on October 5, 2001
I first saw this Don Knotts comedy back in the late Sixties...and it stuck with me. (Especially the tune the organ plays.) The scenes of nervous, bungling, bug-eyed Don Knotts made me laugh out loud then -- and they still do now. So I was really pleased when this movie was finally released on video a few years ago. My only gripe now is that I wish it were out on DVD because I'm sure I'll wear out my video before too long!
Of course, I'm a big fan of the Andy Griffith Show. So that probably explains why I like this movie so much. Don Knotts was largely responsible for making that show the huge hit that it was. And, if you like his schtick on Griffith, you'll like this movie.
In fact, there are about a half dozen or more actors who appear in the movie -- most just briefly -- who also worked with Knotts on the Andy Griffth Show. Hal Smith, Ellen Corby, Hope Summers, Burt Mustin and Rita Shaw to name just five. So it was fun to pick out the familiar faces. The movie was even written by two of the Andy Griffith Show's most prolific writers!
Knotts has the nervous man character down so well that some scenes in the film are almost painful to watch (like when he's giving his speech -- "I've been called brave. What is brave? Let me clarify this" -- before the picnic crowd gathered in his honor), but I can't help myself. He's funny.
I won't go into the plot because so many others have already reviewed it. I just wanted to add my two cents (and Five Stars) to the other reviews.
The bottom line: this is a fun movie, great for the whole family. If you haven't seen it, please do so. Sure it's corny. Sure it looks dated. But it's not supposed to be Citizen Kane. It's just a great popcorn movie to share with friends and family.
on March 25, 2008
Luther Heggs is a mild mannered typesetter just waiting to break out and show the world that he can be a reporter. When the nervous, shy, and loveable bug-eyed reporter wanna be is dared to spend the night in the old haunted Simmons mansion, he feels this is his chance. There are a lot of strange things that happen in this old house. People recount of hearing creepy organ music wondering if the unsolved murder victim is haunting the old house. The newspaper editor thinks it is a wonderful idea, and decides to give Luther the chance he has been dreaming about since the anniversary of the murder/suicide is approaching. When Luther spends the fated night, he barely makes it past midnight tearing from the house spouting tales of a ghost playing the organ, shears embedded in a portrait, and secret passage ways. When Luther tries to prove the events he experienced in the house, he ends up looking like a fool when they cannot be recreated. As he solves the mystery, he takes the whole audience along for the ride.
Don Knotts is superb in this movie! His physical comedic skills could not be done any better. The supporting cast brought together for this film was very well cast. Some of the cast members will also be familiar to those that have followed Knotts career with Andy Griffith.
on March 17, 2002
I remember one Friday night when I was growing up in the 70's. They were going to show "Ghost and Mr. Chicken" on tv, and my sisters, my neighbor friend and I were settled in to watch it. I was scared to death, covering my eyes when Knott's character (Luther Heggs) came downstairs and saw the painting with the blood gushing out of it! The organ music was so creepy.
Now I own this movie and watch it often. It is a reminder of kinder, gentler days, of small town people that are very familiar from my childhood. Of course, I'm a huge Andy Griffith show fan, and this movie was based on an episode called "The Haunted House." The writers of that episode wrote this movie (one of them of the voice of the un-seen guy who keeps hollering
'Atta Boy Luther') and Andy Griffith Show fans will notice many familiar faces in the movie..Otis, Clara, and more. If you loved Don Knotts in that show, you'll love this movie. And if you aren't a big fan of Andy, I still think you'll like this movie. It truly is very funny, the scary scenes are still scary, and I think this is Don's finest work. Please issue this on DVD, I'll be the first in line to buy it.
on November 19, 2003
As a big-screen comedian, Don Knotts was never funnier, more endearing, or more inspired than in this silly, oddly charming small-town comedy. It's one of those pleasant memories from childhood, and I'm delighted to discover how well it holds up. Knotts' character, Luther Hegg, is little more than an extension of, or variation on, Barney Fife; he's what Barney might become if Andy wasn't around to calm him with a wink to the audience. And Knotts gives into the foolishness with enormous conviction: the goggle-eyed, wild-haired terror; the slightly self-important preening of a little man who just KNOWS he could be a big deal with the right break; the false bravado that quickly succumbs to cowardice of the first rank (a schtick Bob Hope would have been proud to own); and, curiously, the essential heartbreak and loneliness Knotts is too good an actor to sentimentalize or imbue with undue self-pity.
Aside from the star's peerless, bug-eyed takes, what makes this unpretentious trifle of a movie so pleasurable are its relative intelligence and its canny observation of character. They've been making inexpensive showcase comedies for rising comedians for aeons now, and most of them are dumb to the point of inanity (today they're both stupid AND gross.) But the screenwriters and the director of this movie have a fondness for even the smallest of characters, and there are wonderful touches, like the way the old man in the boarding house casually takes an egg off the cozy of the bickering old woman next to him at the breakfast table, cracks it open, and eats it. No one notices, and the filmmakers don't beat us over the head with it; it's there, on the periphery, if we want to enjoy it. Can you imagine the people behind David Spade movies having the grace to do that?
