There's nothing like mixing comedy and horror, but plain old comedy comes close.
I was very young when I watched Ghost Catchers with Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, on television, and not old enough to have caught their zany Broadway show called Hellzapoppin'. I'm a pushover for sight-gags, witty and cheeky repartee, and downright insouciance. Olsen and Johnson scored big on all three. Here's the show's program, courtesy of Professor Kinema's archives. It's a good reminder that, aside from Ole and Chic, there were other acts that kept the show moving.
Broadway critic Brooks Atkinson wrote: "Folks, it’s going to be a little difficult to describe this one. Anything goes in Hellzapoppin -- noise, vulgarity, and practical joking. Olsen and Johnson make their entrance in a clownish automobile, and the uproar begins. There is no relief, even during the intermission, when a clown roams the aisles. You can hear some lymphatic fiddling by rotund Shirley Wayne who looks as though she has just finished frying a mess of doughnuts. It is mainly a helter-skelter assembly of low comedy gags to an ear-splitting sound accompaniment. If you can imagine a demented vaudeville brawl without the Marx brothers, Hellzapoppin is it ... and a good part of it is loud, low, and funny!"
The show consisted of two acts with 25 scenes, during which the audience was bombarded with eggs and bananas. Then when the lights went out, the audience was besieged with rubber snakes and spiders. A woman ran up and down the aisles shouting out in a loud tenement voice for "Oscar! Oscar!" Meanwhile, a ticket salesman began to hawk tickets for a rival show (I Married an Angel). The Broadway madness ran for a record breaking 1,404 performances. (Charles Stumpf in Classic Images)
Thanks. Look forward to reading that review. It's hard to capture their zany, spur of the moment energy with a scripted movie, but it left an impression on me.
Posted by: john | February 08, 2011 at 09:05 AM
Beautiful piece, John - thank you so much! I've become a big O&J fan in recent years and you can rest assured that I'll be reviewing "Ghost Catchers" for my "Scared Silly" project. :)
Posted by: Paul Castiglia | February 08, 2011 at 08:49 AM