The movie sadly is only available in VHS, but it can be found on YouTube. So we can all enjoy.
Vincent Price's Once Upon A Midnight Scary is a TV Special from CBS. It was shown in 1979, and, unsurprisingly, it has the eponymous Vincent Price acting as a host. Like the Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror, the show is made up of 3 tales, with Price acting as a host and link between the tales being told. Say what you will about the quality of the production, but...It's Vincent Price hosting scary stories!!!
The title is also a play on the starting line of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. That is all so apt for a show that Vincent Price is hosting. ...Of course it also tempts me to go watch the Price/Lorre/Karloff movie, The Raven.
Now it's not the finest of storytelling we've ever seen. It's largely like...no, it is an after school special, as it's geared to kids. Also it's not telling whole tales, more it's excerpts. The idea is to inspire kids to read, in this case, scary stories. And on All Hallows Read, that sounds like a great idea.
So, no, it's not the most chilling set of tales you'll see, and it's no Black Sabbath. But to be introduced to a few stories, and enjoy a little Vincent Price, that's worth experiencing once.
Ah! When TV and movie makers got this stuff.
When the credits are done, they move up into the house. We see a husky ( -- the dog, standing in for a wolf, I assume) run down some stairs and then passed a desk. At the desk a tall back chair slowly swivels around. And, it's Vincent Price.
|Hoarding done right.|
He welcomes us and introduces himself...And I suddenly am concerned that I've been invited to a certain house on Haunted Hill... And, damn, Vincent Price still had it in 1979, and even at the end when he was making Edward Scissorhands. He's warm and convivial. And pulls you into the promise of ghost stories. He is part talking about the wonder of ghost tales, and of appreciating literature itself.
"The Ghost Belongs to Me", by Richard Peck. In the tale a young Ron Weasley impersonator finds himself being given a strange warning from an odd young girl. Her mom "sees things". And the girl's mom said that there is a ghost residing in the kid's barn. The ghost of a young girl. And she tells him that he has the gift to talk to the ghost. So, he has to help her. But he isn't interested in the crazy idea.
He sees the ghost again, down the road, and calls out. The driver can't see anything, as the ghost walks on and fades.
Vincent Price comes back, and wonders if the ghost girl does come back? His only answer to that question is that you'll need to read the story to find out. Damn tease, Price. ...No. The idea with the show is that they want to interest viewers in some of these ghost stories to inspire kids to pick up these and other books. Yet another reason to share this show with kids.
|Uh, yeah! I already watch this when|
Disney originally made the story.
|"Good lord! And I thought Denny |
Crane was a bit much."
But as the events start, a dance is happening in Sleepy Hollow, and Ichabod Crane is attempting to woo the lovely Katrina. But he is having trouble. Then Brom appears and out manly mans poor Ichabod. Brom brags about "wamping on swines"...I am not sure what he's suggesting he's been doing. Does he beat pigs for fun? Is this a double entendre I'm missing.
Ichabod tells them that he's not afraid. He has the stomach for it. And his horse is plenty fast for dealing with spectral steeds. But Brom and Katrina keep at him, warning him of how fast and dangerous the Horseman is to cross. And Ichabod grows more troubled, yet tries to hide it.
|"I say. It is quite blurry tonight."|
But he sets off, and as he leaves they warn him to cross the old church bridge fast, as it should keep him safe from the Horseman. On his way, he nervously talks to his horse, trying to hide his fear of the dark night and it's noises.
He then rides on, barely containing his terror. The horseman follows. And he gets closer and closer. And then, finally, he's in front of him, and Ichabod can no longer deny what has come for him. It is the Headless Horseman. He sits quietly in the saddle. Under one arm he carries a carved pumpkin. (I think it's a pumpkin. The video quality and day for night effects really make it hard to see much.)
Ichabod flees now. He tries to outrun the Horseman. As he goes, he can hear the Horseman laugh.
Finally, Ichabod reaches the bridge, and crosses it. On the other side he sees that the Horseman does not follow. In Ichabod's relief he laughs and taunts the Horseman.