Every role, however small, is written and performed as completely individual. The voices are unique, just right for the performers and for the town itself. The verbal one-upsmanship of the elderly women in the boarding house is a perfect example; you get the feeling they've been at it for years now. Add in Vic Mizzy's memorable, idiosyncratic hipster-like score with its variations on two simple rhythmic themes, a beautiful digital transfer, and Technirama 2:35:1 widescreen, and - voila! - 90 minutes of simple joy, done to a T.
on April 16, 2005
I have a fond place in my heart for this movie, so I'll try to be straight with this review. I've been watching this movie since I was a kid and I can't say enough good things about it. Don Knotts breakout performance. This and Mr. Limpit and How To Frame A Figg are like the Knotts trinity. Sure, Apple Dumpling Gang and Private Eyes were good too, but this is the crown jewel. I introduced this movie to my daughters and my younger one loved it, just as I did when I first saw it all those years ago. Fast-paced and hilarious, Knotts just keeps 'em coming. Just mortar, stone and wood! Shears in the throat! I know the dialogue like the back of my hand. All the characters fit so well together. So visit Rachel, Kansas and see what's going on in the old Simmons' house and hell, spend the 20th anniversary of the murder/suicide along with Luther Haig and a gaggle of side-splitting situations. Enjoy, for they don't make movies like this any more.
on October 16, 2003
In 1966, Alan Rafkin directed one of the best Don Knott's comedies entitled "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken". Set in a fictional town in Kansas, Don Knotts plays the nervous and shy Luther Heggs, who works as a typesetter for the town's local newspaper. More than anything, Luther wants to become a full-fledged newspaper reporter, but his manager, George Beckett (Dick Sargent, who played the second Darrin Stevens in the 1964-1972 TV series "Bewitched"), won't promote him. Located in the town is the abandoned Simmon's house where several murders occurred 20 years earlier. The local townsfolk believe the house is haunted because eerie organ music can be heard coming from it every midnight. (The music was composed by Vic Mizzy, who composed music for many films, as well as TV series such as "The Addams Family", "Green Acres" and "Quincy" to name a few.)
Luther is challenged to spend one night in the abandoned Simmon's house. With knees a-knocking and teeth a-chattering, Luther enters the Simmon's house with sleeping bag in hand. What ensues is some of the best Don Knotts acting and comedy ever seen as Luther is scared and runs from the house. He is quickly hailed as a town hero, especially by several older ladies, many of which live in the same boarding house as Luther: Mrs. Halcyon Maxwell (Reta Shaw, who played Mrs. Brill in the 1964 classic "Mary Poppins", as well as the occasional Aunt Hagatha in "Bewitched"), Mrs. Natalie Miller (Lurene Tuttle, who played Eliza Chambers in the 1960 classic "Psycho"), Mrs. Hutchinson (Jesslyn Fax), and Mrs. Cobb (Nydia Westman). Other notable characters in the film include Luther's girlfriend Alma Parker (Joan Staley), Kelsey (Liam Redmond), Ollie Weaver (Skip Homeier) and Nicholas Simmons (Philip Ober).
"The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" is a classic comedy that is not dated and continues to entertain young and old alike. I rate the film with 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend purchase of the film on widescreen DVD!
on March 26, 2006
The above is the only risque line you will hear in this classic family comedy starring the one and only Don Knotts. I just watched this movie for the first time in over 30 years and this movie brought back so many memories. If you were born between 1955 and 1965, this film was probably a big part of your childhood. I was a little too young to see it when it released to theaters, but it played on local television at least once a year in the late 1960's and early 1970's. It doesn't have much of a reputation in "film" circles but for kids of that era it's one of the period's essential films.
Don Knotts stars as a nervous, easily spooked type who works in the typeset department of a smalltown newspaper who gets his big break to become a reporter if he will spend the night in the local "haunted house" - an abandoned mansion where a murder/suicide occured 20 years ago. Knotts is in classic form as our neurotic hero and he is matched by a wonderful cast of character actors from the era, many of them familiar faces from their regular appearances on TV shows of the era (two of Knotts' ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW costars, Hope Summers and Hal Smith, are even here in unbilled small parts). I especially enjoyed the wonderful Reta Shaw as the domineering matriarch of the local paranormal society.
