Though I’m primarily focusing on horror films throughout October, occasionally I like to take a moment to focus on some films that, while not scary, certainly tie in to Halloween. So I thought it was about time for a visit from the world’s friendliest ghost…Casper. His films are often forgotten today, but I have fond memories of watching them as a kid. Though the main character is a ghost, his films often went more for cute than creepy. Such is certainly the case in 1953’s Frightday the 13th.
The film opens as the morning paper arrives at the haunted house where Casper lives with his ghostly pals. They are all excited to see the date on paper…Friday the 13th. That means lots of opportunities to go out and scare people. However, Casper has no interest in that. He just wants to go out and make friends.
Casper first tries to be friends with a mama robin and her chicks, but they fly off terrified. Soon, though, he meets someone just as feared as he is…a black cat. Casper decides to name the cat Lucky and the two head off to find a good luck charm for the feline. First they look for a four-leaf clover, but the leads to trouble with a gopher. Next they try a lucky horseshoe which causes problems when it clunks an angry bulldog on the head. Last they follow rabbit tracks so they can rub a rabbit’s foot. Lucky, however, follows the wrong tracks and has a run-in with a bear.
The Casper films had a very different approach than what many of the other studios were putting out at this time. Take the Looney Tunes, for example. Sure, when I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s we thought of them as kids cartoons because they aired on Saturday morning TV. But they were actually produced for adult theatrical audiences. Casper shorts were also produced for theaters but they always seemed to be produced with young children in mind. While I enjoy them on a certain level as an adult, I’m definitely not the target audience anymore. The gags in this film are mildly amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny in the way that a Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck film is.
Still, the animation is very very good. There isn’t as much in the way of extreme expressions or wild movements like you might see in a Looney Tunes short, but what we do have is still skillfully done. The majority of the film is Casper and the cat, but I find myself being most intrigued by the animation of the other ghosts in the opening sequence of the film. There’s a wonderful fluidness to their movements that just works so well.
Frightday the 13th is a solid entry in the Casper series. Yes it’s a bit too cutesy and not terribly funny, but it features some fine artistry none-the-less. You certainly won’t be scared, but Casper wouldn’t have wanted it that way anyhow.