Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Third Banana One Year Anniversary/100th Post/Halloween Spectacular!

One year! One-hundred posts!! Halloween!!! And that all spells one thing!


Well, it does.. when you think about it. And so I'm happy to present (courtesy These Records Are BenT!) Hans' 1959 monster-themed novelty album Monster Rally. This album must have taken only days to record and Hans was probably in the studio for only one of those. The tracks are actually split between Hans, an RCA studio vocal ensemble billed as "The Creatures", and the nasal-voiced Alice Pearce. Pearce is best remembered today as the original Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched ("ABNER!!! LOOK!! On the Stevens's roof!!"), but was once an acclaimed Broadway and nightclub comedienne in her own right and even had her own TV variety show on ABC in 1949. The album is really just an excuse to have Hans sing Sheb Wooley's "Flying Purple People Eater", the original recording of which was number one for six weeks the previous year, but the rest of his tracks are just as much, if not more, fun.. especially "Not of This Earth", a smooth lounge ode from Hans to his extraterrestrial lover.
Her lips are formed with tempting grace.
I only wish that they were on her face.
Hans gets the science fiction-themed songs while Alice gets the horror stuff.. and, for some reason, it all seems very appropriate. You'll find Monster Rally here.

And dig this, hepcats.. The very first cartoon Hans ever contributed voice work to, Dick Lundy's Sliphorn King of Polaroo (1945). Funny or not, the Walter Lantz studio was far and away the jazziest cartoon studio of the 1940s (the Fleischers held the mantle during the 1930s with contributions from such talents as Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong). Jack Teagarden himself is responsible for the trombone solos in Sliphorn King. Conried was at Lantz for just a short while, contributing voice work to this and one Woody Woodpecker cartoon, Woody Dines Out (1945) before being drafted.

And why stop there? It take it back that a first anniversary/100 posts/Halloween just spells Hans Conried! It also spells


And, to a slightly greater degree


Bela was, of course, every comic's favorite straightghoul during the 1940s and early 50s. Always grateful for work, Bela was more than happy to lampoon his horror image, ultimately closing out his career with a comedy revue at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas in 1954 (four shows a night!!). In movies, he appeared most famously opposite Abbott and Costello in 1948, but he also made appearances with the East Side Kids (twice), the Ritz Brothers, Brown and Carney (twice), Mitchell and Petrillo, Jack Haley, Arthur "Old Mother Riley" Lucan, and, whether you consider him a comedian or not, Kay Kyser. It has to be said that Lugosi was much better suited to self-lampooning than Karloff whose performances never left any doubt in your mind that he was an actor through-and-through.. from London, no less. Lugosi's dark looks and exotic accent, given a further boost from the spooky tall tales he delighted in telling reporters about his dark Hungarian past, gave Lugosi an air of mystery that Karloff simply lacked. For many, it really did seem as though Bela had a touch of the grave about him and so, under the best of circumstances, the lampooning automatically had a bit of an edge to it. But that's under the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, Bela probably returned to that particular well a few too many times. It was as if Richard Nixon not only did the "sock it to me!" gag on Laugh-In!, but came back the next season as a regular castmember. At any rate, Lugosi had it both ways on radio, doing the vampire shtick alongside Fred Allen and Abbott and Costello and turning in solid performances on Suspense and Crime Does Not Pay. His greatest opportunity in radio was Bela Lugosi's Mystery House which sadly never made it past the audition disc. Recorded sometime in the late 40s, Bela Lugosi's Mystery House is like a "Monogram Studios of the Air" and even features John Carradine in support! The story, "The Thirsty Death", was announced to be the first of a series of adaptations of plays from the Grand Guignol in Paris, although I have serious doubts that it's a genuine Guignol play. Nonetheless, Lugosi is absolutely terrific, turning in a wonderful blood-and-thunder performance that is well suited to the material. You can listen to Bela Lugosi's Mystery House here. And if funny Lugosi is more your speed, here he is on the Fred Allen Show in 1943. And get a load of this 1949 clip of Bela with Milton Berle on the Texaco Star Theater! Bela is clearly having a blast! If Ted Healy had been alive, he would have sued Berle for stealing his personality.

And can anyone establish the provenance of this 1950s snapshot of Bela? Is this a shot from the Dragnet spoof from the aforementioned Bela Lugosi Revue? In its own way, this is the scariest image of Bela ever to see print. Never forget, folks.. Comedy is where the real terror is. Happy Halloween, everybody!

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Blogger East Side said...

A couple of Lugosi fans wrote to Berle (when he was alive, of course) asking him to make available that entire Lugosi sketch. Berle's rep told them, in so many words, to go jump in a lake. Thanks, Uncle Miltie!

Wasn't this sketch referenced in Tim Burton's "Ed Wood"? Berle was a notorious ad-libber, but I don't think he threw Lugosi off the way it was portrayed in the movie.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

Berle turned Healy's insult shtick into a cheap, and groundless, means unto itself as this clip amply demonstrates. Berle's "ad lib" was clearly intended to be dropped into the proceedings no matter WHAT Lugosi did. That sequence in "Ed Wood" is a rather backhanded reference to this Berle skit, intended to make us feel sorry for Bela as some kind of fish out of water, which he clearly was anything but! And, to his credit, even Milton Berle wouldn't have been so unprofessional as to deviate from the script so completely.

I'd LOVE to see Martin and Lewis's infamous trashing of Berle's show. "Milton Berle!! BIG DEAL!!!!"

1:13 PM  

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