Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that its 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: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY: Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009).

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, September 28, 2011

From Creepy Old Flicks...Part Two

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Thanks to our ever-vigilant readers and friends, new material (which is really old material) necessitates the need for new posts (with things that really belong in the old  posts).  Blogging allows that sort of thing nicely.

Some time ago, over at the Long-Forgotten Thread, TheHatboxGhost suggested another example of influence on the Haunted Mansion from old movies.  THG thinks that the Hatbox Ghost was inspired by the Man with the Beaver Hat in the lost 1927 Lon Chaney film, London After Midnight.  At the time, I was only half convinced, but after seeing a lot more stills from the film, I think THG is right.  Whether you look at the original Marc Davis concept sketches or at the prototype figure or the real deal, the resemblance between the HBG and the Chaney character is often striking.  it's hard to resist the conclusion that we're dealing with a source of inspiration.




In most of the stills, the Chaney character is paired up with a female spook, a vampiress apparently.  She looks nothing like the Attic Bride in any of her incarnations, but the mere fact that ol' Smiley is continually seen with a lovely young thing standing by is certainly agreeable to the Mansion motif of the two characters with a kind of bride-and-groom karma going on.  In one still they're even in a scene reminiscent of an attic:

Add a heartbeat and a bridal gown and ta da, welcome to Disneyland

You'll note that more often than not, ol' Smiley poses with a lantern in a hatbox-hoisting style:


London After Midnight is one of the most famous of all lost films.  The last known copy perished in a fire in 1967.  (Say...isn't that just two years before the Hatbox Ghost appeared and then immediately disappeared?)  Film buffs, especially Lon Chaney fans, keep hoping that some day, oh some day, the film will return.  Perhaps a copy will be found in somebody's private collection, or on a dusty shelf in the closet of an old theater.  Hey, maybe in an attic.  By a curious twist of fate, the Man with the Beaver Hat has come to occupy the same psychic space as the Haunted Mansion character he helped inspire.  He's out there somewhere, and some day....

A big tip o' the hat goes to Mr. Fenwright for this next one.  It's the 1920 Harold Lloyd film, Haunted Spooks.  This is another flick that is perhaps most famous for a fiery accident.  During a publicity photo shoot in the middle of production, a prop bomb went off in Lloyd's hand, taking two fingers with it and burning the comic actor's face, temporarily blinding him.  He fully recovered and wore gloves in his films from then on.  His salary also doubled.  The finger thing was kept secret.  Lloyd didn't want people feeling sorry for him when they're supposed to be laughing.

Anyhoo, Fen draws our attention to this title card and wonders if it may have inspired the phrase, "grim grinning ghosts":


"But wait a minute," say you faithful Forgottenistas, "hasn't it already been established that 'grim grinning ghosts' comes from line 933 of Shakespeare's 'Venus and Adonis' "?

"Hard-favour'd tyrant, ugly, meagre, lean,
Hateful divorce of love,"—thus chides she Death,—
"Grim grinning ghost, earth's worm, what does thou mean
To stifle beauty and to steal his breath,
Who when he liv'd, his breath and beauty set
Gloss on the rose, smell to the violet?

Yep, that's an exact match, but here's the mental calculus I'm using.  You have to weigh the greater precision of the Shakespeare quote against the greater precision of the Haunted Spooks provenance.  In other words, we know that the Imagineers (including X Atencio) researched old ghost films, and sure enough here we have a haunted house movie with "ghastly grinning ghosts" right there on a title card.  The setting for the Shakespeare quote, on the other hand, is far removed from such things.  The change from "ghastly" to "grim" is a natural move to enhance the alliteration (grim grinning) and could easily happen independently, without even knowing that by remarkable coincidence you're now quoting Shakespeare.  Perhaps too the Shakespeare line was actually what inspired the Haunted Spooks screenwriter, consciously or unconsciously, so the Bard still sneaks in through the back door.

I also noticed how similar the artwork on that title card is to some Fantasia "Night on Bald Mountain" concept art, which is something that in turn may have inspired HM Imagineers.  Besides, I'm sure lots of you have never seen this particular piece, and it's pretty enough to post even without a flimsy pretext.


See?


But I'm not going to push that one, since we're dealing with such obvious visual clichés here.

Our last film is not really an update to the Creepy Old Flicks post but rather the Death Coach post.  Forgottenista ww12345 pointed out a movie that I must admit I had not heard of, a Swedish film from 1921.


It goes by various names in English; usually "The Phantom Carriage" or "The Phantom Chariot."  I understand it's considered a real classic, a landmark among Swedish films, and it's received some fresh, recent attention with the release of a Blu-Ray DVD edition.


I watched it yesterday.  It's essentially a morality tale in the tradition of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," which is also a ghost story, of course.  Enjoy, but don't expect any scares.  It does have one particularly good line in it:


The Phantom Carriage catches our attention because it provides yet another definition of the Death Coach, reminding us of how flexible the image is, adaptable to any number of storylines.  Here's how it works this time around:


So don't be that guy, because the gig sucks.  Message received.