One can be forgiven for labeling The Ghost and Mr. Chicken as nothing more than a live-action take on the animated Scooby Doo, Where Are You? mystery adventures. There are certainly plenty of reasons to compare the two, since both favor cowards, ghosts, and dark mansions filled with cobwebs as storytelling devices. And, yeah, I could point out that The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) precedes the Hanna-Barbera series ('69, dude) by a few years. But the real reason to care about The G. & Mr. C. (as all the cool kids call it nowadays) is the presence of Mr. Don Knotts. The dude is pretty much a genre unto himself, a b-grade Brando if Brando were all twitches, bug-eyed mugging for the camera, and a family friendly persona that steered clear of any project resembling reality in the slightest.
All jokes aside, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken may not be what you'd automatically toss on at home (unless you're looking for something for the kids to watch--it's great for that) but it is a film that seems perfect for an event like Top Down. It's filled to the brim with small town humor, some of which has aged in mysteriously off-color ways. And I can't imagine a more ridiculous sight than watching a 42-year-old Don Knotts trying to woo a 26-year-old Joan Staley, both of them acting as if they're blushing, virginal teens gone a courtin'.
Bottom line: this film's ridiculous and so very right for a campy night of outdoor film viewing. Add a few drinks to the experience and you're in for some fun. And it doesn't hurt if you're already down with Mr. Knotts, either.
The NW Film Center's Top Down Rooftop Cinema series presents The Ghost and Mr. Chicken on Thursday, August 2nd at 8pm. More info available here.
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