This only pisses off the Horseman, who takes his pumpkin and tosses it at Ichabod. Though now it looks to be an actual head.
The next day all that was found was the horse, Ichabod's coat, and a smashed pumpkin.
|Great. And suddenly young Billy Corgan gets a|
|Rises from the dead, and screws with your head.|
"The House With The Clock In Its Walls" by John Bellairs.
In it a clock may spell the doom of the world.
In the story a young boy, Lewis, is orphaned and made to move in with his odd uncle. He's sent up to his room for the night. Then he hears his uncle. He sees that he's knocking on walls throughout the house the whole night.
|Splendid. He's found a strange magic books. So it shouldn't|
be too long until some demons are freed and feasting
He decides that his uncle must be a wizard. And, he decides to continue watching what his uncle is up to. It leads him to follow his uncle up into the attic.
|That's it. Read it out.|
And, Price? You should be warning this kid off. You are the narrator!
|"I've gathered you all here to unmask a murderer...|
Ah. There's only one of you. That makes this easier,"
|"Yeah. That's great, Uncle Jonathan. I know a spell to.|
It's called Child Services."
As they talk, the uncle decides to show him some of his tricks and spells And he levitates our young hero up.
The next day he meets a local kid playing baseball. He seems amazingly obnoxious.
And Lewis instantly takes to him. He brags to the new kid that he does magic. And the new kid wants proof. So the new kid demands he raise the dead...Alright I can imagine a kid thinking that would be a cool proof. (And hence why kids shouldn't be allowed the use of magic. Per the Ministry of Magic's decree.) So they agree to meet at midnight at the graveyard.
|The downside of leveling up your wizard.|
|"You're a Necromancer, Lewis."|
Our idiot runs home. When he gets there he tells him uncle what he did. The uncle is really monotone. He's also really unconcerned about the dead rising. (Geez. What does he get up to?) Mostly he's happy that he pulled off the magic.
When he tells his uncle the name of the woman he rose, his uncle is less happy. ...But any other random woman he yanks back into our world is fine...? Man, that is cold.
It's Selenna. Izard's wife. And she will come to the house now. She'll return just to set of the doomsday plan clock, just to spite her husband.
|"By Satan's Fire! Who repainted|
As they race around trying to find the clock before she can, Selenna enters the house.
Our idiot hero comes up with a brilliant plan now. The Izard family was amazingly logical. So, to beat their magical protection of the clock, they have to be utterly random and ridiculous...
So they play the organ in the attic, play magic card tricks, and that leads them to the magic eight ball, which tells them the clock is in the coal bin...MAGIC! Do a bunch of random stuff and PRESTO! ...Wait, that is how magic often works...Huh.
The uncle warns that they need to be careful. It is possible that the clock could destroy the world is they aren't careful in dismantling it.
Then Selenna appears behind them. She freezes the uncle, and threatens Lewis. Not sure what to do, he smashes the clock. And, somehow this causes Selenna to disintegrate. Also, that doesn't destroy the world...Guess dismantling wasn't that risky.
With that the story is at an end, and we return to Vincent Price, who is hanging with his raven. (Cause we all imagine he does that all the time, right?)
|Just hanging with his raven and magic candle, or|
an average Thursday night at Casa Price.
But as with the other stories, he asks us to ponder what else was in store for the characters in the last story. Would Izard return? Would the kid become a full wizard? Would he make friends? The book holds the answer.
And I have heard said that the book is far better than what was shown here.
Then he looks in a mirror, and has no reflection. He bids us goodnight, and transforms to fly away.
It is a fun spooky ending to our show. Not the height of film making or storytelling. If you are inclined to watch Vincent Price have a little fun, it will be worth your time.
It's not the strongest choice to watch or share around Halloween. But it carries a nostalgic cache. And, it is a nice reminder of the power and importance of literature.
So, if you are curious still to see just how this show works, feel free to take a look and form your own opinions.
But let's be honest. Above anything else, it could have used some of this.
And since I mentioned The Raven at the start, how about a Vincent Price reading of The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe?