best horror-comedy.
Thanks to The Uranium Cafe
for a good review himself and all but one of the pictures. I forget where I got the other.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, starring Don Knotts, Joan Staley, and Dick Sargent. Directed by Alan Rafkin, written by James Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum, with some uncredited help from Andy Griffith. Universal Pictures 1966.