Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy Days: "Haunted"

Premiered October 29, 1974.

"Everyone knows about old Magnolia Simpson.  Ever since she lost her head, anyone who goes in there gets THEIR head chopped off too!"
 -Joanie Cunningham

The kids decorate Arnold's for Halloween
It's Halloween in 1950s Milwaukee.  Ralph Malph (Donny Most) has a plan for his Halloween party.  He wants to hold it in "the old Simpson House," an abandoned house that many believe is haunted by the headless ghost of Magnolia Simpson.  Ralph figures "chicks think it's haunted, they get scared, they need comforting."  Ralph tells Richie (Ron Howard) and Potsie (Anson Williams) not to tell anyone their plan.

Ralph tells Richie & Potsie that his Halloween party will take place in a "haunted" house.
He especially doesn't want a local gang called the Demons to know about the party.  The Demons' leader Bag Zombrowski (Neil J. Schwartz) has a history of crashing parties.

Arnold's carhop Marsha () tells Bag she has no time for him & his gang, the Demons.
Ralph asks Richie to check on the house before the party, to make sure it looks appropriately scary and dusty.

Richie & Joanie check out the Simpson house.
Richie and his sister Joanie (Erin Moran) stop by the house to inspect it.  Joanie believes the house is haunted and doesn't want to go inside.  She says everyone who enters gets their head chopped off, adding that four people disappeared inside the house last year.   Richie scoffs, but upon entering the house, he opens the closet and sees something that scares him.  Richie freaks out (much to Joanie's amusement) and runs away.

Howard & Richie get scared while watching a horror movie.
Richie tells his father Howard that he saw a "headless body."  Howard says his "mind must have been playing tricks" and that these stories have been around since he was a kid. Richie's father says he needs to look at things logically, but adds he "wouldn't be caught dead" at the Simpson house.

Fonzie bristles when he hears Richie mention the Simpson house.
At Arnold's the next day, Richie seeks advice from Fonzie (Henry Winkler) about his spooky experience.  The Fonz tells him he must face his fears to get over them.

Gloria & Richie nervously walk through the Simpson house.
On Halloween night, Richie and his girlfriend Gloria (Linda Purl) set out for the Simpson house.  They're both a bit edgy, but Richie refuses to give in to his fears.  Richie and Gloria walk through the house, trying their best not to be afraid.  They see a coffin in front of starts opening from the inside!

  But it turns out to be a Halloween gag from Ralph!

Potsie and the rest of their friends emerge and the party begins.  It appears that Richie's has conquered his fears...but the Simpson house has some more Halloween surprises for Richie and his friends...

Potsie, Ralph & Richie encounter...Magnolia Simpson?!
J.A. Morris says:
This episode is good, not great, but it's grown on me after multiple viewings.

Fonzie draws glasses on a skull decoration.
It gets the spookiness of Halloween right.  Director Garry Marshall and Cinematographer Richard A. Kelley do a nice job creating the atmosphere of a horror movie.  It's got a lot more jump cuts than the average episode. 

When I was a kid, every town I lived in had a "Simpson House", allegedly haunted by ghosts. Even hardcore skeptics like myself can get creeped out by such houses, so I can identify with Richie here.  It seemed like every year, some kid would talk about breaking into the local "haunted" house on Halloween, but they always chickened out.

Ralph shows off his "Alfred Hitchcock" costume!
I watched Happy Days religiously when I was a kid, but I can't say I remember watching "Haunted" before I "discovered" it a couple years ago.  I thought Ralph's "Alfred Hitchcock" costume was a nice touch.

Potsie bobs for apples; Ralph asks "Weren't you the main course at my last Hawaiian luau?"
There aren't a lot of big laughs in "Haunted", but it's still an entertaining Halloween episode. Erin Moran gets the funniest lines here as Joanie, relentlessly mocking Richie for being afraid of ghosts.  At one point, Joanie says that Richie looks like "Bela Lugosi sucked all the blood out of you!"

Fonzie and Cloris dressed up as "Lone Ranger & Tonto".
"Haunted" is also interesting because it was made before Happy Days became the show most of us remember.  Fonzie has a fairly small role here, this was before "The Fonz" broke out and became a national sensation.  But Henry Winkler still makes an impression in the two scenes where he's featured.

Marsha runs through a gauntlet of water balloons & Halloween pranks.
Characters Bag and Marsha were recurring characters in early seasons, but both disappeared by season 4.

This was the last season that the series was shot with a single camera, with a laugh track.  The first two seasons feel a lot like the film American Graffiti, one of the series' inspirations.  The famous Happy Days catch phrases "Sit on it!", "I still got it!" and "AAYYYY!" are notably absent from "Haunted".  These days, I find these earlier, quieter episodes more enjoyable.

Now we get to the not-so-good parts of "Haunted": The music.  In the original edit, this episode opens with Fats Domino's classic "I'm Walkin'".  Another scene prominently features "Bird Dog" by the Everly Brothers.  But currently, the only "official" release replaces these with generic music that sounds like it was recorded in the 80s or 90s.  It's very distracting, it took me out of "the moment" and sucks the fun out of several scenes. 

Fonzie shows the gang how he "bobs" for apples.
Here's some trivia about "Haunted" :
Two kids come to the Cunningham house to trick or treat, one dressed as a cowboy the other dressed as a princess.

They're played by Scott and Lori Marshall, the children of Happy Days creator, Garry Marshall.

And another of Marshall's kids, Kathleen Marshall, plays one of Joanie's friends, dressed as a witch:

Also, Linda Purl plays Richie's girlfriend Gloria here and in several other season 2 episodes.  Purl would later join the cast (in season 10) as another character, Fonzie's live-in girlfriend Ashley Pfister.

"Haunted" is a generally fun episode, but the music replacements cost it a jack o'lantern or two.  So for the 1st time in this blog's history, I'm giving a program two different ratings:
J.A. Morris' rating:
For the version that contains the original music:

3 jack o'lanterns.

For the version that contains the "new" music:

2 and a half jack o'lanterns

RigbyMel says:

This is a okay episode of Happy Days, but not one of the best.   The Halloween decorations and mild mayhem are enjoyable, but the episode feels a little bit flat to me.

A coffin buffet
As regards the music substitutions in this episode, I agree with J.A. Morris that this really detracts and distracts from the overall atmosphere -- the exact opposite of what good soundtrack music is supposed to do.

Happy Days is always worth watching, but "Haunted" is not on my list of required annual holiday viewing.

RigbyMel's rating:

 2 jack o'lanterns

1 comment:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Wow - been a VERY long time since I have seen this one. Used to watch this show every day when I was a kid, was devoted to it like I was to Laverne and Shirley and The Brady Bunch!

I agree, there is a major tonal difference between the first seasons and the rest, almost jarringly so.