[Join your host, John Holliday, in the review column "A Movie A Week" as he shares his spoiler-free thoughts on our collection of DVD / Blu-ray titles.]
Every movie fan has that one movie that Halloween just wouldn't be "Halloween" without. Here at the CineWeekly household there's an abundance of those movies (more than October can contain) but one that's especially essential is The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. When the chills of Vincent Price or the Universal Monsters become too terrifying for the heart, it's time to sit back and enjoy the laughs given to you by Don Knotts.
It's not an easy job being the typesetter for the small town newspaper, particularly when your dream job as reporter is occupied by the guy who is friendly with your dream girl. That's the situation scrawny, bumbling Luther Heggs (Knotts) is in when the town gossip becomes centered on his filler piece about the legendary haunted Simmons mansion. The natural thing to do now is to write a feature follow-up and the only way to do that is to spend a night alone with the ghosts in the murder "and suicide" house. That's what it takes to get the girl and discover the truth behind the old brutal Simmons deaths.
I'm keeping the synopsis short because the important thing here is the comedy which lands triumphantly every time. Obviously, you have to value the style and period of comedy at hand above all but if you don't that's your problem. I still laugh at every single joke, probably harder than the first time because I know what's coming. But first you have to understand jokes. What is a joke? Let me clarify… (Now I'm getting in to "you have to see the movie first" territory). But trust me, if this movie came out today it would be the most quotable of the year.
I love Don Knotts because a lot of his style is about the nuances which coincidentally may be why some people don't, and I hate to use this phrase relating to movies but, "get it". It's not that audiences today aren't smart enough since Knotts' comedy is by no means intelectual, but they don't seem to pay attention as much as they used to. Modern punchlines are obvious and loud but Luther Heggs shaky leg on the courtroom stand that transfers to the other leg is subtle. The timing is also a key factor. Normally a repeated phrase is just begging for someone, anyone to laugh but the strategic use in this Halloween favorite is perfection. "Attaboy, Don!"
After seeing this movie you can begin to appreciate fate's course and come to terms with Don Knotts missing out on 'The Andy Griffith Show's' color years. Had it not been for his contractual obligation to this movie, we may never know one of the best and the funniest haunted house stories ever filmed. That's why I give The Ghost and Mr. Chicken:
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