Bit of Ivory

Bit of Ivory random header image

Movies My Family Quotes: Part Six

November 2nd, 2008 · No Comments

Between Halloween parties and getting ready for same, it’s been an insane week at my house. But I was saving this title for Halloween week (and one other, which I’ll hopefully post about tomorrow), and even though I missed Halloween itself, I’m still going to post.

“And they used Bon Ami!”


The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

I remember once, back in high school, a local movie theater (one of those art-house types with only one screen) showed this in October, and my family went. The crowd consisted of my family, Jen’s family, and maybe two or three other people. Which is a crying shame, because this movie is hilarious.

It’s a movie that was specifically designed for Don Knotts, who plays typesetter Luther Heggs. In fact, it was most likely based off a particular episode in The Andy Griffith Show involving a haunted house and deputy Barney Fife’s reaction to it. The plot is pretty simple: Luther is a typesetter who dreams of being a reporter for his small-town newspaper in Rachel, Kansas. For reasons of his own, the newspaper’s custodian (Liam Redmond) surreptitiously arranges for Luther to spend the night in the old Simmons mansion (the house from Psycho, making a guest appearance), where an apparent murder-suicide took place years before. Luther jumps at the chance to write an article about the old house and the mystery, even though he’s scared out of his wits. And indeed, when he’s there at the Simmons place, some very strange things happen. Overnight, Luther is a hero, even getting some fairly encouraging responses from his bosses’ girl, Alma Parker (Joan Staley)—until, of course, Nicholas Simmons (the owner of the house and the son of the unhappy couple who died, played by Phil Ober) sues the paper for libel. It’s campy and silly—and it knows it. And it doesn’t care. In fact, it revels in it.

In my mind, this is a perfect family Halloween flick: it’s got some genuinely spooky parts, especially for little kids (the particular scene that comes to mind is when the phonograph in the cellar starts playing at a frenetic pace; man, that would have made me jump!), but the comedy and the explain-it-all ending makes the scary stuff easily forgotten. What’s not forgettable, though, is the plethora of quotable lines. Who, having seen this movie, can resist yelling “Atta boy, Luther!” when someone is making a speech? Who isn’t tempted to exclaim “Hail cosmic chief!” at opportune moments? What writer isn’t compelled to remark “when you work with words, words are your work” when receiving a compliment? Or, my all-time favorite, who would hesitate to exclaim, when eating a satisfying meal, “My mother liked good food. She always said she’d rather eat good food than bad food any old day of the week.” My family, of course, being my family, takes one of the lines a step further than usual: the two old ladies at Luther’s rooming house, who are always trying to one-up each other (“You mean you’ve heard him play?”) are arguing over whether or not the Nicholas Simmons has blue eyes or dark. One insists that all the Simmonses have dark eyes: “I never liked his eyes. So dark,” she remarks (“They were blue.” “Dark eyes!”). So, of course, whenever anything is dark, whether it be the color of a jacket or the tone of a movie or a room without any lights on, we say “it must be a Simmons ______.” Must be a Simmons gravy, must be a Simmons book, etc. Just the thought of that inside joke fills me with glee.

Most of the clips I found on You Tube are entirely too spoilery, so I’ll just treat you to the horribly campy trailer instead:

Watch. This. Movie.

Tags: Movies

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment