A newly hired house-keeper in a secluded area is alarmed to discover that her boss's eleven-year-old daughter is using her supernatural powers to take revenge on the people she holds ... See full summary »
An imitation of MGM's Pete Smith specialty shorts, using stock footage from recent horror films
"With times as tough as they are," intones the narrator, "we present our formula for the cheapest kind amusement: nightmares." We see an unkempt man in some kind of 19th century get-up—coat, vest, a black tie with an enormous bow—eating lobster, drinking milk and reading "Dracula." "We've all heard of the worm that turned," says the narrator. "But this is the bookworm that turned. Inside out." When the man has a feeling that's a "cross between delirium tremens and the seven year itch" he's ready for his nightmare.
"A good nightmare always begins with a dark cellar and a coffin," he continues. As the dream progresses, we see that it consists of footage from "Nosferatu" (1922), "Frankenstein" (1931) and "The Cat Creeps" (1930). The footage is spliced together to make Dracula and Frankenstein's monster appear to be sharing the same rooms. For comic effect some footage is repeated several times, or run backwards and then forwards again. Dracula's caretaker crawls up and down the stairs over and over: "It looks as though he's having his ups and downs. He acts like Congress and always ends up where he started. This exercise is good for water on the knee, water on the brain and other naval diseases. It is also a good way to enjoy the jitters without drinking alcohol." The narrator pities the man: "If I were in his place I'd resign—or at least quit." He describes Dracula's entrance: "So Dracula comes up close and shows us what the well-dressed ghost is wearing. He throws his silhouette on the wall, and the wall is so scared it looks as if it's plastered.
"And now the blood may spurt any minute." He adds dryly: "Gush, gush."
Dracula departs: "So he decides to go back to his coffin and sleep for a hundred years until Congress decides to do something about the Depression."
Frankenstein's Monster enters and "starts to look for trouble. There's so much trouble around these days, he shouldn't have any trouble finding it." The Monster dithers: "He can't decide which way to go. He's like a woman automobile driver."
The Monster watches Dracula (actually the costumed villain from "The Cat Creeps") steal a diamond necklace off a sleeping woman, studying the vampire's "tesh-nee-kyoo." (I had to replay that a couple times: it's a cutesy pronunciation of "technique.")
The short ends with the Monster reaching toward the heavens, where we cut back to the new footage and see the frightened dreamer sitting on a chandelier. "And the moral of this story is: you can milk a cow, but a lobster is very ticklish."
This film is a very close imitation of the specialty shorts Pete Smith was making for MGM: silent footage narrated with wisecracks. Even Smith's narrating voice—nasally, dry, sarcastically gee-whiz—is mimicked. Why does this Carl Laemmle-produced film use clips from the 1922 "Nosferatu," rather than Laemmle's own "Dracula"? Maybe because unlike Bela Lugosi, the German vampire was ugly: "There's the profile that has won first prize in all the ghost beauty contests. When Dracula was born, his mother took one look at that face and had herself arrested. A guy with a face like Dracula must be a spook, or he'd have his face lifted. And the worst of it is, this spook looks screwy—and there's nothing screwier than a screwy spook."
Hear the rim shots? "The caretaker decides that he might have been seeing things. Maybe his near beer was nearer than he thought." How about now?
However unfashionable the jokes, I laughed at some of them. And we can be grateful "Boo" preserves the only known surviving footage from "The Cat Creeps." Think your favorite movies will last forever? Boo!
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