Friday A/V Club: A Haunted-House Triple Feature for Halloween

Au Secours!, There It Is, and The Live Ghost.


For Halloween, here's Au Secours!, a 90-year-old horror-comedy from the French filmmaker Abel Gance. It takes a few minutes for the story to get rolling, but once the chief character enters the haunted house the film becomes a flurry of gags, camera tricks, surrealist insertions, and generally goofy and/or creepy strangeness.

Next up is another silent haunted-house comedy, Charley Bowers' 1928 movie There It Is—the picture that proved an American can do surrealism as well as any Frenchman. Bowers is one of the great forgotten filmmakers of the silent era, and this is probably his funniest effort:

That version of the feature has a jazz soundtrack. Someone else has posted it to YouTube with a more electronic score; to see that version, go here.

Both Au Secours! and There It Is end with "explanations" that do not, in fact, explain everything that has happened. In the final flick of our triple feature, by contrast, the audience always knows exactly what's going on, even if the characters don't. It's set on a haunted boat instead of a haunted house, and it stars Laurel and Hardy, who in this outing are basically a couple of thugs. From 1934, here's The Live Ghost:

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

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  1. I recently watched Let The Right One in on DVR (the original Swedish version not the American remake). I am generally not a big fan of horror movies. That movie, however, is just a fantastic movie, regardless of what you think of the genre in general. It is by far the best horror movie I have seen in years. It is a shame that so much of the genera is just bad B movies and more serious ones are not made.

    And Jessee, the subject of comedy horror movies begins and ends with Evil Dead 2.

    1. he subject of comedy horror movies begins and ends with Evil Dead 2

      Begins and ends? Somehow I had the impression that you liked Young Frankenstein.

      1. Yes I do. I am an asshole but I am not a monster.

        So there are some things in between, agreed.

        1. Young Frankenstein is the shit. I haven’t seen it in ages.

          Favorite scene – when the blind guy is pouring the monster soup….fantastic.

          1. I remember seeing the trailers for it when I was like four and thinking the scene where they are digging the grave and say “it could be worse, it could be raining” and then it pours was the funniest line ever.

            Later I was able to see it on TV and it was as funny as my four year old mind imagined it would be. It is really my favorite Mel Brooks movie. It is better than even Blazing Saddles.

          2. Best line of the movie: Where are you going? I was gonna make espresso.

    2. Is that the one – SPOILER ALERT – with the scene at the swimming pool at the end?

    3. As far as horror films go, I enjoyed the recent Annabel and its sequel The Conjuring okay. Both are sort of Amityville Horror-ish. The original Wicker Man (I think there’s been a remake) is pretty good. The movie that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid was Burnt Offerings, featuring a very elderly Bette Davis. I haven’t seen it since then so I don’t know if it has stood the test of time.

      1. Burnt offerings did nothing for me. I liked the first few Hell Raiser movies, and The Strangers was pretty good.

      2. As a small child, Betty Davis was horrifying.

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  3. Both Au Secours! and There It Is end with “explanations” that do not, in fact, explain everything that has happened.

    Like Lost, huh? Fortunately I’m now able to explain Lost. Charles Widmore & Benry competed to install a double to replace Alvar Hanso (a near-anagram of Ralph A. Voss from “One of Our Aircraft Is Empty”, the Dept. S episode that inspired the plot), who’d died incognito on flight 815. To further that end, Widmore & Benry also tried to install doubles for each other as well as for a bunch of other people on that flight to convince the public there were survivors of that airliner wreck. The ostensible time travel is what you get from hilarious attempts to cover up when a character meets hir double.

  4. Scotland Yard?best sight gag I’ve seen since I don’t remember when!

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