Showing posts with label Don Knotts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Don Knotts. Show all posts

15 November 2011



1967/Director: Edward Montagne/Writers: James Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum

Cast: Don Knotts, Leslie Nielsen, Arthur O'Connell, Joan Freeman, Jesse White, Jeanette Nolan, Frank McGrath, Bert Mustin

Don Knotts followed up The Ghost and Mr. Chicken with Universal's 1967 film The Reluctant Astronaut, produced and directed by Edward J. Montagne. Montagne was better known as a film and TV producer (he produced The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, the Shakiest Gun in the West and The Love God?) but sometimes dabbled in some directing though the bulk of that was for TV. Among the shows he produced was 55 episodes of the pretty funny McHale's Navy. Some familiar faces crop up from The Ghost and Mr. Chicken as well as the Andy Griffith show. The film is not as fantastic as The Ghost and Mr. Chicken but is still worth a watch if you're a fan of well made 60's style comedy movies.

Knotts plays, with his typical and unique style of jittery anxiety, Roy Fleming, a 36 year old amusement park ride operator who still lives at home with his worrisome mother and self-absorbed father (Arthur O'Connell). The ride he operates is the rocket ride and the irony is that he is so afraid of heights that he needs help getting down the step ladder from his super old assistant, played by character actor Bert Mustin whose roles sadly usually went uncredited both in the film credits and in Internet sites like IMDB and Wikipedia. He was also one of the old town's men on the Andy Griffith Show, usually sitting on the sidewalk making onrunning commentaries about the other town's folk. Roy as a tremendous crush on the hot dog stand girl Ellie Jackson (Joan Freeman). Unlike the character of Alma in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken this gal is a total ice queen who blows of poor Roy all the time without apology. She only begins to show some interest after he gains some celebrity status later in the film. Alma at least listened to Luther, but Ellie's character is simply unlikable as far I am concerned and presents an obstacle in the film's being as rewarding as Knotts' romantic paring in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

Unfortunately as well for Roy his father Buck Fleming is a WWI vet who wants to relive his exaggerated glory days through Roy and sends off an application to be an astronaut to NASA for Roy. Much to everyone's surprise, and in particular to Roy's, he is accepted into training a WB-1074. Poor Roy is pressured by his dad and his war buddies into heading off to Houston to make everyone in the family and town proud and there he runs into supportive astronaut Frank Griffin (played straight by a young Leslie Nielsen). After a few bumblings he meets his supervisor Donelli (played by the Maytag Man himself Jessie White) who informs him that his job has nothing to do with orbiting in space but everything to do with waxing floors: a WB-1074 is an apprentice janitor.  Tough talking Donelli does not have much patience for Roy but luckily astronaut Griffin has taken a liking to him and in one instance has Roy pose, with his industrial mop, with other astronauts and crew members. The picture is published in his hometown paper and the mop is no deterrent to his father's unshakable belief his son is an astronaut. The mop is a government ruse to disguise his top secret status. Roy goes back home to set the record straight but soon loses nerve when he sees not only what a hero he has become but that icy Ellie has thawed out a little, though not much, regarding his presence around her.

23 September 2011


The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

1966/ Director: Alan Rafkin/Writers: James Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum

Cast: Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Liam Redmond, Dick Sargent, Skip Homeier, Reta Shaw

Sometimes we all have a certain movie in our lives that holds a special place. A link to fond memories and long forgotten times. When it comes down to it I am a sentimental sap. For me The Ghost and Mr. Chicken with the fidget king Don Knotts is one of those films. The 1966 Universal film had already been out for some time before I began catching it late night on old network TV. If you're too young that means no cable or VCR. The image was adjusted by "rabbit ear" antennae that usually had strips of tin foil at the top to secure a slightly better image. The film, as I recall, played annually as part of a Halloween program and I had to stay up past midnight usually to catch it. No problem for me as I seem to be nocturnal by design. Knotts of course is best remembered for his role as the quirky and nervous though tough talking and big hearted Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith show. He won some Emmy's for his performance on the show and after five successful seasons he went on to continue making "big pictures" after the successful The amazing Mr. Limpit in 1964. The story here, from an interview with Knotts, seems to be that he was under the impression that The Andy Grittith show was to end after five seasons and Griffith seemed to be of the same idea. Knotts secured a contract with Universal only to find Griffith had decided to continue on with the show and offered Knotts to continue. Of course it was too late and he would return now and then to reprise his role as the shaky Barney. The Ghost and Mr. chicken is supposed to built, at Knotts suggestion, on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show called the Haunted House where Barney and Gomer go to retrieve Opie's lost ball on the grounds of a haunted house in Mayberry.

There is some disagreement about whether or not the Universal back lot studio house (located on used in the film is the same one made and used for the creepy mansion in 1960's Psycho. Wikipedia says yes and IMDB says no. IMBD claims the credits roll over the house used for the TV show The Munsters but the Simmon's House in the film is actually situated next door to The Munster's House. The house, of course, plays an important role in the film as any haunted house does in a haunted house movie. Knotts plays Luther Heggs, a basement confined typesetter with aspirations of moving upstairs and being a real reporter (he's been studying that and karate for years through the mail). He works for a small town paper in Rachel Kansas run by George Beckett (Dick Sargent, the 2nd Darren of Bewitched) who is a decent guy and likes Luther. He is harassed by the jockish bully Ollie who called him "scoop" and patronizes his dreams. Seems too that Luther and Ollie live in the same boarding house and Luther must endure Ollie's taunts over the meal table. Luther also has a big crush on Ollie's "girl" Alma (sexy in that All American girl way Joan Staley) and tries his best to get her attention and soon has the chance of his lifetime when he is offered the chance to stay a night in the Simmon's murder mansion to capitalize on the 2oth anniversary of the infamous murder-suicide of "old man" Simmons and his wife.