Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Haunted Mouth

When I was in second grade (circa mid-70s), we didn't have streaming media or the Internet, or DVDs, or CD-ROMs, or even VHS. If a teacher wanted to show a movie to her class, she had to roll in a 16mm projector from the media room, and someone had to thread an actual reel of film into it. And when it was over, you had to rewind it. And if your teacher was cool, she would rewind it by letting it play backward through the projector so we could all get a chuckle watching the lady fly up out of the pool and back onto the diving board. Ha.

Which brings us to The Haunted Mouth (1974), an oral hygiene scare film produced for the classroom by the American Dental Association. Now seeing a movie in class was rare, so it was always a treat when it happened, no matter how lame the actual movie ended up being. But you can imagine my excitement when the lights went out, and the first image to come up is this:

Hmmm..kind of looks like a haunted house. And what's with that freaky synthesizer music? Are we going to watch a MOVIE movie, like the one's they show in movie theaters?

The American Dental Association? Aw...I thought we were watching a horror flic! And yet...the music sure is creepy. And we are slowly creeping forward towards that door...

Oh, I get it. The camera is first person. WE'RE entering the haunted house. This is kind of like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland...if it were a simulator ride.

Slowly we ascend up the stairs, past some portraits, a stuffed owl, a fern, through another door, and behind that door...

No, it's not an empty chair. There's a ghost sitting in it. A ghost representing plaque! Plaque is invisible, you know, so it makes sense. A disembodied voice introduces himself, not unlike the Ghost Host at the Haunted Mansion:

"I've been waiting for you! Yes, you--with the teeth. But allow me to introduce myself: The name is Plaque. B. Plaque."

The chair rocks and swivels by itself, while the ghost continues to talk, explaining that he already knows your mouth very well... in fact, he knows it better than you do!

A wall decoration in B. Plaque's office... Disneyland's Haunted Mansion has one that reads "Tomb Sweet Tomb".

Next, a secret panel in the wall slides open to reveal the ghost's collection of rotting teeth.
"Come, take a closer look. Don't be afraid, they don't bite. Not when I get through with them!"
Seems this poor fellow failed to floss every day. These teeth rotated out to reveal the damage.

Now the real horror begins. A mirror floats before the camera, showing you YOUR teeth! For the next several minutes, we're treated to up close and in your face demonstration of brushing and flossing technique. I've always been grossed out by the sight of people brushing their teeth in movies, so for me, this is like a scene from "Hostel".

Did you know if you go 24 hours without brushing or flossing, it is impossible to stop B.Plaque from moving into your mouth? Well, there is ONE person who can stop him...A DENTIST! Here's one now:

Dart board... that B.Plaque sure has a sense of humor. Wait--did that portrait just change?

It did! Changing portraiture--another Haunted Mansion similarity! (work with me, folks)

A clock chime indicates its time to wrap things up. B. Plaque intends to "put us to the test". A pyschedelic onslaught of ghostly candies, donuts and other sweets flies toward us temptingly.

Like this:

and this:

Can we resist, or are we doomed to be forever haunted by the ghost of B. Plaque? At this point, in one of the neatest gimmicks of the show, we turn and run out of the office, back down the stairs, and out the front door, only to be magically transported back into the ghost's office.

Taunts our invisible host:

"I told you, you can't run away from me! There's only one thing you can do: fight me!... I showed you how, now let's see you do it. It's SO easy. But I know you. You won't do it. Will you...?"

And...CUT! We hope you enjoyed our skit. We all had a lot of fun. But now a few serious words from the American Dental Association:

While I always had memories of having viewed this film and could remember scattered parts of it, I could never remember the title. After some recent Internet detective work, I finally found it (IMDB entry here) and was FLOORED to find that it was available on DVD.

It's one of the extras on a collection of short horror films called "Experiments In Terror" (buy it here. It's also available on Netflix). The other entries on the disc are more artsy and less kitchy in flavor, but its all interesting stuff. All the screen captures you see here came from the DVD.

Hope you enjoyed visiting The Haunted Mouth. Now go floss.

Will you...?


jeanlass said...

Forgive the comment on an ancient post, but did you notice how similar the titles are to the cover of Larry Kettelkamp's Haunted Houses?
I was led to your blog by Richard Sala and, embarrassingly, spent most of the day here! Judging by the fact that you were too young to see Heavy Metal, I'm a few years older than you but we definitely share a childhood world view. If you have a post about C. B. Colby's "Strangely Enough," I'm going to plotz!

Brother Bill said...

Thanks for stopping by... unfortunately I'll have to leave you 'plotzless' since I never encountered the book "Strangely Enough", but it looks like it would have been right up my alley. Now I'll have to seek out a copy...

jeanlass said...

"Strangely Enough" used to creep me out so much that I had to read it outside on a sunny day in order mitigate the creep-factor. Highly recommended!