Lon Chaney Jr
And me stone-cold sober!
It’s time for a seriously cheesy, seriously un-serious movie starring one of the Great Old Ones of Hollywood: Lon Chaney Jr. He had a Freudianer, or at least Oedipalier time of it than most, as his father will be forever famous for his portrayals of various costumed monsters. Lon Jr started that way, too, as name recognition is quite useful when it comes to starting a career sometimes; he even changed his name from Creighton Tull Chaney to Lon Jr. He had to wait till his father was safely dead before stepping into his shoes, though. Soon enough he proved himself as a character actor and even, when cleaned up, a leading man, in one of my favorite oldie melodramas, The Shadow of Silk Lennox. But it was just so easy to get jobs in horror films.
His particular niche was slightly dumb, generably amiable, inadvertently sinister character roles. There were quite a lot of them to go around, too. Basically if it was insufficiently classy for Boris Karloff, Chaney got it. He’s most famous for playing the Wolf Man, although to my taste the Spaniard Paul Naschy was better at that role.
Here he is as the faithful servant of a decayed and sinister family in the weirdly mod (check out those opening credits!) 1967 horror flick Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told! Someone needs to make an Austin Powers version of this, seriously. Or at least a Scooby Doo one.
In a dilapidated rural mansion, the last generation of the degenerate, inbred Merrye family lives with the inherited curse of a disease that causes them to mentally regress from the age of 10 or so on as they physically develop. The family chauffeur looks out for them and covers up their indiscretions. Trouble comes when greedy distant relatives and their lawyer arrive to dispossess the family of its home.
Bonus: CAROL OHMART! You remember her! From the Vincent Price 1959 classic The House on Haunted Hill (the one that was actually filmed IN the house reputed to be haunted)? She played the conniving trophy wife. Of COURSE she did; just look at her! Anyway, she’s another leading lady who could act rings around most, and who never enjoyed the success she deserved.
Carol Ohmart should have stayed a pantherian brunette rather than a leonine blonde
The suggested cocktail pairing with tonight’s gruesome entertainment is the White Spider Cocktail. Oh yes, there’s another version, but it’s made with vodka and therefore clearly inferior. We’ll wait while you mix yourself one…
1 ounce Gin
1 ounce Lemon Juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 tsp Simple Syrup
Combine ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker. Give it a few vigorous shakes and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
There, ready? Click to enjoy Spider Baby or The Maddest Story Ever Told in full!