Jerry Lewis Hits Horrorwood!
Takes Home The Schlockin' Awe Scare!
SCARED STIFF (1953)
The Keeper of the Pit
Spoofing, I SAID spooking as a child of the '50's, I gotta admit there was a time it seemed you couldn't get away from croony Dean Martin and his friend Jerry Lewis, who was more prone to play the goony loony. They had ruled on radio, taken the new medium of televison like belly-laugh barbarians at the Colgate. I mensch-tion Colgate cuz it seemed Dean had the dental work, and Jerry screamed like a mental jerk.
Never much got bit by the Martin and Lewis bug myself, but a buddy's ole man wayback when used to travel lots for work, and the guy would call me whatever free weekend he had and say, "Hey, I'm taking the kids to a movie tonight, wanna KEEP yer schedule open?" Well, sure I did, and then, tomb late, I'd get wind up in a packed to the roof emporium to see "The Nutty Professor" or worse. Okay, nowadaze I admit NUTTY P. is its own sordid crassick. Not that saying I don't like it, in a ToS series devoted to comic legend Jerry Lewis no kvetch, makes me wanna run and Hyde. I mean, at lust the ever-delightful Stella Stevens in it made things even Stevenson. Even though she didn't yet have Dean Martin as a solo at the Helm.
Or there was the time my bud's family and I found ourselves watching LIL ABNER. LA's funny AND from the comix, and it lickthighs stars Ms. Stevens. Even at a budding young age I had this Jones that the Capper of the movie should be future Pussy Person, I SAID Catwoman, Julie Newmar doing a Stupifyin', fryin' yer eyeballs kinda, ahem, strip. No such luck. My point...back then when a flick had a cameo appearance it stayed a cameo appearance. Can still see, and kick to the cochlea hear, an entire theater fulla folks gasp, then cheer when they first saw that Jerry Lewis was in it. Man was that BIG at the movies that the whole joint...minus one kid...exploded with laughter, and Jerr hadn't even done anything yet! I'll say no more, so you the reader can say about yer jumbled writer "No cad he."
Same dad-dude always said he had much...thanx, Julie!...purr furred Jerry with his old pal Dean. I'd missed most of their movies in theaters, scene them a few on t.v. Came a time by the mid'-60s or so, when the poor Jerr fan would jest shake his head while watching Labor Day telefons and mutter. Sometimes he'd let fly with stuff like "If this is all he ever does anymore, why doesn't he just take the dang money, steada running off at the mouth?" He mellowed over the years on that one, but after the final one he enjoyed,"The Disorderly Orderly," anybody saying a decent thing about Jerr would have to wait to take his intern.
Dino went on. Bigger movies, more records, more movies, his own superspy series of films where he got more blondes than Bond. And when it came to diggettes of gold, he often had more than... oh! oh!.. seven of them, at one prime time!
Lewis, though, seemed to many of his.. and I do mean!... older fans a lost cause with "nuttin' but" a cause. Man's movies got further apart until it seemed Jerr wasn't even HARDLY WORKING. Hey, it was the generation vs. generation 60's, no use my tellin' some older fans that thinking Lewis was a loser for concentrating on the telefons never worked, either. It only put them at the equivalent of a new polio low, being that they'd still jest sit around and Salk. I'm sure, jest like I'd often hear even older old timers bemoan their missing "Abbutt & Costella," there's still millions of Martini, I SAID Martin and Lewis fans who feel that without the two together the Earth has much, much less mirth. Don't need to take any polls on that one, or even planet.
In fact, the snubbing of Jerry Lewis in Horror, sorry, Hollywood lasted so long it took till last month for him to get an award, for being a humanitarian. At least that's their MS take on it. Geez, isn't acting humanely something we should ALL be, um, human being? And shouldn't movie comedians be honored also FOR making millions of theater-goers down on their luck let loose with the yuks? Like some wiseguy once said, laughter at the movies is the best medicinema.
