Monday 19 November 2018


OK, stop that. Whatever you're doing. Yes, that. Stop whatever it is your doing, and what's this.

In the balmy summer of 1954 the prime time variety showcase of American comedian Red Skelton boasted three special guest stars in a spooky, elongated skit. Lon Chaney Jr, firmly established as one of the few bonafide US horror stars of the post-war era and still a much-loved celebrity; Vampira, at that point still the macabre host of a horror showcase TV show; and Bela Lugosi, his career at an all-time low, struggling to resurrect his career. As a slice of timeless gothica, it is irreplaceable, uncanny, and perfect.

Beginning with a scene of Lugosi watching the start of the show on a small television, it moves on to the then-standard format of a corporate sponsor introducing the show (in this case, Geritol). Announcing that Red Skelton will be starring in 'Dial B For Brush', it sets off into an opening gag where Skelton is offered a job as a door-to-door brush salesman on wages of $12 a week, with $15 a week deductions (“Sure I'll take it, I need the money!”) and sent on the worst sales job purely to get him out of the picture.

Cut to a spooky castle laboratory, and Lugosi in lab coat singing jollily as he sharpens his tools. Examining the sleeping girl on the slab, he laments “They don't make gurls like dis anymooor!”. The wolfman (his 'half brother/half wolf') is Chaney, gurning comically through oversized teeth. Mistreated, he's keen to make it up to Dr Lugosi - “Didn't I get your lunch from the blood bank?”. Lugosi explains his plan to place a 'new, unused brain' into the body of a robot, to unlock the secrets of the universe.

Skelton arrives at the door, and is promptly mailed by Chaney. “This is going to be an easy sale!”, he yelps cheerily. As they are sizing him up the slab appears again, the woman screaming unprompted. “Don't ad lib, kid – you're among stars!” Determined to make the sale, Skelton exclaims “I never say die!”, to which Lugosi and Chaney reply in unison “...but we do!”. Drugged, Skelton falls unconscious, Lugosi dances and sings “It's so peeeecceful in de graaaveyaaard!”, and part one of the skit is over.

The second part begins with dancing skeletons, which look quite impressive even today, before Skeleton awakes in a graveyard with Lugosi and Chaney. “Where am I? Pasadena?” Then, stage left, enters Lugosi's 'half-sister' Vampira who instantly lets rip a characteristic shriek. Spotting some new blood in the water in the form of Skelton, she invites him to call her 'after he's dead'. Skelton is unconvinced by her advances - “This is a physical impossibility” (we've all been there). Subsequently hypnotised by Vampira, Skelton is taken to the lab in the graveyard.

After the transformation, Skelton behaves less like a wise god but as a small child – cue much corpsing (no pun intended!) amongst the cast. Lugosi implores him – “Give me the information! I must have the information!”, and when he can't hear Skelton's reply Lugosi looks confused, misses his line, and everyone corpses again. Skelton chases them around the lab, amidst many groans and wails, and Vampira emerges from a slab in the wall to exclaim “Be quiet! You're making enough noise to wake the living!” And then, stage right, enters Geritol-man again to bring proceedings to a close.

It's frenetic 20 minutes of chaos, chills, and sheer joy. Not only are the characters smiling as they perform their macabre work, but the actors are too – it's a wonderful slice of spooky from the golden age of American gothic, and after watching it this terrifying world doesn't seem so bad.

So, yes. Stop whatever it is you're doing, and watch this. After all, it's so peaceful in the graveyard...

Download post as PDF file
Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

[Valid Atom 1.0]

Click to download our free compilation albums!


Radio Nightbreed