Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that readers are already familiar with basic facts
about the Haunted Mansion. If you wanna keep up with the big boys, I suggest you check out
first of all the website, Doombuggies.com. After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (NY: Disney Editions; 2015). That's the
re-named third edition of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY:
Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009). Also essential reading is Jeff Baham's The Unauthorized
Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion (USA: Theme Park Press, 2014; 2nd ed. 2016).

This site is not affiliated in any way with any Walt Disney company. It is an independent
fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
All images that are © Disney are posted under commonly understood guidelines of Fair Use.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

More Shots in the Dark

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Before we get started, here's a gorgeous example of a green-and-purple color scheme used to spooky effect (a topic previously explored HERE). This is a background painting from The Adventures of Ichabod Crane (Disney's adaptation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"). I'll probably stick it into that old post, but it's simply too nice to bury that way without calling attention to it.


Okay, attention called. Now, to the business at hand.

One of our favorite Long-Forgotten exercises is tracing the inspiration for things that wound up in (or in some cases almost wound up in) the Haunted Mansion. We do it gleefully, despite the hazards of claiming inspiration where perhaps all that is operating is coincidence. The key to retaining your self-respect, as we know, is to tread lightly in making any claims, resisting the temptation to push possibilities until they look like plausibilities, or plausibilities until they look like probabilities, or probabilities until they look like certainties. Today we have a couple more shots in the dark, things that could have been inspirations but . . . well, you decide.


"A Comedy of Terrors"

This 1964 horror-comedy is the sort of film the Mansion Imagineers would have wanted to see, and it falls neatly within the time-period we know they were doing such research. We know, for example, that a group of them had a private screening of the 1963 film, The Haunting, in 1965:


Being a horror-comedy, CoT would have been a natch. So . . . is there anything in the film that looks like it could have been influential?

Meh. Not much. There's been some speculation about the look of the Caretaker (the great Joe E. Brown in his last performance):


Sure, he looks a little like our Caretaker, but that's because the look of Caretakers had settled
into a stereotype by then. Mr. Dudley in The Haunting looks just as much like the HM guy.


And if we turn elsewhere we just keep running into the same man. Here he is in The Abominable Doctor Phibes:


Most of the other suggestions I've seen about possible influence from CoT fair no better, IMO. The one thing in CoT that does give me
pause, however, is the opening scene in the graveyard. It isn't difficult to find photos of the HM Conservatory that look a lot like this:




Furthermore, this is from the opening scene of the movie, so no story has unfolded yet, and it goes on for quite some time, so the atmosphere is pretty much all you're getting. At this early point in the film, then, it isn't hard to imagine someone like Claude Coats making a mental note of the colors and the set design, since there's little else to notice. But I'm not going to press the possibility of influence any harder than that. Filed as another "solid maybe."


"Thriller"

The late 50's—early 60's was the golden age of anthology shows on TV that featured the odd, the frightening, and the unexplainable. You've got The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. One show in this group that I didn't even know existed until relatively recently was Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff. The show ran just two seasons (1960-61 and 1961-62) but still produced 67 episodes. If you've never heard of the show, get thee to youtube, where most of the episodes can be seen. Like all of the other shows named, there are some real clunkers as well as gems in the batch. I'm impressed with the production values and the often very intelligent scripts. The cinematography in particular often rivals what you might expect from a big-budget film produced at a major movie studio. Robert Bloch (he of Psycho fame) wrote a lot of the stories. Plus there's Boris as your host, and the man is simply irresistible.

So anyway, as I'm wending my way through all these Thrillers, my eye is ever on the lookout for Mansion inspirations. Can't help myself; it's what I do. And yeah, sometimes something pops up that's worth a second look. One such moment occurred during the episode called "The Weird Tailor" (which is excellent, btw). In one scene, a medium is looking into her crystal ball, and a death's head gradually appears.




This reminded me at once of a Marc Davis concept sketch of "Madame Z," the forerunner to what would eventually be Madame Leota.


Put 'em all side by side and stare at them long enough, and pretty soon you may feel the inner
needle moving in the "certainty" direction, even if you know it won't ever quite get there.


But beware. Here's a cautionary tale from another Thriller episode, "The Hungry Glass" (worth watching just for the fun of seeing The Professor and Captain Kirk chumming around while Elly May Clampett admires herself in the mirror). There's a creepy old attic in the house that looked familiar to me:


Yeah . . . reminded me of this Claude Coats concept sketch:


Same thing. Put 'em side by side and stare. The trophy head, the bird cage, the oval mirror . . .
seems too much for coincidence . . . keep staring . . . feel that needle a-twitching? 


Well, turn off the machine and sit down. There's virtually no possibility of influence here. See, I cheated. The top photo is actually my combination of several consecutive screen grabs. The attic is only revealed a bit at a time via the beam of a flashlight. At no one moment is the entirety of the scene visible:




So I guess the lesson to be learned is to be very skeptical of inner needles?

Okay, not exactly a killer blog post, but fun anyway. At least my inner needle tells me so.