Horror 365, Movie 133: Arnold

One of the terror stricken captives regular visitors here at Castle Blogferatu posed an interesting query this morning. She asked if funerals played a significant role in many horror movies, reasoning that a funeral involves a coffin, a dead person, clergy, a church, all of which are already creepy on their own.

I had to admit I was and remain stumped. I can think of lotsa churches, cemeteries, mortuaries, morticians, etc. that figure prominently in many a horror feature. I can’t really think of any that involve an actual funeral with one possible exception, and even that’s more of a horror comedy–a 1973 movie called Arnold.

I was a wee lad when the trailer for Arnold was on TV. At the time, it creeped me right the fuck out. Now it cracks me slap up. The movie has not aged well, mainly for some racial stereotyping of one particular character, but it still has its moments that are both genuinely dark and pretty damn funny.

Here’s some copy from the trailer: Arnold, he’s a scream. He really took care of his family. Arnold gave his bride a honeymoon she’d never forget. Arnold gave his widow some vanishing cream. Arnold gave his brother a brand new suit. Arnold gave his sister a room of her own. Arnold gave his unfaithful wife and her handsome lover togetherness.

Unsurprising spoiler alert, all the people mentioned above die along with various assorted other folks. Like Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (except that was, y’know, good), Arnold boasts a bevy of recognizable faces: Stella Stevens, Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, Farley Granger, even Victor Buono (again), and a one year into M*A*S*H Jamie Farr cast in an unfortunate role.

So, Lord Arnold Dwellyn dies, leaving his wife, Lady Jocelyn, a widow. As death has apparently ended their marriage, Arnold is now free to take a new wife, Karen.

Wait. What?

Yeah. Well that’s all the legal explanation one gets. Let it go, and move on. Don’t be so analytical. Sometimes one just has to let art flow over one. Think of it kinda like an episode of Scooby-Doo for the PG crowd.

All of this culminates in the reading of the will. Arnold is laid out in his manor house, and has recordings played from his casket at appropriate times. This allows him to “read” his own will to his family, assuring them “I’ve gone to some pains to see that each of you receives exactly what he deserves.” Ho ho. Well it turns out that Arnold’s “widow” and his brother don’t fare particularly well. His sister and cousin do okay. But his new bride, she makes out just swell–under the stipulation that she, as Arnold says, “keep me with you always just as you see me now.” Uh. Okay. Sure. Anything you say.

As horror comedies go, the scale definitely dips more to the side of horror on this one. Lots of stuff is played for laughs, especially Bernard Fox’s bumbling, irritating, dad-joke spouting constable. Still, each victim is dispatched by a grim, Saw-like trap minus the visible pain and graphic gore of course. As was hinted before, it does carry a PG rating rating after all. Even better, and something else we’ll witness again in the Saw movies, each trap more often than not has an appropriate connection to its victim. Here’s a wee list (feel free to scroll on by to the Skulls if you don’t wanna spoil the surprise):
Dybbi (Jamie Farr)- decapitated while crawling through a secret passage
Robert (Roddy McDowall)- strangled by his own suit
Douglas Whitehead (Patric Knowles)- crushed in a garbage truck
Lady Jocelyn (Shani Wallis)- face melted by acid-laced vanishing cream
Karen Dwellyn & Evan Lyons (Stella Stevens & Farley Granger)- crushed in a shower
Jonesy (Ben Wright)- bashed with a shovel
Hester (Elsa Lanchester)- locked in a tomb

BODIES- 7 onscreen, 2 off
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