Sunday, June 21, 2015

Husky and Haggard

It seems that I'm becoming an expert on the filmography of Ferlin Husky. It's strange because I only know about him for his single "On the Wings of a Dove," and because of Goerge Jones' line in "We're Not the Jet Set":
Our Bach and Tschaikovsky
is Haggard and Husky
It's funny he should mention Merle Haggard because he has a couple of cameos in Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967). It starts with Ferlin, his "girl singer" Boots Malone (Joi Lansing) and nervous manager Jeepers (Don Bowman) on the road to a Nashville Jamboree in a big white convertible. I'm going to halt the synopsis to comment on this car - it is clearly a Nudie.

You may know about Nudie Cohen as Hollywood's Rodeo Tailor - he made the outrageous embroidery and rhinestone-studded suits favored by artists like Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams and Gram Parsons. But he also liked to customize cars, mostly Pontiac Bonnevilles - he replaced the upholstery with tooled leather, added longhorns to the front, replaced the door handles with pistols, studded the whole think with silver dollars. Now, I haven't been able to find any mention of Nudie and this movie, but this is either an original Nudie, or an amazing replica.

OK, back to the plot. Because Jeepers isn't feeling so hot, and it looks like rain (but only in some shots) and the convertible roof doesn't work, they decide to go stay in a haunted house. But we know that the house is actually the headquarters of a spy ring, lead by dragon lady Linda Ho, but including Lon Chaney, Jr, John Carradine, Basil Rathbone, and Anatole the Gorilla (George Barrows, Ro-Man in Robot Monster). As you might imagine, most of these washed-up worthies are never actually in scene with the musical acts.

Of course, the hillbilly side of the film uses any excuse to go into a song, some of them not too bad, like Husky's "Living in a Trance", some of them real stinkers, like Joi Lansing's ode to "Gowns."

After all the hilarity and slapstick of the haunted house, the movie's only about 50 minutes long. So we get 20 minutes of the Nashville Jamboree they were going to in the first scene. Again the songs are not all keepers - for example, "Hello, Shoe" is pretty much a rip-off of "Hello, Walls." The band includes a sleepy bass player, a drummer and guitarist who look like the Schmengie Brothers - they keep looking at the singer like he or she needs help badly - and Red Rhodes on pedal steel.

Again, we stop the exposition for a short lecture on Red Rhodes. Mr. Rhodes played steel guitar on a lot of the classic country rock albums, including the Ventures, the Byrds, the Monkees, James Taylor and others. He was most famous for collaborating on Mike Nesmith's solo projects. He also did a lot of custom amp work, and was famous for his hand-wound pickups, which he called Velvet Hammers.

Then we have Merle Haggard, who is still at it today. In fact, he just released an album with Willy Nelson, Django and Jimmie. One of the songs on this album is the classic "Swinging Doors" and guess what? He does that song in this movie.

So, in conclusion, this is a terrible movie, but you do get a Nudie car, an appearance by Red Rhodes, and Merle Haggard doing "Swinging Doors." Add in some classic horror actors and then decide if you think it's worth it. 

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