“Vincent Price’s Once Upon A Midnight Scary” (1979)

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By Jerome Reuter

This time around, I’ve decided to visit some childhood nostalgia. Once Upon A Midnight Scary is a 1979 CBS television production, hosted by Vincent Price. It contains three adaptations of popular scary stories. Who better than the master of the macabre to host such an event? Price’s over the top persona, as well as his unique voice, draw you into each tale. In each of the adaptations, the viewer is only given part of the story. Price reminds us at the tend of each tale that if you want to know everything, you need to read the book yourself.  Growing up, may parents had a cast VHS library. Along with old episodes of The Muppet Show, this was in heavy rotation. I’m certainly glad it didn’t have any effect on me. (sarcasm,duh)

The Ghost Belonged To Me

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Based on the book by Richard Peck, this is a tale of a young child named Alexander. He’s your basic farm boy, growing up in rural America. Unlike most children his age however, the farm he lives on has a secret. The ghost of a young girl, resides in his barn. She seeks out the help of young Alexander, to save  people traveling on a bridge from certain death. Much like many other ghost stories, Alexander is the only one who can see her. In the book, it’s really interesting to read about the bond they develop over time.

She’s depicted on film as a transparent being, engulfed in a pink light. Somewhat laughable by todays standards, but I still enjoy this vignette of the series.

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow

This story needs no introduction. Washington Irving’s classic story, is an essential part of American literature. This adaptation, is one of the more entertaining ones I’ve seen. Staying true to Irving’s source material, and his characters. Ichabod Crane, the scrawny schoolmaster. Brom Bones, the tough local hero. This section of the trilogy focuses heavily on Crane’s flight to escape the infamous ‘headless horseman.’ These sequences were shot during the daylight hours, due to the obvious day-for-night filter. As a child, the conclusion used to terrify me. The final images, are of the horseman’s head approaching the screen in a rapid motion, with Crane screaming. Finally, Crane’s horse, coat, and a smashed pumpkin lying in the road. Price’s narration echoes with the question, “What Happened To Ichabod?”

The House With A Clock In Its Walls

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To this day, I still enjoy the final tale of this trilogy. A large part of that, has to do with how much I loved this book growing up. Until the age of eight, this used to scare me a great deal. This is the story of a young orphan, named Lewis. He’s been sent to live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan. They reside in a bizarre house, where the ticking of an undiscovered clock, occupies uncle Jonathan to all hours of the night. The clock itself, is part of a doomsday device, left by the former owners. Jonathan, a wizard is trying to locate the clock, to destroy the doomsday device once and for all.

Lewis, attempts to follow his uncles footsteps, and become a wizard. Late one night at the cemetary, he tries to impress a schoolmate by raising the dead. Unfortunately, it happens to be one of the homes former owners. The cruel, old Witch named Serenna. Once she is brought back to life, she sets to reclaim the doomsday device.

I’m not going to lie, every time I see her break free from the mausoleum, I still get exited. I still love watching the final showdown, with her, Jonathan, and Lewis. How can you say no to scene involving a hand of glory?

In conclusion, I have a few thoughts. Yes, it’s a bit on the camp side of things, and almost laughable by todays standards. At the same time however, Price steals the show. As he did many times before, in several of his films. It’s enjoyable, it’s fun, and I still enjoy it all these years later. Anything that encourages the younger generation to read, is just fine by me.

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