Sunday, October 17, 2010

Countdown to Halloween Day 17: FIVE FAVORITE FUNNY AFRAID

The scaredy cat, ‘fraidy cat or, as I like to call them, human characters in scary films, television and even literature are there to both add comic relief to very stark, dark situations and to provide a character we can all relate to more easily than the hero or the damsel in distress. The folks who would show the most realistic respons to the sheer terror a real encounter with the supernatural or murderous would bring out in a person.

They are there to lighten the emotional load for a viewer who is fit to burst with tension from all of the suspense and horror of a piece. There are many who are good at playing this role, but only some were great at it. Great actors, comedians and characters fully realized for our amusment and their relatability.

Mantan Moreland came out of the vaudville scene with some friends and added much needed wit and humor to some very dry and dark scripts for several horror films of his day. He overcomes the typical, exploitive writing of the time and presents a true humanity to his characters and a smartness to them that you won’t find in the white heroes of those pieces. He was brilliant whereas the scripts he was working with were childlike. Fine work from a fine comedian can be found in “Lucky Ghost” and “King of the Zombies” among many others.
An informative blog entry about the man known as Mantan:

And now, for your enjoyment is the entire film "King of the Zombies"

Scooby and Shaggy are the gold standard of television cartoon comic relief. Shaggy even had a word for just how he felt about some of the situations he and Scoob found themselves in and it was “Zoinks!”. It would take a heck of a lot to get Scooby in the mood to play bait for one of Fred and the gang’s monster traps--whatever’s in those “Scooby Snacks” must have been impressive indeed.

Don Knotts is pure comic genius. Heck, his face could carry him even if he didn’t have perfect comic timing. He is great a playing that frazzled, on edge, nervous nelly that we all know. He can pull off any of these kinds of characters. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it a habit to inhabit the kind of light horror film that would have given him much more to say on the subject beyond the brilliant “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”.

Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris), seemed to be afraid of some new creature every week on LOST IN SPACE--going so far as to throw young Will Robinson under the bus to protect his own chicken ass all the time. It’s camp, but some of the threats there were a bit more serious and his reaction to them all always seemed genuine. Dr. Smith was a weak and cowardly type with few redeeming qualities, but he was a great character to love to hate.

Carl Kolchak is an investigative reporter of the strange and unexplained in Chicago who attacks the terrifying with a deep sense fear and a sense of humor to make light of the darkest situation. Still, he does march into the very dens of evil he reports on, but he definitely shows his own fear at times. His sense of humor in the face of such madness is probably what allowed him to continue his search for the truth. That’s probably his version of a Scooby snack, btw, the ugly, unbelievable truth.

Some are more comedic than others, some are more geuninely afraid, but all served their roles in adding much needed texture to the frightful fiction we all enjoy--especially this time of year.


Nic_Nova said...

I actually just finished watching The Ghost and Mr Chicken.

Jeff W. said...

What timing! I actually got the Ghost and Mr. Chicken Vic Mizzy soundtrack in the mail yesterday. Atta boy, Gary!

Gary Lee said...

Gary knows when you've been Knottsing, he knows when you're awake--that's why he looks so sleepy all the time.

Jeff W. said...

Staying awake too much would leave you in Knotts i'm sure.