I know I'm a couple of weeks late to be writing a Halloween blog about what scare me, but go with me here.
First off I don't like horror movies, definitely not the modern ones, and certainly not the slasher films. All my teen friends would go see those, and I had no interest at all. Splatter blood across the screen and you've lost me.
As a kid I enjoyed monster movies. The original monster movies, if you will, the Universal Monsters at the top of the list. Frankenstein, his Bride, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and Dracula (he got plenty of women and didn't ever sparkle.) I also enjoyed the b-movie monsters that would follow.
None of those scared me as a kid. I was the Mummy one year for Halloween, and Dracula at least twice.
So what terrified my little mind? Would you believe it was a sitcom?
And it was in all black and white.
This past Wednesday afternoon I tuned into the internet radio show STU'S SHOW. A great program that interviews people from the golden age of television. This episode's guest was Carl Reiner, actor, writer, director, and producer. The multi-award winning Carl Reiner.
As they were talking about "The Dick Van Dyke Show", the show Reiner created, a flood of memories struck me.
There are two television programs that terrified the little me of many years ago. Even then both series were in rerun syndication for many years.
One of which was "The Dummy" episode of The Twilight Zone. I always love ventriloquist shows, but the concept of the Dummy coming to life freaked me out; far more so than Talk Tina. She was trying to kill Kojac after all. The Dummy was just plain freaky and scary, and would haunt some of my nightmares.
The other show; really scary to a child who had loving parents, was an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. It was called "It May Look Like A Walnut." Even thought it was a comedy, it was actually a story about fear, and how television and movies can scare the audience. It begins with Rob and Laura (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore if you didn't know) watching a late night movie in bed (let's not get started on why they were in separate beds), the movie is terrifying Laura but Rob is complete engrossed in it and can't stop talking about it. The movie is homage to the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (I wouldn't see that movie till years later). Instead of Pod People, these aliens take over the humans through walnuts. (This has nothing to do with why walnuts are my favorite nuts, right?)
Rob's obsession eventually goes too far until he dreams that the movie is real and his friends and family have been taken over by the aliens, and the world is filling with walnuts. In one scene Laura parts her hair to reveal to Rob she has eyes in the back of her head. No such eyes are shown on camera, but Rob's reaction was enough. Even after all these years the terror I had as a child came rushing back seeing it again. Every parents and teacher tells kids they have eyes in the back of the heads, don't they?
I was frightened because Rob was so scared. Even when he wakes up from this crazy dream, he was acting and feeling the same way I did waking from a nightmare and called out for my mommy.
It was all played for comedy; even with guest star Danny Thomas adding to the laughs, yet it is one of the most frightening shows I had seen in my young life.
Watching that show last night I saw what great quality writing and acting went into to make it dramatically scary while remaining funny all the way through.
Today's TV shows could learn a lot.
There is also another level of fear that Reiner included in the story, one that he and his fellow writers probably experienced regularly, as do I: the fear of losing his imagination and being unable to write. That would truly be a nightmare.
Kevin Paul Shaw Broden
Four Names of Professional Creativity
(Off to look for walnuts, I'm hungry)