Over fifty of the greatest living comedians are called to a party at Bob Hope's house, where each of them is systematically killed (and their bodies thrown in Hope's pool!). Hope and the rapidly shrinking cast try to discover who is the mysterious killer known only as "Joys." Written by
Oh, how I wish this was on DVD/VHS! A couple of other reviewers found this a pretty sad affair, but I have to disagree. In some instances, for those of us who saw it as kids, it was the first experience of some of the "elder statesmen" of comedy, and getting to see them interact with some of the then-new practitioners was a particular treat.
The show opens with Vincent Price looking very sinister and mysterious in a trench coat and fedora, relating to us the facts in one the most amazing cases he's ever encountered. Hope discovers that someone has sent out invitations to a party at his house, and goes home to get to the bottom of things. What follows alternates between comic and creepy, as necessarily brief (sometimes 1 or 2 lines) appearances are divided by shots of black-gloved hands pouncing on the guests, until Hope himself is dispatched. He then delivers his sign-off with wings and a harp, calling down to Price that he'd at least like to know who done it
but before Price can reveal the killer's identity, he too is
strangled. The camera then cuts to the studio audience, as the black-clad killer removes his gloves, his hat and finally his mask, revealing Johnny Carson, who delivers the punchline, "Now I can be on EVERY night..." For those too young to remember, there was a period when Carson only hosted "The Tonight Show" 2 or 3 nights out of 5, the remainder of which had a guest host, not a few of whom were "bumped off" at Hope's party!
This special wasn't a brilliant piece of timeless television art, but it had some fun moments - Les Brown and His Band of Reknown, holed up in Bob's hall closet ("You never know when you're gonna need a good music cue..."), Phil Silvers and Jerry Colonna getting in a bit of their respective character bits, and (despite other reviewers' disgruntlement to the contrary), Groucho's exchange with "Groucho"-disguised Billy Barty, "I'm paying you a lot of dough for this - I'd better be having a good time!" George Kirby gets to do a few impressions (including an amazing Eddie "Rochester" Anderson), Harry Ritz gets in his licks, and a number of actors we don't typically associate with comedy get to play for a few laughs. If I had a complaint, it was not seeing more of my favorite performers in it - Red Skelton, Jimmy Durante, Jonathan Winters,... But there wasn't really enough time to do justice to all the guests as it was.
Maybe I'm just seeing it through the golden haze of my youth, but I remember enjoying "Joys" quite a lot and wishing everyone had had a bit more screen time.
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