So, in honor of Jerry and/or Dean fans ev’rywhere, return with me now to those late, LLLLAAAAAAAAAY-Demented daze of yester yuks, as hosted by scumbody..witches my own elf…who never saw D&L's SCARED STIFF before as yer ghost, I SAID host, brrr! some to burr! some...
In 1953, D&L's movie career together was doin' book 'em boys box office boffo...guess who played the boffool?... with a string of sweet singing and slapschtick-swinging hits behind it. Did I say behinds? Friggin' Roto Rooter couldn't have been any more suck cess full! Time of SCARED STIFF, a rather shipshod spook spoof debased on the old GHOST BREAKERS with Paulette Goddard and Bob Slope Nose, there was still nuttin', Professor, that could blow D&L outta the "Water they gonna do next?" waves of popularity. As to how many more movies they did together after this sea-ghoulin' seventh voyage, think upon the old joke: "Water ya get when ya cross the Atlantic with an unsinkable ocean liner?" The answer? "About half way!"
In the earlier version of this less than Titanic tale of terror, the hero, no matter how comicly cowardly, the Slope-ster also had a casually demeaning attitude toward non-whites. Since the film was gore or less a horror story told from hungan, I guess some folks back in the '40's could hexcuse that whenever ole Slope Nose’s pat pending cowardly type cast his eyes upon such characters he didn’t seem to much wanna be in the same zomb witch ‘em. Me, watchin' such stuff on an afternoon t.v. movie in the '60s, I KEEPed Hope-in' his ship had no lifeboats. Then if a zomb tossed him Uber-bored, he wouldn't be a-Bobbin'.
Hexcept for the absence of zombs, STIFF has pretty much the same plot as GHOST BREAKERS, heavier on the hilarity, and on "horror" fright lighter. Not that Jerr doesn't find lots to be scared off, he hoodoos. Jerr plays his pat pending manic type here, this time out as a hapless but chaos-causing putz named Myron Myron Mertz. And Dean? He's Larry, who's totally unwary of hiding himself away from gansters by crawling into Lizabeth Scott's, um, trunk. Don't worry, she's cool, it doesn't steamer. Dean? Well, this IS a horror spoof, and Liz did star with the world's only ever hard-hitting guy named Humphrey. So sure Dean thinks he's being pursued by Bogies. And don't even ask me if she's the kinda gal who's a layed bloomer.
Back to that pulse-pounding plot, and let's sea it farely. First Dean's on the run because of Dorothy Malone, who displays Rosie, showgal friend of gangboss Shorty. She and Dean want to ring their chimes, I SAID ka-ching their dimes together in a phone booth. Such manuevers for sheer...as in stockings... demand a spare change of close quarters. Demeaning Shorty wants to give them Bell. Fleeing from Rosie and petaling fast, Dean winds up in new galpal Mary's trunk. Curse, being that Mary's played by the loverly Lizabeth, no wonder he thinks he'll get off Scott free. Bedsides, in the '50's a manly man hiding in the, how to lay, I SAID say drawers of a woman's trunk could still inspire audiences to bra'ed laughter.
Not to knickers, that’s knock Dean's bit in the box, but Jerr's stint so enclosed is the stuff he's infamous for. The man musta been boneless, the way Myron moves when he's freed from that same trunk. He unfolds out like an accordion that Shorty's put the squeeze on. And he does a ...pre rock 'n roll being popular...scrunched-up style duckwalk that musta made Chuck wanna Berry him! Makes ya wonder if Mary suddenly wanted Myron to in a certain way kinda rubber.
Mary, you sea, is being pressured by the same batch of gangsters to give with the spooky Cuban castle she's inherited. You got it, they want her to sell herself Shorty! Such behavior guarantees future haunted hilarity, not to slay high-rollin' Havantics, don'tcha casino.
And water, ya sink Jerr the clown prince of jesters is standing on the oceansidelines? No chance. Jerr's once more Dean's partner in a night club act, and once more one hoofs and the other pretty much goofs. Dean and Lewis herein show off that, contrary to popular belief, they both were danged phsyical, in yer face comics. In fact, they BOTH sing AND swing at each other and at villains trying to get into their act. Check out any of their club numbers: for a creepshow comedy they haunt SCARED of taking a well-timed dive for fear of getting up a little STIFF. They may have acted like they wanted murder-late each other, but either guy's talent, alone, with comedy in the midst of combat would have won him a huge prat-following.
