Saturday, June 5, 2010

FRANCIS IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE - Mancini,Skinner,Stein - "Truth Serum Swing" (1956)

Tonight, we've got a very special classic for you, starring the great Mickey Rooney, called "Francis In The Haunted House," and I don't know why, but for some obscure reason, this film is almost impossible to find today. The concept of a talking mule makes more sense than that!! Watching it these days is more difficult, but I loved the "Francis, The Talking Mule" movies as a kid!! Big kudos to Tabonga for finding us a copy!!

In the previous 6 Francis movies, the voice was done by Chill Wills, but for this last film in the series, they used the master voiceover and cartoon voice guy Paul Frees, and although there is a difference, it really doesn't affect anything much! Paul is almost able to nail it, but Chill Wills just always had that extra little gruff warble in his voice!

Mickey Rooney replaced Donald O'Connor in this last Francis outing. Donald had become increasingly unsatisfied with the series having publicly stated that after 6 movies and the mule gets more fan mail, it was time to move on!

Whether it's a good movie or not, "Francis In The Haunted House" sure has a star-studded cast by Dungeon standards, starting with Timothy(The World's Greatest Sinner)Carey here as the thug and henchman Hugo!

I'd be willing to bet that this Plymouth police car has more metal in it than 13 Toyotas put together!!

Hugo lowers the gate to the castle of evil, or in this case, the haunted house!!

David(The Fugitive)Janssen on the left, plays the part of Police Lieutenant Hopkins!

Here's more classic evildoers, the ever so recognizable Richard Deacon as Jason, on the left, and on the right, it's Charles(The Werewolf)Horvath, as the other assistant hooligan, Malcolm!!

How do you try and teach a mule to not look straight into the camera?

A lot of people don't, but I like Mickey Rooney in this role as David Prescott! I mean look at that mug, was this guy the consummate actor or what?

Gourmet chef Richard Deacon played the role of Dick Van Dyke's boss Mel Cooley, from 1961 to 1966, and was Fred Rutherford on 22 episodes of "Leave It To Beaver" among his many TV appearances!

In this scene, Jason tries to off David from the backseat, but is foiled!

David makes it to the police station just in time to tell them he has the suspect knocked out, and captured in his car....

...but when they go to check it out, Jason has been killed in an effort to make sure he doesn't start flapping his lips about what's been really going on!

The police bring in three experts to question David, since they don't believe all his gibberish about a talking mule, or his story about somebody trying to kill him, but when he doesn't change his story even after being hypnotized, they decide to give him some truth serum. It's at this point that the music is at it's best, swaying and swaggering like a drunken sailor! Uncredited musical bits and pieces go to Henry Mancini, Frank Skinner, and Herman Stein, but I don't know who composed this particular section, maybe it was Henry Skinnerstein!

Virgina Welles as Lorna MacLeod turns out to be a two timin' trollop of a girlfriend towards the end!!

If they look like they've just seen a ghost it's because the Director of "Francis In The Haunted House," Charles Lamont, had directed some of the very best comedy films of the 50's! He directed all the scary/funny Abbott & Costello movies(the 40's Abbott & Costello flicks were directed by Charles Barton), and worked extensively with Judy Canova and Ma and Pa Kettle!

In the end, Prescott and Francis have to take things into their own hands, and hoofs, and get into costume as the ghost and do battle with the real bad guys!

Francis the Talking Mule was actually a female named Molly, because the female of the spieces was easier to work with in the studio! Francis lead the way in the talking animal field of entertaining, and opened up the door for Mr. Ed and a whole slew of CGI chipmunks, cats, and insects!


prof. grewbeard said...

can't wait to see it! Timothy Carey and Francis the Talking Mule probably went out for a drink every night after filming!

Christopher said...

I miss seein' stuff like this and Ma and Pa Kettle on a regular basis like in the days before video and cable..

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Too bad Ma & Pa Kettle never made a haunted house flick!

Christopher said...

things that should have happened in film but never did..Ma and Pa were destined to do a Haunted House..I guess I'll have to settle with my favorite latter Abbott and Costello,Comin'n 'round The Mountain,with its stormy and dark witchy hellbilly moments...

Karswell said...

Yeah, why is this film so hard to find anyway? My first exposure to a Francis film (and it was this one too) was in grade school for MOVIE NIGHT in the gymnasium. They showed us a Pink Panther cartoon and then Francis in the Haunted House, great fun.

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

That's right folks, there did used to be a thing known as 'The Good Old Days!"

RODAN! said...

The one I remember seeing at the theater was FRANCIS IN THE NAVY.

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