I really thought this movie wouldn't be all that good, but it wound up really entertaining me for 85 minutes. Hillbillys In A Haunted House stars Ferlin Husky as Woody, Don Bowman as Jeepers, and Joi Lansing as Boots. Joi fulfills the part usually played by either Mamie Van Doren or Jayne Mansfield...you know...the doll with platinum hair and the big rack. I'll be referring to them by their real names during this review, because it's easier on my brain.
The movie starts with Ferlin Husky, Don Bowman, and Joi Lansing driving down the road singing their way to Nashville, where they're going to be part of a big Country Music Jamboree. They have to stop the car, since police are having a shootout with some spies. AHH....The Good Old Days, when Police and Spies had shootouts and you could just stop your car to watch.... Shucks! I bet if you had a gun you could probably join in! The police tell the trio that there are spies all through the surrounding areas because of a missile base that the government built nearby.
The trio travels along their merry way, but Don is so stressed out that Ferlin and Joi tell him they'll take a night off and stay somewhere so he can unwind. They drive into a nearly deserted town and find that everyone has moved closer to the government base, but a gas station attendant tells them they can stay in the old Beauregard Mansion. After they drive off, the attendant remembers he forgot to tell them the mansion is haunted. Oh, Well! if he HAD told them, they might have driven on and we wouldn't be able to get a bunch of Hillbillys in a haunted house and then of course the producers would have had to come up with a different name for the movie and why waste a perfectly good title.
After arriving at the Beauregard Mansion, they find the electricity is working, which is pretty sweet for an abandoned property. Plus the electricity will come in handy later, since the trio travels with their own portable TV, which seemed strange to me, but since it plays into part of the plot later, I guess it sorta makes sense.
Don Bowman is still all tensed up and Joi tells Ferlin to sing him a song since that always relaxes him. Surprisingly, even though they are in the middle of nowhere, the sounds of Ferlin's singing carries to the neighbors who show up with their own guitars. The neighbors are played by Sonny James and The Country Gentlemen who tell the trio the house is haunted. Sonny and his band are encouraged to play a couple of songs.... and what the hell...they got their guitars they might as well. After playing their songs, some spooky going-ons occur and Sonny and his band flee the premises. Joi convinces Ferlin and Don that it was some type of mass hypnosis that made them all think they saw supernatural things and the trio decide to stay in the mansion for the rest of the night.
We seem to be missing part of the plot, since the movie next jumps to a scene in the basement, where we see an Oriental Spy played by Linda Ho, but we'll get back to her later. Upstairs Joi has found that one room in the mansion is completely decorated. There are lots of nice clothes in the room and Joi imagines she's a Southern Belle back in olden times. The movie cuts to a fantasy sequence as Joi is dressed differently and she sings a song (see video at end of this review). The clothes she wears in this fantasy scene look more like they're from the 1950s instead of the 1850s, but it Joi's fantasy and I think she has a right to dress in whatever she wants to imagine.
Now back to the basement where we find Linda Ho arguing with Lon Chaney Jr. about letting his gorilla get loose. Not only is Linda not happy with this, but the other two spies played by Basil Rathbone and John Carradine are a little pissy about it also. It seems Lon for some odd reason (none is given in the movie) really likes the big ape. The credits state that George Barrows played Anatole the Gorilla, so this guy must have had a good agent to get him a credit when he was always dressed in a gorilla costume....oops!, I hope I didnt give anything away and you thought this was a real gorilla.
Back upstairs, the trio is trying to get some sleep, but Don is restless and decides to watch TV.......NOW! we understand why they were traveling with a TV (it was needed for the plot)....Don tunes into a Country Music Show (hey it's The South, we run Country Music Shows 24/7) and catches Merle Haggard singing. I had something of an out of body experience as I watched Don's TV on my TV...hoping no one was watching me on TV watching Don's TV on my TV! When Jim Kent (someone I can find nothing about) starts singing, we find that he's obviously not much of a star and certainly not as big a star as Merle, since his performance keeps getting broken up with the spies in the basement watching Don and Don watching them on his TV. DANG! I just thought about it, I was watching them on my TV watching each other on their TV.....this is getting out of hand!
Next up is one of my favorite parts of the movie, Lon is leaving the spies basement lair to go to the missile base to pick up a secret formula. When he leaves, it's through a door that comes out in an old graveyard. He locks the door behind him and hides the key on the ledge above the door. LOVE IT...a secret lair full of spies and they still hide their door key like everyone else.
At the missile base Lon runs into a janitor, who tells Lon that all janitors have top secret clearance since they're in and out of rooms all of the time. The janitor thinks Lon is one of the government men working late and opens a door for him (see why you shouldn't give janitors top secret clearance). Inside the room Lon meets his contact and is given the formula, but before he leaves he shoots the traitor, saying "Anyone that would betray his country would betray us". Little does he know that this traitor has given him a fake formula and is actually an undercover agent for MOTHER (Master Organization To Halt Enemy Resistance) .....Yes, for some reason, someone decided to throw in an acronym three quarters of the way into the movie.
Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Joi has been kidnapped by the gorilla. Ferlin and Don are looking for her when an agent from MOTHER arrives and wants to ask them some questions. Ferlin tells him "We don't have time to answer questions, our Girl Singer is missing". Shows you how important Girl Singers were to Country Acts back in the 1960s! The agent finally gets them calmed down and has Ferlin prove they're entertainers by playing a couple of chords on his guitar..I'm not sure what this proves, since I could probably play a couple of chords on a guitar and I'm CERTAINLY not an entertainer. However, this method seems to satisfy the MOTHER agent.
It seems the spies have captured Joi, since they think Ferlin, Don, and Joi are counter spies working for MOTHER. This gives you some indication of the level of the spies, if they think this wacky trio are super agents. Anyway, the spies put Joi in an Iron Maiden (of course, now I've got a metal riff running through my head, while I'm trying to watch country artists) as they try to make their escape. In the meantime, upstairs the real ghost, General Beauregard has made an appearance wanting everyone to leave.
Now back downstairs where the MOTHER agent sees the spies hiding the key and is able to get into the secret lair (I KNEW it would have been better if they kept that key with them, instead of always hiding it). After releasing Joi, one spy gets shot, another spy tries to shoot the ghost and when they run out of ammo, Ferlin and Don capture the spy. The last spy is rounded up and everything is cool and the next thing we see is Ferlin, Don, and Joi back in the car once again singing and on their way to Nashville. This made me a little nervous because Ferlin would tilt his head back while singing and this appeared that it would be as dangerous as texting and driving.
Thankfully, they make it to Nashville and the Country Jamboree. We get performances from Marcella Wright (who I can find no evidence of actually being a country singer, plus her cowboy hat looks funny on her head), Merle Haggard, Molly Bee, Don Bowman, Joi Lansing, and Ferlin Huskey bringing us to the end of the movie.
All in all, I had a great time, had a few chuckles, heard some good country tunes, got to see Lon Chaney Jr., Basil Rathbone, and John Carradine (three favorites from my youth, plus glad to know they picked up quick paychecks for basically playing themselves). Too bad I never saw this one at a Drive-In Theater because Hillbillys In A Haunted House just screams out to me that a drive-in would have been the perfect place to see it...but at least my windows aren't steamed up :-)
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