Heck, check out the boys' clowning when it comes to tickling the tonsilliness with guest cruise crooner Carmen Miranda. Yeah, yeah, at first ya wanna give all of 'em a hat time, and then yer suddenly fruitin' for 'em. As for Bob Slope Nose, he must be off on the sarong slip, I SAID ship. And Lamour power to him.
I mean, who needs Lamour when ya got Lizbeth and her Lost Island, the castle of witch haunt scene anyone stay overnight and live until sunset for over twenty years of fears? And spooking of dead beckoning, er, reckoning, you'll love Jerr's impression of Bogie when he's confronted by some mob mopes, flipping a coin like yet another movie gangster actor. It's one of the best I can bah! call! Bette-cha in the '50's it had 'em laughin' from the Raft-ers.
And who needs Slope and Crosby when ya got Myron Mertz doing a switch is which bit with his own reekflected image? It'll have ya wall-eyed. And put rest to anyone who sez Jerr's jest a comic of mirror talent. There, ya think now the movie's makers would let the specters of Slope, I SAID Hope and Crosby?
No cheepo Hollywood product, SCARED STIFF creature features a scarely long running time. By witch I don't mean how often Dean or Jerr are running away from someone. It's an hour twenty minutes, gore or less, before we even get to Lost Island, and the movie's 108 minutes. So, hoodoo the mirthmakers behind the screams finally ghoul for the spookfest as promised?
Not reely. Movie's no "A&C Meet Frankenstein," I wouldn't Bela tomb ya. Then again, it haunt "Old Mother Riley Meets The Vampire," either, spooking of reel Dracula drags.
As said before, no zombs with machetes need hack-ply. There is a Blackbeard type ghost rising from his coffin, but he never gets to ask Lizabeth/Mary if she's a good on a cruise kinda cook, or even how her pie rates. And there's...of curse there is!...a suit of armor that KEEPs taking swings at Dean and Jerr. Doesn't amount tomb mulch. Not only doesn't he ever connect and give either guy a ghouled hit to the mace, our clanky knight never gets to tell Lizabeth she reminds him of "a gal Ah had." No chance lick thighs for her to ever loin if she'd like his Lancelot.
All that's needed to top it off is a bird walking around inside a skull. Unless one's the kinda grueless viewer who thinks that would reely parrot.
And there's this scene where, like the mirror bit, Jerr breaks the turd wall again, where he I SAID sits on this big ole armchair, and...get it?...the thing reely IS an armed chair. Nervous Nelly Jerr hoodoos his cringing coward bit, tries lighting a cigarette. No luck. Finally the chair arms light it for him. Talk a BUTT yer monsterous and matchless mirth! Even non-Lewis fans should reely digit! Classic horror or not, Jerr shows he knows how to unLucky Strike at Poe's!
For loco humor, once we get downtomb into the treasure trove McGuffin of the plot, we have Dean giving prop-er credit to Steubenville. And Mary finds a lantern from Scranton, PA. She doesn't say she ever, however, lived there. Nor do we find out if Mary ever nude Dean when she was a miner.
Despite all these Dean and Jerr jokes by the Pit's ton, I still won't tell ya how the ghostly code on the castle wall is reely music-kill, cuzza who met their demise working for scale. Zombs zombs un-deranged or not, anybody who reekveals a movie's ending should be locked up AND have to decompose in Haydn! And lookit Jerr, saved by comedy cinema from living a life of crime, when he coulda been such a killer mugger!
Whoa, wuzzizz? Gotta ghoul, gang. Jest got ghostbreaking news that, at last, long lost footage has been found of Jerry Lewis in old episodes of "I Love Lucy." Could be a reel Ball! (Then again, if Myron M. Mertz is reeklated to whom I stink, be a-Fred, be very a-Fred!)