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Halloween Creature Feature - I Walked with a Zombie

I Walked with a Zombie may be the best movie with the dumbest title in motion picture history. Cranked out by b-movie horror unit at RKO pictures in 1943, this low budget gem is far better than you might expect.

This was the second in a strong of really good low-key horror movie produced under the supervision of Val Lewton, one of filmland’s most underappreciated artists.

RKO had two rules he had to follow. One, he had to produce his films on a small budget. Two, he had to use titles the studio’s marketing department had already dreamed up and tested. The studio didn’t care about the actual plots, as long as Lewton used the titles.

So after they saddled Lewton with The Cat People and he turned that title into a really great horror movie, they gave him an even sillier title for his follow-up.

I Walked with a Zombie concerns a young nurse (Frances Dee) who arrives at a sugar plantation on the Caribbean island of Saint Sebastian. She is to care for the invalid wife of the plantation’s owner, played by Tom Conway. The wife appears near catatonic and is given to taking silent, dreamlike walks at night. The local legend is that the wife is not sick, but actually dead and returned to life as a zombie by the island’s voodoo practitioners.

Read more: Halloween Creature Feature - I Walked with a Zombie

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

While often lumped together with “The Twilight Zone” and “Boris Karloff’s Thriller,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” is the true original, debuting 4 years before TZ and 5 before “Thriller.”

Alfred Hitchcock’s show was also different than the other two in that it didn’t deal in either supernatural or science-fiction. The situations may have been odd, but were always rooted in reality. Cold, brutal or gruesome reality, but reality nonetheless.

The show debuted in the fall of 1955 featuring a pair of now-classic episodes directed by the master himself. The first, “Revenge” about a husband looking for the man who assaulted his wife when she was alone in their mobile home and “Breakdown” featuring Joseph Cotton as a man paralyzed in a car crash, unable to tell the workers carting him off to the morgue that he’s not dead!

Hitch would go on to direct 15 more half-hours during the show’s 8 season run. But even when he wasn’t directing, the show always highlighted ed his style of crime thrillers. And of course, each episode featured the master himself introducing and closing each program with a generous helping of his macabre sense of humor and disdain for the sponsor.

Read more: Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Where Are They Now? The Mousketeers

Mousketeer Roll Call: Darlene Gillespie

The story of Darlene Gillespie is not one that would lend itself to a Disney movie.

She was the daughter of a Canadian song and dance team. In 1943, her parents relocated to the Los Angeles area when Darlene was just two and began grooming her for a career in show business. By 1955, she was already an accomplished singer and dancer. She passed her audition for The Mickey Mouse Club and became one of the core cast members who stayed with the show during its entire first run.

What we at home never knew is that she was involved in an intense backstage rivalry with Annette Funicello. Dueling sets of stage parents put their friends and relatives up to flooding the Disney studio with fan mail for each of the respective girls. While Darlene did get to star in one of the Mousketeer serials (“Corky & White Shadow”) and play a major part in the second “Spin & Marty” serial, as the show progressed (along with Annette’s bustline), it became obvious who was the top Mousketeer.

Gillespie did cut a couple of albums for Disney, just like Funicello, but they didn’t receive the push from Disney’s marketing arm that Annette got.

When The Mouse Club ceased production, Disney kept Annette under contract, but Darlene had to go her own way. Her acting career quickly fizzled. Over the years, she made a few stabs at re-launching a singing career, but nothing really came of those.

Sadly, her last bit of notoriety came in 1998 when she was arrested in a securities fraud scheme that she cooked up with her husband. Darlene was sentenced to two years in prison, but wound up only doing 3 months. In 2005, she and her husband were back in court on charges of fraud. Those charges were eventually dropped.

Darlene is still with us, living in relative anonymity at the age of 77.

The TV That Time Forgot: My Living Doll (1964-65)

For a show that lasted only a single season, a surprising number of Baby Boomers remember the situation comedy My Living Doll. Perhaps that’s because once seen, Julie Newmar cannot easily be forgotten.

The situation was simple. Newmar was a sophisticated robot (who would still be sophisticated by today’s standards). Originally label "AF 760," she was supposed to be a secret Air Force Project. But her creator decided he was not going to turn her over to themilitary. Instead, she was placed in the care of his friend, a psychiatrist (Bob Cummings) when her creator was transferred overseas. The doctor then tried to teach the robot, who he named Rhoda, how to emulate a human female while also keeping her true nature a secret. Along for the ride were the psychiatrist’s sister (Doris Dowling), who lived with the pair so the neighbors wouldn’t gossip (those were the days) and a horny neighbor and co-worker named Peter Robinson (Jack Mullaney) who had the hots for the robot without knowing she was just a machine.

Each week, Newmar’s robot was placed in situations like a blind date, a wedding proposal, a beauty pageant, etc. that threatened to expose her decidedly unhuman nature.

Julie's training as a dancer (and her 6-foot, leggy figure) helped audience believe she was the mechanical marvel she was portraying. Her acting ability turned a character who was supposed to be devoid of emotion into someone the audience rooted for.

(What was really unbelievable about the show was the fact that her caretaker was so much of a wolf in public, yet never even allowed the robot to strip naked in private.)

But with My Living Doll, the real drama was taking place off camera.

Read more: The TV That Time Forgot: My Living Doll (1964-65)

In the real world, where is MacArthur Park located?

Los Anegeles
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