This month on MeTV is “the Month of MAYberry”- a whole month spotlighting the legendary “Andy Griffith Show” and its memorable cast. So, it seems like the perfect time for us to bring back one of the movies we get the most requests for, featuring an actor who played one of Mayberry’s best-known citizens and public servants, in a comedy chiller that revolves around a supposedly haunted house that was the scene of a murder- which provides the opportunity for a would-be newspaper reporter to finally get his dream job- unless, of course, it all turns into a very real nightmare- leaving our hero between ghost troubles and legal problems. It’s the great Don Knotts, playing the exact type of character he made famous- in the 1966 horror comedy "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken"!
We meet small town newspaper type-setter Luther Heggs-a dreamer who longs to move up from the ink-stained production department of the paper to the ranks of a full-fledged newspaper reporter. The film opens with him out on a late night drive- when he stumbles upon what appears to be a murder scene! Though he thinks this is the scoop that will elevate him to the big time, things aren't what they appear to be, and it leads to his embarrassment in front of the townsfolk. His paper’s star reporter is on the scene to heap on a little more ridicule, leaving him feeling like a failure. Luther envies that star reporter, Ollie, not only for his job - but also for his apparent position of boyfriend to Alma, the gorgeous young woman the typesetter has a crush on.
When the paper has a page needs a filler item to round out a page, the fairly inconsequential job of providing it falls to- who else?- Luther! A friendly co-worker encourages him to write about the town's most infamous murder/suicide- a story sure to grab the readers’ interest, since it took place in a local mansion where it is rumored the ghost of the killer still makes midnight appearances playing the pipe organ!
Luther's boss reads the filler, and realizing that , coincidentally, the 20th anniversary of the murder is coming up-thinks the story could turn into a great promotional stunt for the paper! Why not have someone spend the night in the allegedly haunted mansion, then write a chilling report on it? And who better to do that, than the author of the filler himself- Luther!? Naturally, the meek would- be reporter/type-setter has no interest in this creepy assignment- but is goaded into it by Ollie. He also feels it’s the one way to finally get his big break as a reporter- and finally make some headway with the lovely Alma. In the dead of night, Luther timidly enters the mansion- only to have a terrifying experience, finding secret passages, unexplained phenomena- and witnessing the actual ghostly late-night playing of the blood-stained keys of the organ (stains that seem to be impossible to remove- “and they used Bon Ami!”)
Needless to say, after that fateful night, both the story – and Luther- become a sensation! The entire town, including Alma, feels he’s a real courageous hero - but just as his future as a reporter seems guaranteed, there’s a nasty bump in the road. The last remaining family member of the murder victims, who still owns the mansion, and has considerable influence in the town, calls the story a total vicious lie- and lets it be known that he will sue the newspaper, and Luther as well, for libel!
He makes an unconditional offer-Luther and his boss must print a retraction. This will unfortunately result in the paper being ruined, with Luther losing his budding journalism career, and, worst of all, killing his chances of true romance with Alma. Do they give in and give up- or can Luther stand his ground, and stick to his story, knowing he told the truth about what he witnessed? Only an embarrassing day in court and risking one final frightening visit to the haunted house can prove his story, clear his name, and possibly reveal the truth about the legendary murder!
It obviously isn’t much of a stretch for Don Knotts to portray Luther, simply transferring the characteristics of his beloved Mayberry character Barney Fife to the role of Luther- the type of character he played so well! His love interest is a beautiful and engaging actress –the late Joan Staley- and they are supported by a host of familiar faces from TV shows and commercials- even a few of Barney’s fellow citizens of Mayberry! We'll talk about them, provide a little background on the movie, and explain one of the most-quoted lines of the film- which isn’t delivered by any on-screen cast member, but still someone important to the movie. Of course, we’ll be scaring up some Sven shtick to add to all the fun.
“The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” appears on MeTV tonight at 8 pm eastern/pacific, 7 central- if you’re not sure of time and channel where you live, just check your local listings, or go to www.metv.com ! MeTV invites you to live-Tweet along with the many viewers who do so every week during the show on Twitter- just make sure to use the hashtag #svengoolie – and join the Sven-tweeters who very often put us among the most popular subjects trending nationally! This morning on our main local Chicago station, CW 26, viewers can get another look at “Gargoyles” at 11 am.
Many thanks to all those who voted in this year’s Rondo awards! We have heard that a record number of votes were cast this year, meaning that more fans than ever of the genre have had their voices heard. Results usually come out in a week or two.
We hope you will enjoy this full month of Mayberry-centric entertainment on MeTV- starting off tonight with the man who played the braggadocios badge-wearing Barney in the role of gangly ghostbuster!