This innocent movie has only the mildest of "spooky" moments (the time spent in the haunted house is surprisingly short); this and the broad playing clearly show it was geared for children's film audience although the actors will hold the attention of light-hearted adults. Knotts was already middle-aged here but he's still wonderfully believably as the naive Luther (he is just a kid here though in this small town where apparently only five or so people are under 50 judging by the film.) The movie also boasts a superb creepy organ-dominated score by Vic Muzzy. No, it's not CITZEN KANE but THE GHOST AND MR CHICKEN is a much-loved family film and one I think young people even today would enjoy it.
on December 20, 2003
This is a sentimental movie for me. I remember well going to see this as a 10-yr-old boy with my mom & late dad. For weeks after seeing it, my dad would say "Atta boy, Luther" any time any of us kids did anything right. My mom would say "...and they used Bon Ami" whenever appropriate. I thought it was one of the funniest movies I'd ever seen as a kid. On the other hand, I was scared to death when the organ started playing by itself (pretty tame by today's standards). As it's said, "They don't make 'em like this anymore". Any fan of Don Knotts should see this light-hearted film. It's not CITIZEN KANE, but it's enjoyable as a look at the mid-sixties pop-comedy genre.
It's almost too easy: put Don Knotts in a haunted house, and you're guaranteed to have a funny movie. I'm sure many of us still remember the classic haunted house episode of The Andy Griffith Show as one of our favorites. Don Knotts had just left his Emmy-winning role of Barney Fife (and he left the show because the plan all along had been to end the show after five seasons - but then the show didn't end), but the Mayberry stamp can certainly still be seen in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. There were cameos from such familiar faces as "Otis" and "Clara," and the idea for a running gag featuring an off-screen character yelling "Attaboys" throughout the film can be attributed to Andy Griffith himself. You'll also see the grouchy old man who kept trying to shut down the Hooterville Cannonball in Petticoat Junction and Dick Sargent of Bewitched fame. Knotts was fortunate indeed to have Joan Staley, a former Playboy Playmate, as his leading lady - Thelma Lou has nothing on her, let me tell you.
Knotts plays Luther Heggs, a character very much in the Barney Fife vein. Heggs is a typesetter at the local paper, but he dreams of being a real reporter. His attempt to get a real scoop winds up making him a laughingstock all over town; to make matters worse, his mean supervisor at the paper has a thing going with Alma Parker (Staley), the subject of his own affections. Heggs gets what could be his big break when the editor asks him to write an article on the old Simmons mansion, a spooky old place reportedly haunted for the past twenty years - since the night Mr. Simmons killed his wife and then took a swan-dive off the upper floor. There's only one thing that can convince a terrified fellow to spend a night in a haunted house, and it isn't a desire to show his boss or anyone else what he is made of; no, the only thing that will work here is a desire to impress a lady, and so Heggs settles in for the scariest night of his life. His story about the ghostly manifestations he witnessed makes him a town hero, but it raises the ire of the surviving Simmons descendant who is eager to tear down the house for reasons of his own. And so it is that Heggs has to prove to a court of law that he saw what he said he saw.
It's a pretty simple plot that is easily predictable from the very start, but this movie works because it is funny. The whole thing might have fizzled with another actor, but Don Knotts makes everything hilarious - he is a master of physical comedy (bettered only by Tim Conway). He is truly in his element here as a reluctant hero - there's very little difference between Luther Heggs and Barney Fife, when it comes right down to it. They really ought to slap a "guaranteed funny" label on the front of this one.
on September 11, 2003
Spooky fun in the vein of Bob Hope's "Ghost Breakers", built around the considerable comic talents of Don Knotts. Knotts plays a timid would-be reporter in a small Kansas town who is given the challenge of spending the night in the local haunted house, site of a reported murder-suicide twenty years earlier. Teeth chattering and legs quaking, our hapless hero encounters screeching cats, sliding bookcases, secret staircases, an organ that plays by itself, a bleeding portrait ... all the classic features of any self-respecting "murder mansion". Lionized for his bravery, Knotts becomes the town hero, only to have the rug pulled out from under him when the ghosts later fail to reappear. Of course it all ends well, with Knotts solving an old mystery and yep! even winning The Girl. (Did you doubt it?!)
Although Knotts' kinetic performance is the centerpiece of the film, he's helped along by a marvelous supporting cast, members of which will be delightfully familiar to fans of 1960's and 1970's TV sitcoms, including Dick Sergeant and Sandra Gould of "Bewitched", Reta Shaw from "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", Lurene Tuttle of "Julia", and many other beloved faces. Joan Staley makes an appealing leading lady, and director Alan Rafkin keeps the comedy moving right along, with one or two genuine shivers added to the proceedings. The end result is a well-loved cult comedy that holds up well under repeated viewings.
Universal's DVD release features an excellent film-to-video transfer with exceptional picture and sound. The colors are crisp and bright, just the way I remembered them being when I first saw the movie in a theatre as a kid. The Original Theatrical Trailer is included and adds to the fun. This DVD is definitely one to own, so that its many pleasures can be enjoyed again and again.