Thursday, July 10, 2008

Once Upon a Midnight Scary

Once Upon a Midnight Scary (1979) was an hour-long television special for CBS that dramatized segments from three scary children's books, "The Ghost Belonged To Me" (Richard Peck, 1976); "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (Washington Irving, 1820); and "The House With a Clock In Its Walls" (John Bellairs, 1973).

Vincent Price plays a vampire who introduces each story from his castle. Price brings some gravitas to this otherwise luke-warm production. The show has its moments, and the program's emphasis on reading the books is admirable. It worked on me...after having happened upon this program one afternoon, I immediately checked out "The House With a Clock In Its Walls" from the library.

The first story, "The Ghost Belonged To Me", is also the weakest.

A boy investigates mysterious lights in his barn to discover a plaintive girl ghost, who helps him prevent a bus accident at a fallen bridge.

The second story is an excerpt from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".

We skip the exposition and start right at the tail end of the Van Tassel's Halloween party.

Ichabod is portrayed by long time TV actor Rene Aurberjonois, and he is actually quite good. The intense midnight ride more than makes up for the dry party scene that precedes it.

Finally comes "The House With a Clock In Its Walls", the most elaborate of the three stories.

The edition pictured features illustrations by Edward Gorey.

Young orphan Lewis moves in with his mysterious Uncle Johnathan, whom he soon discovers is a wizard.

Somewhere hidden in the walls of the house is a doomsday clock that threatens to end life on earth if not found. Uncle Johnathan stays up nights looking for it.

Lewis can't keep his family secret and tries to impress a schoolmate, who dares him to prove his wizardly pedigree. They meet at the cemetery at midnight to perform a spell to raise the dead.

After seeing this, I tried using the same set of symbols to cast a "headache" spell on a substitute teacher. I'm not saying it worked, but she DID have a headache by the end of the day. Causation, or just correlation?

As luck would have it, they raise a witch named Selenna who follows Lewis home in pursuit of the doomsday clock.

Once Upon a Midnight Scary (apparently also released under the title "Once Upon a Midnight Dreary") was available on a now out of print VHS.

All three books are still in print (though if you want a copy of "The House With a Clock In Its Walls" with the Edward Gorey cover, you'll have to find an older edition.)

Buy them here, here, and here.


somebodytogobackintimewith said...

The House With a Clock in its Walls is in print. I just bought it. Rock.

Write This Ass said...

Hi there,
I'm trying to find the VHS of "The House With A Clock In Its Walls" Might I be able to rent or buy your copy off of you? You can reach me back through this site. Thanks so much. It seems you are the only one of the web that has any access to it. Please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thanks.

Brother Bill said...

Write This Ass,

Sorry, I can't help you with that.
My suggestion is to just buy a used VHS copy (Amazon has several "very good" and "good" copies posted for sale). Good luck.

Unknown said...

I have the DVD version of Once Upon a Midnight Scary