Hillbillys in a Haunted House

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What’s Halloween without a trip to a haunted house, right? Let’s get some creaking doors, plenty of cobwebs, eyes peering out from behind a painting, maybe a skeleton or two…oh and how about some hillbillies? That can be scary! Remember Deliverance? Our movie today brings us a haunted house full of country music singin’ hillbilies up against some cheapo monsters and weird evil spies. It’s the sequel to The Las Vegas Hillbillys…here comes 1967’s Hillbillys in a Haunted House.

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We begin with country singer Woody Weatherby (Ferlin Husky), his songwriter Boots Malone (Joi Lansing) and manager Jeepers (Don Bowman) hittin’ the road, driving back to Nashville. Jeepers is feeling a bit stressed and a storm seems to be approaching, so they decide to pull over and stop at a creepy looking old house. Unknown to them, in the dungeon-like basement of the house are various international spies played by horror icons like Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, and Lon Chaney Jr. Oh, and they have a gorilla…’cuz why not. There is also a strange dragon lady called Madame Wong (Linda Ho) ordering these guys around.

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With so many horror stars hanging out in the basement we just know some scares will be arriving, right? Well, first we have to have a visit by country singer Sonny James and his band. They play a few tunes and then leave. Now we’ll get some ghouls in this haunted house! Um, but not until we tune in to a TV broadcast featuring Merle Haggard playing a few hits. Eventually our hillbillys do start to encounter some frights in the form of cheap werewolf masks and plastic skeletons. They then battle the spies and end up encountering a real ghost before heading out to Nashville. But wait, there’s still 20 minutes left in this 88 minute epic! Fear not, it’s filled with a parade country acts starring into the camera and singin’ tune after tune after tune.

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Clearly scares were not the primary focus of this film…and neither was the attempted comedy. This film exists as an excuse to truck out a bunch of country acts and have them do some pickin’ and grinnin’. Hopefully you stopped by the record store and bought their latest 45’s before you headed home. Though there is nothing terribly creative about the way the songs are presented, seeing these classic acts doing there thing is kinda fun. Sonny James’ rendition of “The Cat Came Back” was a bit of highlight. The final 20 minutes or so of the film does get a bit ridiculous, though, with singer after singer rolled out for the camera. It’s a bit like watching an episode of Hee-Haw without the gags in the cornfield.

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The film is very frustrating, though, in that it wastes some great horror talent in the form of Rathbone, Carradine, and Chaney. Despite the title, the film doesn’t really even make much of an attempt at the whole haunted house thing. It’s all about spies who happen to like playing with werewolf masks that look like they were picked up down at the Walgreens Halloween aisle. Even when the film does try to introduce a supposedly real ghost into the equation, it’s there and gone pretty unceremoniously. Do all the country music stuff you want, I don’t care…but give us something worthy of a haunted house flick. Have Chaney wolf out, let Rathbone be a mad scientist, have Carradine creeping around in a cape…something!!

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So…if you have an interest in late 60’s country music, you’ll probably enjoy the tunes in this flick. But if you’re wanting a horror comedy, this film has neither of those things. It does have a gorilla, though, we mustn’t forget that.

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