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Bing Crosby Productions (BCP for short) was kind of the Aaron Spelling
studio of theatrical B-pics, (if that's not too redundant a comparison)
this was initially released. For an association with one of America's
foremost crooners, the company turned out a pretty grisly roster of
(apropos, I guess, in light of the Crosby family history that surfaced
later.) Film buffs may recall WILLARD, its inescapable sequel BEN, TERROR
THE WAX MUSEUM, "W," and of course ARNOLD, among BCP's more visible
Of the bunch, ARNOLD was definitely the most ghoulish fun. A who's who of well-preserved Hollyweird relics and die-hard character actors, it predated the slasher film onslaught that would overrun theaters later with its premise of not so much "whodunnit," but who would get it next and how.
Stella Stevens played a blushing, buxom bride about to make a most unusual deal with her much older hubby to be; an arrangement that is literally a lift from TALES OF THE CRYPT. The foxy former flight attendant has agreed to wed her betrothed...AFTER his death, in order to inherit his considerable millions. What's more, she's pledged to stay by his side and remain faithful only to him.
The combination funeral/wedding has got to be seen to be believed, complete with the weirdest serenade ever warbled by show tune chanteuse Shani Wallis. To complete the bizarro scene, Arnold even guides the proceedings through tape recordings, played in a machine installed in his coffin!
The whole thing takes on the air of a ninety minute game of "Clue" played in reverse, as greedy, grasping relatives and hangers-on are dispatched in the most gory and inventive ways possible for a dead guy to come up with. Amongst the suspects/victims are THE Elsa Lanchester, Roddy McDowall, Patric Knowles, Farley Granger, the witchy Ms. Wallis, who gets to sample some of the hottest "cold cream" on the market, Jamie Farr (yeah, Klinger from M*A*S*H himself,) and Victor Buono, in a hysterical cameo as the 'lucky' minister who gets to officiate at the nuptials.
Serving as the hysterically inept and definitely non-PC Greek chorus is Bernard Fox of HOGAN'S HEROES fame, (most recently seen in the Brendan Fraser MUMMY remake), as the bumbling inspector in charge of investigating the murders, while giving a running commentary on the action.
Most moviegoers found this a little too dark and gruesome to be a farcical romp, (little did they know that SCREAM was on the way about thirty years down the road), but it looks like a good time was had by all, and though it's somewhat dated, this '70's sendup is still worth a look, especially since all its stars are allowed to do what they did best. ARNOLD proves to be the liveliest dead guy who ever threw a family "bash," and one thing's for sure...you won't soon forget him!
I was lucky enough to see this movie in the theatre in 1973 when it was
shown. Then I saw it on television in 1986 and recorded it, which now I
really glad I can watch when I want to. But I can say this that Roddy
MacDowell shines throughout this movie as does Stella Stevens. Norman
Stewart as Arnold was really great, how'd he keep his eyes open all the
like that ? Jamie Farr's performance as the silent oriential servant was
hilarious ! Let's say he lost his head over the serving part (ha,
Elsa Lancaster was excellent as Arnold's sister, who get's all the solitude she needs at the climatic end. Bernard Fox as the bumbling policeman kept you wondering if he'd ever keep that bicycle standing up ever. I give it a 10 on the scale of rating because as a child I remember how scared I was when I left, seeing a nervous eye looking out of Arnold's picture every-so-often. Watch it if you can see it on TV again.
This is a pretty black little film, and I actually really like it. It
makes you wonder how they got the money to put it together and got all
the celebrities to be in it. Roddy McDowell and Stella Stevens were
fresh off of "Poseidon Adventure." Was this a good career move? Who
cares? They were both actors who were willing to work, even if it meant
doing dumb movies.
Stella Stevens plays a woman carrying out the wishes of her lover, that she marry him after he is dead. That's how the movie STARTS, and it keeps going from there! What follows is a combination of campy 70's sitcom humor, a "And Then There Were None"-style "whodunnit" mystery and some grisly, inventive death scenes.
The pace is brisk as it moves to a surprise ending that is both satisfying and pretty disturbing for a "comedy." I respect a film that is willing to pretend to be all light and funny, then end so hatefully! The theme of this film is that everyone is money-grubbing, selfish and weak. Nasty, black-hearted, TRULY WEIRD (the opening song just kills me) and I love it! And Stella Stevens is gorgeous and amazing, as always.
The Abominable Dr Phibes was quite successful. One of the first films
to feature "creative deaths", it was soon followed by a sequel and
imitations (Theater of Blood, also with Vincent Price).
Arnold follows the pattern of someone who may or may not be dead getting revenge on those who have wronged him. Here we have a corpse (is it really millionaire Arnold Dewellyn?) who lays in his coffin for the entire movie while tapes of his voice are played at various intervals. Arnold knows his greedy relatives are after his money, but he has a surprise for each of them. Who will survive???
This movie is basically a comedy, with some semi-gruesome murders (tame by today's standards) thrown in. If you like black-comedies (Murder By Death for example) you should enjoy this PG rated Bing Crosby Production (BCP). The cast is great: Stella Stevens, Roddy McDowell, Elsa Lanchester, Victor Buono, Charles Fox.
The movie did hardly any business in 1973. BCP sold the movie to be tacked on to double bills. In 1976 it was paired with Grizzly! In the mid 80's it finally came to television on the Late Show, and then a year later to video.
It is out of print now, and very hard to see (cable TV has NOT embraced it). It is a cult movie waiting to be discovered. It is certainly weird enough!
I've noticed there aren't a lot of comments on this film, and for good
reason. It's been burried in the annals of time, from that dark age where
films where made before Direct to Video that were obviously prime
I managed to see the piece with my fiance last weekend on television as part of a run of 'bad movies'. We intended to go out to a show that night, but ended up caught up in the funny weirdness of the story, the sets, the acting, the whole mess, and couldn't leave. Each time we planned to get up to go, we remained seated, glued to the set, in awe of the bizzare feature. It was like some sort of perverse Estragon and Vladimir situation.
And if that isn't a recommendation, I don't know what is.
It's certainly no classic. It's a pretty lousy movie. The cheerful early seventies theme that opens the feature ("How happy we'll be, together you and me... Arrrrnold, Arrrnold!") is played over the background of a funeral in an obviously small soundstage with styrafoam tombstones and the obligatory raven and fog, which is of course hillarious.
But it's a fun watch. No one in it thinks they're in a classic, and the whole situation gets quite laughable frequently. It's got enough aspects of a whodunit to be vaugly interesting.
Best points are probably the police constable commenting 'Now, is this place a cemetary because it's always foggy here, or is it always foggy here because it's a cemetary?' and the tapedeck in the coffin. Oyvey!
The only word for it is 'hypnotic'. You'll keep watching. You won't believe what you're seeing, yet you'll have to watch more.
In the words of the bobby "If I hadn't a seen it I wouldn'ta believed it!"
Arnold may be the most active corpse in the history of movies (we're not talking about zombies here). There he is, lying in his casket throughout the movie, and yet his presence dominates the world of the living, and his sardonic smile makes him look pretty darn alive. This highly original horror comedy has a morbid sense of humor and will keep you guessing all the way, but ultimately has one twist too many, becoming excessively illogical by the end. It's still recommended, perhaps as a double feature with "Terror In The Wax Museum", another 1973 film by the same director, with many of the same stars, with even the same "they never set foot outside the studio" feeling. (**1/2)
I really like this movie for a number of reasons.
First it delivers the shocks and the laughs almost at the same time.
It does not pretend to be high art.
This movie is fun in a lot of ways. If you have not seen it, you know right at the start that the greedy bunch of relatives and hangers on are going to be dispatched one by one. Part of the fun is guessing who is going to be next on the list. Stella Stevens has seldom looked better than she does in this movie. She has a terrific body and that alone is worth the price of admission. But there's so much more. The cast is comprised of mostly character actors who have had some connection with the bizarre and macabre cinema before. Among the cast members are Victor Buono, Elsa Lanchester, Roddy McDowell, Jamie Farr, Farley Granger, John McGiver and Bernard Fox. Needless to say everybody in the cast gets what they so richly deserve. But the final supreme joke involving Bernard Fox and John McGiver is the topper!
Arnold is everything a black comedy should be! It has the all the cynicism and wit of a Gogol novel. Another terrific performance by the incomparable Roddy McDowell...if only I could find out where to buy one of his "shrink wrap suits" to send to all of my "favourite" people.
This movie is one of the better "Ewwww...I would hate to be them" type
movies. It was way before its time. Roddy McDowall is so cocky and
nasty in the movie that you know his time is going to come, and when it
does-- it's a real headache!
After seeing this movie at such a young age, I was afraid to dress in any sort of Halloween mask-- fearing that I would end up like poor Robert (Roddy McDowall). Way cool!
The ways everyone bites the dust is very inventive. An excellent cast with an excellent plot. Kind of like TEN LITTLE INDIANS meets SAW. I wish I could find it on DVD!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember seeing this movie when I was all of 10 years old with my older sister (who should have known better!) I couldn't sleep for days after. This movie is really really scary in a campy, early '70s way. Com'on, who wouldn't get scared with a dead body lying in its coffin, in the middle of the living room, while tape recordings arrive each morning detailing the gruesome events of the previous day -- and, in the corpse's own voice, no less!!??? It's like something out of Agatha Christie wherein relatives of the deceased must survive night after night in a creepy, booby-trapped house. The last one alive gets to keep all the money left behind....the location of which is to be revealed in one final tape! You just gotta have a ghoulish sense of humor to enjoy the cheeky macabre aspects of this horror flick send up. Plus, it really is funny the way these greedy, money hungry people die and, in the end, you kind of feel they all deserved it.
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